RLUIPA Land Use Claims: Latest Litigation Trends and Key Case Law Developments

Strategies for Local Governments to Avoid or Defend RLUIPA Actions Amid a Changing Litigation Landscape

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Recorded event now available

This CLE webinar will offer practical guidance for counsel advising local governments on ways to avoid Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims. The program will discuss recent trends in RLUIPA claims and litigation, including recent Supreme Court cases under and impacting RLUIPA. The program will look at various approaches to defend against RLUIPA suits once a claim has been filed.


The most significant development in RLUIPA discrimination claims in the past few years has been the uptick in cases involving Muslims, with many of those cases including claims of intentional religion-based discrimination under RLUIPA Section 2(b)(2).

In the 2015 case Holt v. Hobbs, the Supreme Court addressed for the first time the application of RLUIPA in a prison context, holding that a state prison system may not impose a beard-length requirement on a Muslim inmate.

Not understated is the impact of the Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling under RFRA on RLUIPA litigation and potential claims by for-profit corporations against zoning decisions that burden their owner’s religious exercise.

Listen as our panel of land use lawyers examines current trends in RLUIPA claims and litigation, including recent Supreme Court cases under and impacting RLUIPA, offers practical guidance on how to avoid RLUIPA claims, and recommends steps to take when a suit has been filed against your municipality.


  1. Overview of RLUIPA provisions
  2. Claims and litigation trends
    1. Principal claims
    2. Outcomes
  3. Recent interpretation and application of RLUIPA
    1. Holt v. Hobbs
    2. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby impact on RLUIPA claims
  4. Strategies for avoiding/addressing RLUIPA claims
  5. Defending against RLUIPA claims


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What types of claims are being raised in RLUIPA litigation and how have the courts responded?
  • What steps can local governments take to avoid RLUIPA challenges?
  • What strategies have been effective for municipalities in defending RLUIPA claims?


John F. X. Peloso, Jr., Partner
Robinson & Cole, Stamford, Conn.

Mr. Peloso practices in the firm's Business and Real Estate Litigation Groups. He is a trial lawyer who represents companies, municipalities and individuals in a wide range of matters. At the administrative, trial and appellate levels, Mr. Peloso counsels clients and litigates business and real property disputes, including real estate, land use, environmental, securities, and tax matters. He represents clients in disputes involving title, zoning, wetlands, land use, RLUIPA, eminent domain, and other real property rights, among others. 

Karla L. Chaffee, Esq.
Robinson & Cole, Boston

Ms. Chaffee focuses her practice on land use litigation and transactions. She is a member of the firm’s Land Use and Real Estate + Development Groups. Ms. Chaffee handles complex federal litigation involving the RLUIPA, First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause. She is a member of the firm’s RLUIPA practice group and is a contributor to its blog, RLUIPA Defense. Ms. Chaffee also handles environmental litigation, and defends claims brought under state and federal law, such as CERCLA.

Evan J. Seeman, Esq.
Robinson & Cole, Hartford, Conn.

Mr. Seeman practices land use, environmental and municipal law. He advises clients on meeting requirements for land development, real property disputes, and other administrative and real estate issues. Mr. Seeman represents developers, landowners, municipalities, corporations, and advocacy groups in administrative proceedings before municipal and state agencies, as well as in litigation in the state and federal courts. He has experience in eminent domain and inverse condemnation, First Amendment issues, RLUIPA, and fair housing, among other issues.


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