Thai Meditation Association of Alabama, Inc. v. City of Mobile, No. 19-12418 (11th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
After the City denied zoning permits to construct a Buddhist meditation and retreat center in a residential area of Mobile, the Association and its incorporators filed suit alleging violations of the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution, several provisions of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the Alabama Constitution, and state common-law principles.
The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court applied the wrong standard in evaluating plaintiffs' claims under RLUIPA's substantial-burden provision and the Free Exercise Clause, and that the district court should reconsider those claims on remand under the proper standard, but that the district court properly rejected plaintiffs' claims under RLUIPA's equal-terms and nondiscrimination provisions and the Equal Protection Clause. The court also held that the district court misread the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment (ARFA) and should reconsider plaintiffs' ARFA claim under the court's interpretation, but that the district court correctly rejected plaintiffs' negligent-misrepresentation claim. Therefore, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. The court affirmed the district court's rejection of plaintiffs' remaining claims.