Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bad Acronym: The Real Problem With RLUIPA

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.

Ken Stahl

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I say "roo-loo-pa," although regular practitioners seem to prefer "are-loo-pa."

My usual tactic is to get the judge to say it, and from then on I pronounce "RLUIPA" the way s/he pronounced it.

Also works for "voir dire," "cy pres," and "res ipsa loquitur."

Posted by: Robert Thomas | Dec 14, 2011 6:51:51 PM

I go with "ruh-loopa," except on International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19). Then, of course, it's "Arrrr-loopa."

Posted by: Matt Festa | Dec 15, 2011 8:18:12 AM

As someone who grew up in New England and now lives and teaches in the Southeast, it's refreshing to find an opportunity for pronunciation failure that does not betray one's geographic origin. RLUIPA is an equal-opportunity hesitance-generator.

Posted by: Adam MacLeod | Dec 15, 2011 9:17:04 AM

Adam, it was hearing you pronounce it differently at SEALS that shook my confidence-- I figure we should defer to anyone who has written an article on RLUIPA.

I was talking with a colleague recently about this very question, and she came up with my favorite suggestion so far: "earl-whippa"!

Posted by: Matt Festa | Dec 16, 2011 6:07:54 AM

Here's a candidate for best land use acronym: FONSI (finding of no significant impact, under NEPA). For those of us old enough to remember, it reminds us of happy days. Second most fun acronym is APE (area of potential effect) under NHPA (historic preservation). One can just imagine someone working on a highway project asking if there are an APEs to worry about.

In terms of bad acronyms, here in Wisconsin we have ASNRIs (areas of special natural resource interest). No matter how you say it, it sounds bad. Of course the absolute worst is the transportation bill SAFETEA-LU. Everytime I say it it just sounds ridiculous!

Posted by: Kurt Paulsen | Dec 16, 2011 9:55:23 AM