Springfield City Solicitor and MMLA President Ed Pikula reports that the First Circuit Court of Appeals has released its opinion upholding Springfield’s Historic District that was created to prevent the demolition of the Our Lady of Hope Church which was closed by the Catholic Diocese. The Bishop claimed that the creation of the Historic District violated RLUIPA as well as the First Amendment rights as well as numerous other claims in the trial court. The City was granted summary judgment, and on appeal, the First Circuit upheld the creation of the Historic District, but left open the opportunity for the claims which the City claimed were not ripe, to be pressed once the Bishop formalizes its plans for the property. The opinion has significant explanation of the issue of “substantial burden” which is important under RLUIPA and First Amendment Free Exercise claims. The statute does not define and the Supreme Court has not provided a working definition, yet, where it is shown, the government must show a “compelling interest”. This is the only First Circuit case on “substantial burden” standards for RLUIPA land use cases.
For the full text of the 1st Circuit Decision, see: Roman Catholic Bishop v. Springfield