Despite the repeated efforts of The United States Department of Justice, the town of Airmont, New York has returned to its thirty-year history of religious discrimination, even fining an Orthodox Jewish Rabi $1,000 and up to one year in jail for peacefully worshipping within his own home with his community. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.
If I were to tell you about worshippers describing themselves as “underground,” what comes to mind? Oppressive regimes and brutal dictators maybe? Nazi Germany or first century Rome?
Actually, that comes from our clients, Orthodox Jewish residents in Airmont, New York.
And, sadly, this is nothing new. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit explained in the 1995 case of LeBlanc-Stenberg v. Fletcher, that Airmont “had been incorporated for the purpose of excluding Jewish citizens, using zoning restrictions designed to prevent Jewish adherents from gathering for prayer within city limits.”
Going on three decades later, and at least two Department of Justice-led lawsuits, and the City of Airmont is still wielding its zoning laws to discriminate. Attorneys with First Liberty were in Airmont not long ago, defending a local Rabbi. He had spent over two and a half years, and about $20,000 in application costs trying to gain the approval to use his home for prayer meetings.
Instead, the city rewarded him with a citation, carrying a penalty of up to $1,000 and a year in jail, for the unlawful use of his home for prayer.
We managed to get those charges dropped . . . at least temporarily.
No one should feel like they have to pray “underground,” hiding from the government or fearing punishment for what is supposed to be the freeexercise of religion.
To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.