In Tree of Life Christian Schs. v. City of Upper Arlington, Ohio, No. 17-4190, 2018 WL 4443591 (6th Cir. July 31, 2018), the court of appeals affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the city on the school's claim that the Unified Development Ordinance violated the "equal terms" provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by prohibiting the school from operating in a commercial office district. The court adopted the Eleventh Circuit's standard for a prima facie case under the equal terms provision as requiring proof that the plaintiff (1) is a religious assembly or institution, (2) is subject to a land use regulation and (3) is treated on less than equal terms, compared with (4) a nonreligious assembly or institution. The court determined that a comparator for an equal terms claim must be similarly situated with regard to the regulation at issue and that the phrase "legitimate zoning criteria" best captures the idea that the comparison required by RLUIPA's equal terms provision is to be conducted with regard to the legitimate zoning criteria set forth in the municipal ordinance in question. The court concluded that revenue maximization is a legitimate regulatory purpose for a zoning ordinance, and that the school presented no evidence suggesting that a nonprofit daycare is similarly situated to its proposed school in terms of capacity to generate revenue. The daycare generated more. The court rejected the school's other proposed comparator, partially used offices.
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School Lacked RFRA Claim Due to Exclusion from a Development Zone Because It Would Not Maximize Revenue
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