ACLU misinterprets the law

I’ll start this post by saying that I am a proud, card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union. I give a contribution on a yearly basis, and I’ve honestly believe in their mission.

That’s why I’m so conflicted after reading this story about the ACLU suing the City of Garden Grove for the right to worship at a site of a former medical building and to build a temple on the property.

My office is actually just a few doors down from this site, and I’d love to see a temple on this corner. A year ago, the Garden Grove Planning Commission rejected the request to build a temple there because it is zoned for office use. This year, a scaled-down plan was also rejected and the planning commission said the temple would clash with the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Uh…my office doesn’t?

With all that said, I’m still pretty certain that the ACLU is misinterpreting the law here. From the ACLU’s website:

Quan Am Temple, or the Vietnamese Buddhism Study Temple, filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Santa Ana today against the Garden Grove city council and planning commission for violating the Temple and its congregation’s First Amendment rights to free religious exercise, their rights under the California Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

I’m certain that the Garden Grove City Council is insulted by this whole thing. The city of Garden Grove houses more churches, temples and religious institutions than most cities in the county. The city welcomes many different cultures and religions to worship here.

The question is: does the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act really “restrict governments from imposing land-use regulations on a religious body” like the ACLU claims?

I’ve uploaded a The Department of Justice’s guide to the RLUIPA here, and you can see that the ACLU is furtively forgetting a few words in their interpretation of the law:

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations.

Read the document that explains RLUIPA, and you’ll have to agree that the ACLU is in the wrong here.

[Department of Justice’s Guide to RLUIPA] [Los Angeles Times Story] [Orange County Register] [ACLU’s Press Release]