Ariz. Religious Land-Use Bill Too Broad, Says AU

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has opposed an Arizona bill that would allow houses of worship a blanket exemption from nearly all land-use regulations.

In a letter to the chairman of the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee, Americans United and the Anti-Defamation League said HB 2596 is unnecessary. It would also prevent the government from being able to apply to religious institutions many land use regulations regardless of how strong the government’s interest may be.

Two laws – the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the state Free Exercise of Religion Act – already provide broad protection for houses of worship. These measures state that a land-use regulation may not substantially burden the free exercise of religion unless the action is “the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest.”

This is the highest protection necessary, AU argues, and the new bill is “unwise, unfair, and unnecessary.”

The legislation has already passed the House and is currently waiting on a vote in the Senate.