The U.S. Justice Department announced on May 20 that it has filed a lawsuit against the township and planning board of Jackson, NJ, alleging they violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
The complaint alleges the township passed and applied ordinances that discriminated against the Orthodox Jewish community by expressly prohibiting dormitories throughout Jackson. This would in effect make it impossible for Yeshivos to operate there.
Although these ordinances were enacted preventing dormitories anywhere in Jackson, the planning board has since approved, without requiring a variance, the plans for two nonreligious projects with dormitory-type housing.
The complaint further alleges that the township and planning board enacted the ordinances against a backdrop of extreme animus by some Jackson residents and township decision makers toward the Orthodox Jewish community, in response to a movement by residents to keep Orthodox Jewish individuals from settling in Jackson.
Using zoning laws to target Orthodox Jewish individuals for intentional discrimination and exclude them from a community is illegal and utterly incompatible with this Nation’s values,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Let me be clear. The Department of Justice will use the full force of its authority to stop such anti-Semitic conduct and prevent its recurrence.”
“Religious discrimination has no place in our society and runs counter to the founding principles of our nation,” said Craig Carpenito, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. “No religious community should ever face unlawful barriers or be singled out for inferior treatment. This complaint reflects our continued commitment to combat discrimination and unequal treatment.”