Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Salazar v. Buono: Supreme Court religious land use case

Catching up from last week (the last week of classes and exam review!) I should post this synopsis of the recent U.S. Supreme Court case Salazar v. Buono.  The case revolves around a land-swap between the federal government and the private Veterans of Foreign Wars, who wanted to preserve a donated Latin Cross commemorating World War I servicemembers.  Here is the FindLaw abstract:

In an action involving an underlying Establishment Clause challenge to a Latin cross placed on federal land by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to honor American soldiers who died in World War I, the Ninth Circuit's order precluding the government from transferring the cross and the land on which it stood to the VFW in order to comply with a prior injunction is reversed and the matter remanded where: 1) plaintiff had standing to maintain the instant action because a party that obtains a judgment in its favor acquires a "judicially cognizable" interest in ensuring compliance with that judgment; but 2) the district court erred in enjoining the government from implementing the land-transfer statute on the premise that the relief was necessary to protect plaintiff's rights under the 2002 injunction.

Some key text from the syllabus:

The 2002 injunction thus presented the Government with a dilemma. It could not maintain the cross without violating the injunction, but it could not remove the cross without conveying disrespect for those the cross was seen as honoring. Deeming neither alternative satisfactory, Congress enacted the land-transfer statute. The statute embodied a legislative judgment that this dispute is best resolved through a framework and policy of accommodation. The statute should not have been dismissed as an evasion, for it brought about a change of law and a congressional statement of policy applicable to the case

So it's a constitutional religion clause controversy, but keep in mind (as I always tell my students) that it boils down to a land use dispute.  

Matt Festa


Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Federal Government, Property Theory, RLUIPA, Scholarship | Permalink

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