HAF Joins in Case in Colorado Supreme Court

Denver, CO (March 15, 2007) - The Hindu American Foundation, along with sixteen diverse religious and civil rights organizations, submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Colorado State Supreme Court defending the constitutionality of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) last month.  The RLUIPA was passed in 2000 by Congress to provide stronger protection for religious freedom in the land-use and prison contexts. Town of Foxfield, Colorado v. The Archdiocese of Denver involves the passage and selective enforcement of a zoning ordinance that the Archdiocese of claims substantially burdens the religious exercise of its southeast suburban parish.   

According to case records, a few neighbors living near properties purchased by the Archdiocese for a new church and rectory reacted negatively to its presence and low-key pastoral activities. At the urging of these neighbors, the Board of Trustees of the Town of Foxfield adopted a peculiar ordinance which makes it unlawful to park more than five motor vehicles for more than fifteen minutes within 1,000 feet of a private residential property on more than two occasions during any thirty day period.  Curiously, the Trustees provide that the ordinance would be enforced only upon written complaints from at least three neighbors living nearby.

Within six months of the ordinance's passage, the Town of Foxfield filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Denver, stating it had received the requisite number of complaints from neighbors. The Town asked the county district court to issue a permanent injunction and a declaratory judgment against the Archdiocese.  The Archdiocese countered that the ordinance violated both the RLUIPA and a Colorado statute "Freedom to Gather for Worship Act."  The Archdiocese scored a victory at the appellate level when the court ruled in its favor.  The case is now before the Colorado Supreme Court. 

The broad coalition of amici came together, despite their vast differences, because "they are acutely aware, often by first-hand experience, that zoning laws are commonly applied in a manner that either imposes heavy and unnecessary burdens on religious exercise, or discriminates based on religion or particular denomination."  Amici included, in addition to Hindu American Foundation, organizations representing Christian, Jewish and Sikh faiths.