Justice Department Sues New York Village of Airmont for ‘Targeting’ Orthodox Jewish Community With Discriminatory Zoning Laws

The United States Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against a village in New York, accusing it of “targeting” the Orthodox Jewish community by establishing discriminatory zoning laws.

The complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York Wednesday, alleges that the village of Airmont, located in the New York City suburb of Rockland County, has “unlawfully interfered with the rights of Orthodox Jewish community members to freely exercise their religion” by applying provisions of a new zoning code “in a discriminatory manner.”

According to the complaint, the village “imposed unlawful zoning restrictions” that “make it impossible for Orthodox Jewish applicants to win zoning approval of home synagogues and a school.”

In addition, the village was accused of “implementing an 18-month Village-wide moratorium on development which ultimately had no legitimate governmental purpose and was instead used to prevent Orthodox Jewish community members from advancing their religious land-use applications; and arbitrarily enforcing and interpreting local laws to prevent Orthodox Jews from using their privately owned property in ways consistent with their faith.”

The lawsuit contends that Airmont’s actions violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, “a federal law that protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations.”

The Trump administration, which has made the issue of religious liberty a top priority, established a Place to Worship Initiative in 2018 in an effort to “strengthen awareness of the land use provisions of RLUIPA.”

The Department of Justice is asking the Court to declare that “the Village of Airmont’s Zoning Code, and its arbitrary and discriminatory actions in implementing, enforcing, and applying its provisions, violate RLUIPA” and enjoin Airmont from imposing land use regulations that put an undue burden on the right of religious groups to practice their faith freely.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Ryan Foley