DOJ sues New York town for religious discrimination against Orthodox Jews
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DOJ sues New York town for religious discrimination against Orthodox Jews

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit Wednesday against the Village of Airmont, New York, for religious discrimination against Orthodox Jews. The complaint explains the history of Airmont, which was found by the Second Circuit to have been created partially to “impose unlawful zoning restrictions” to prevent Orthodox Jews from practicing their religion in their home.

The village was under direct oversight from the government until 2015 to ensure that Orthodox Jews were allowed to practice freely. However, since the expiration of the oversight, the village has allegedly returned to its earlier discriminatory ways. New parts of the housing code have been applied to prevent Orthodox Jews from practicing in their homes. To further curtail their freedom to practice, the village passed an 18-month moratorium on development, which prevented the processing of any Orthodox religious land-use applications. Also, it has not allowed Orthodox Jews to modify their homes and add sukkahs or mikvahs, both of which are necessary to their religious practice.

These discriminatory changes were facilitated through a 2018 amendment to the zoning code, full of arbitrary considerations that are a pretext for discrimination against Orthodox Jews. Further, the amendment vests all power on when to declare an application complete with the Community Design Review Committee, providing no guidelines on how to use the power.

Before this suit, the DOJ brought an action against the village in 1999 and 2005, won both cases, and, for a time, prevented discrimination against Orthodox Jews in Airmont.

Acting US Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Religious discrimination will not be tolerated. We will remain vigilant to ensure that the right to worship freely and without undue interference is protected for all.”=

The DOJ is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against Airmont to prevent it from continuing to discriminate against the Orthodox Jewish community.