Living Restriction For Sex Offenders Is 'Zoning Law' Under RLUIPA

Friday, April 27, 2018 3:19 am
May 2018 - Volume 46 Number 5

An Alabama statute making it a public nuisance for sex offenders to live in the same home or on the same property within 300 feet of each other could violate the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). In this example, the state applied the statute to a single property that both housed sex offenders and operated as a Christian ministry.

Facts: Ricky Martin, the pastor of Triumph Church in Chilton County, Alabama, maintained a Christian ministry for registered sex offenders. Martin offered transitional housing to sex offenders who had recently been released from prison, housing them in mobile homes on land next to Triumph Church. Martin stopped the ministry only when Chilton County District Attorney Randall V. Houston ordered him to evict the residents or face enforcement action for maintaining a public nuisance.

Houston's order was based on a new statute enacted by the Alabama legislature for the purpose of eliminating Martin's transitional housing ministry. The statute prohibited sex offenders from living in the same home or on a single lot unless the sex offenders' homes are at least 300 feet away from each other. Any violation was a public nuisance. The statute applied to properties in Chilton County only. And Martin was the only person against whom the statute was enforced. Bot[..]