Naked City

At 40th & Speedway

Hyde Park Baptist Church is still suing the city, alleging that its rights of religious freedom have been violated by the City Council's refusal to bless their proposed parking garage. Under the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed in 1997, and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLIUPA) passed last year, governments need to show a compelling reason for limiting the activities of churches. The RLUIPA is the successor to the original federal RFRA, which got bounced in the Supreme Court by none other than the city of Boerne -- prompting Texas to pass a state version. But the state law gives cities more flexibility in defining what is "compelling" than does RLUIPA.

So when the city's motion in U.S. District Court to have the HPBC suit kicked into the state courts was denied last week by Judge James Nowlin, it was bad news for Hyde Park neighbors who bitterly oppose the HPBC's parking garage plan. If HPBC wins the case, will big ol' Austin have the guts of li'l ol' Boerne and challenge Son of RFRA all the way to the high court? Stay tuned.

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