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Abstract

This Article traces a path to various land use regulatory approaches that should survive scrutiny under the Washington State Constitution. Part I outlines the legal history of challenges to the application of zoning regulations to church buildings; Part I also describes the contexts in which such disputes presently arise. Part II introduces the Washington State Constitution's provision regarding the free exercise of religion and describes the limited body of case law that has applied this provision in the land use context. Part III considers the role of federal case law in interpreting the free exercise clause of the Washington State Constitution. Part IV discusses how,if future cases are not resolved under existing case law, cases should be analyzed under the state constitution. Finally, Part V briefly considers the limit the establishment clause would impose on any exceptions for churches from generally applicable zoning regulations, whether based on a legislative enactment or a more expansive interpretation of the free exercise clause. Ultimately, this Article concludes that land use regulatory systems can be applied to churches in a manner that complies with the Washington State Constitution.