Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Some argue that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) is an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Others claim that it unduly restricts municipal land use authority. Still others wonder what constitutional authority Congress had to enact such a law. While these are important questions, this blog post argues that RLUIPA suffers from a far more serious defect that has so far been neglected in the legal scholarship: it has a really bad name. I mean, seriously, how do you even pronounce RLUIPA? Is is Ahrr-loopa? Uhrrr-loopa? Rah-loopa? All of these are equally plausible and, frankly, equally awful. For those of us who need to actually pronounce this acronym at least fifty times during a semester, it's a big problem.
So what to do? Some statutes with unwieldy names are simply called by the names of their sponsors. I like the Taft-Hartley Act myself (standing in for the acronymically challenged "Labor-Management Relations Act" or LMRA. "Lmoora?" OK, that's pretty bad too). RLUIPA, unfortunately, had six sponsors, and I'm afraid the Hatch-Daschell-Kennedy-Canady-Nadler-Edwards Act would be a bit of a mouthful. Other statutes are given cool nicknames -- the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act is called "Superfund" (and let's be honest, even "CERCLA" isn't half as bad as RLUIPA.) I'm not sure there's an obvious nickname for RLUIPA though -- unless it's "the Establishment Act."
I invite your thoughts during this grading season about how to handle this pressing problem. One solution, of course, is to just do nothing. Maybe we should just embrace the fact that land use and environmental law are full of terrible acronyms. After all, we're the people who brought you such gems as PUDs, TPPs, CUPs, MURPs, SIDs, MUDs, and SMSAs, among others. On this list, RLUIPA is practically a beauty queen. Please feel free to leave a note with your favorite horrible land use acronym.