The Justice Department announced on 2nd December 2020 that it had filed a lawsuit against the village of Airmont, New York, with allegations that it violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalised Persons Act.
It was reported that the village had targeted the local Orthodox Jewish community through zoning ordinances that restricted and prevented the potential approval of religious schools and synagogues. The complaint alleged further that, by enforcing its zoning code in a discriminatory manner and an implementation of an eighteen-month moratorium, Orthodox Jews were intentionally limited from using their private property to construct Sukkahs (tabernacles) and Mikvahs (ritual huts), in line with religious observance.
In 1995 the village’s first Mayor, trustees and zoning board reportedly engaged in a conspiracy to deprive Orthodox Jewish residents of their civil rights to practice their faith freely, with one local allegedly stating: “the only reason we formed this village is to keep those Jews…out of here.”
The Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division stated that the recent alleged abuse of power was explicitly aimed at the exclusion of a specific minority group from the wider community and it was therefore “unlawful” and overtly antisemitic in nature.
The Department of Justice has assured residents that it will continue to use “full force” to ensure that the right to worship with undue interference is protected to prevent a recurrence.