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Lawsuit claims village discriminates against Orthodox Jews

December 2, 2020 GMT

AIRMONT, N.Y. (AP) — A federal lawsuit claims a village in suburban New York discriminates against Orthodox Jewish residents through land use restrictions that prevent worship services in private homes and the operation of a religious school.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss marks the third time since its 1991 incorporation that the Rockland County village has been sued by the federal government for religious discrimination. The previous lawsuits resulted in court judgments against the village.

“As a jury found over two decades ago, the village of Airmont was born out of a spirit of animus against a religious minority,” Strauss said in a statement.

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Attorney Brian Sokoloff, who represents the village, said he hasn’t seen the lawsuit yet and can’t comment.

The last court-ordered consent decree against Airmont expired in 2015. Since then, the village has actively sought to prevent its Hasidic Jewish residents from operating home synagogues and a private religious school, according to the lawsuit filed in White Plains federal court.

The lawsuit alleges regulations imposed by the village 27 miles (43 kilometers) north of New York City violate the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

Among other actions cited in the lawsuit, the village amended its zoning code in 2018 to strike “residential place of worship” as a recognized land use category, in violation of the terms of the judgment entered by the court in 1996.

The lawsuit says the village imposed a land-use moratorium designed to prevent the growing Hasidic community from developing property and targeted Hasidic residents with the threat of unfounded zoning violation fines.