Publication Date



Congress unanimously passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) in 2000. The Act marked the culmination of a decades-long dialogue between Congress and the Supreme Court. RLUIPA’s passage embodied Congress’s resolve to provide religious free exercise protections—particularly as it pertained to religious land use. Since 2000, however, RLUIPA’s Equal Terms Provision has been subject to differing judicial interpretations, resulting in an expanding circuit split. This Note analyzes the circuit split and offers guidance to future interpreters.

First, this Note examines the social, legislative, and judicial history leading to RLUIPA’s enactment. Second, it analyzes the contours of interpretations adopted by eight United States Circuit Courts of Appeals. Extrapolating from extant interpretations, it offers a judicial prescription for how future courts, particularly the Supreme Court, should interpret RLUIPA’s Equal Terms Provision to resolve the circuit split. Finally, it proposes a legislative prescription for how Congress could amend RLUIPA to clarify ambiguities perceived by the judiciary.

Included in

Law Commons