Catholic Diocese’s RLUIPA and First Amendment Claims Over Proposed Cemetery Allowed to Proceed: Part 4, Facial Constitutionality of the POW Law

This is the fourth post in our series looking at the long-running dispute between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center and the Village of Old Westbury over the Diocese’s proposed cemetery. Today’s post focuses on whether the Places of Worship (POW) Law is facially constitutional.

The first issue the Court addressed was whether the POW Law was facially constitutional. The Diocese argued that there was discriminatory intent because the POW Law was enacted only three months after its victory in the state court on whether the proposed cemetery was a religious use. Even so, the court found that the evidence shows the amendment process began well before the state court’s ruling. In addition, the POW Law validly regulates building area, height, setbacks from property lines, screening, and traffic circulation in an effort to mitigate the “adverse impacts of large institutional facilities on the residential nature of the Village.” Since the law does not treat the plaintiffs any differently than other non-secular institutions, the POW Law was found to be both facially neutral and generally applicable, and thus it need only satisfy rational basis review rather than strict scrutiny. Given the facts above, the Court found this standard was met and granted the Defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment on the issue.

The next post in this series will look at the Diocese’s substantial burden claim under RLUIPA.

The case is The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, v. The Incorporated Village Of Old Westbury, 2015 WL 5178126 (E.D.N.Y.)

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