Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Religious use and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO)

In an interesting special exception case out of Indiana, House of Prayer v Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals, 2018 WL 414862 (Ind. Appeals January 16, 2018), a religious land use adjacent to a farm which asked for a permit to operate a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) with 1400 cattle lost as a result of the fact that the agricultural use, even in its intensive form, was both expected and encouraged in the zoning district.

House of Prayer argued that its property should be protected as a result of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the RLUIPA, but the court concluded that there was no protection under the federal act as a result of the fact that the House of Prayer did not have an interest in the property which was regulated, a requirement under the federal act. As far as the state act goes, the court concluded that while there was some evidence of a burden on its religious exercise, because the owner of the farm promised to control the runoff and odor, the court found no substantial burden.

I have not seen too many cases yet where state religious freedom statutes are important in the outcome. It is interesting here that the Indiana court deferred to the local zoning board even in the face of an allegation implicating the Indiana statute.

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