Elijah Group, Inc. v. City of Leon Valley

643 F.3d 419 (2011)

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Elijah Group, Inc. v. City of Leon Valley

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
643 F.3d 419 (2011)

Facts

Prior to March 2007, the City of Leon Valley, Texas (the city) (defendant) allowed churches to obtain special-use permits to operate in B-2 business zones. In March 2007, the city amended its zoning code. The text of the amended ordinance did not mention religion. However, the ordinance contained a permitted-use table that listed buildings by use and specified in which zones each use was allowed or prohibited. The table noted that churches were not allowed in B-2 zones under any circumstances, but many nonreligious, nonretail uses, including clubs and lodges, were allowed if they obtained special-use permits. The city’s stated purpose for amending the ordinance was to stimulate the local economy by creating a retail corridor. In 2008, Elijah Group, Inc. (plaintiff) contracted to buy a property that was zoned B-2. The contract was contingent on the seller’s ability to have the property rezoned from B-2 to B-3 so that the Elijah Group could use it as a church. The seller’s rezoning petition was denied, but Elijah Group leased the property until the zoning issue could be resolved. The city allowed Elijah Group to operate a daycare on the property but did not allow religious services to be held there. After Elijah Group began holding religious services on the property, the city obtained a temporary restraining order. Elijah Group sued the city in state court, challenging the ordinance’s validity pursuant to multiple statutes and constitutional provisions, including the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Elijah Group removed the case to federal court, and both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The district court granted the city’s motion for summary judgment, and Elijah Group appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wiener, J.)

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