Legal query: RLUIPA and landmarks

When a landmark building with sculptures facing the street is bought as a house of worship by a religious group that takes a strong line against “graven images,” does the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act allow the group to ignore the landmark status and remove the sculptures?

A question on which I’m seeking expert advice, for practical reasons:

Assume a religious group which extends the prohibition of “graven images” to any depiction of the human form. Assume that the group has bought a landmark Art Deco building for use as a house of worship, that the building has on its outside a group of sculptures of human figures, and that the group wants to remove the sculptures.


1. Is landmark status a “land use regulation” for the purposes of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act?

2. If so, does RLUIPA exempt the religious group from the effects of the landmark designation?

3. If the group is exempt, is it free simply to take the sculptures down and then use RLUIPA as a defense when it is cited for doing so, or is there some legal process it needs to go through first?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: