UPSTATE NY (VINnews) — The office of Letitia James, New York’s Attorney General, has sent a letter to the Village of Monroe, opposing a zoning bill that could restrict the religious rights of local Orthodox Jews, who comprise a significant percentage of the village’s population and nearby region.Join our WhatsApp group
Subscribe to our Daily Roundup Email
The proposed Local law No. 5 would restrict and regulate the use of houses of worship, the use of private homes as places of worship, and schools. The official purpose claims to be intended to “promote individual constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and free exercise of religion and to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of Village of Monroe residents.”
But the letter, sent to village mayor Neil Dwyer, suggests otherwise.
“The proposed law places restrictions on residential gathering places, neighborhood places of worship, community places of worship, and schools of general instruction that could violate the rights of Orthodox Jews to exercise their religion,” it says.
The Village of Monroe, located in Orange County just outside the heavily Chassidic town of Kiryas Joel, has its own sizable and growing minority of Orthodox Jews.
The letter adds, “Proposed Local Law 5 appears to limit the ability of Orthodox Jews to practice their religion in violation of…state and federal laws. The OAG is not persuaded that the law’s stated rationale is sufficient to justify those restrictions. To the extent the proposed law addresses legitimate health and safety concerns, the OAG is not persuaded that its requirements are the least restrictive means for achieving the law’s goals.”
It is referencing several laws which prohibit the use of local zoning laws to interfere with religious practices. This issue has notably been an ongoing struggle in locales where orthodox Jewish communities are proliferating, including the Monsey region, Jackson, NJ, in addition to Kiryas Joel.
The letter asks the village to delay further action on the law while the OAG thoroughly evaluates it, and demands that the village provide a written justification for the law by September 29th.
Many municipalities in New York and New Jersey have attempted to use land use regulations to discriminate against the Orthodox Jewish community.
— Joel M. Petlin (@Joelmpetlin) September 14, 2023
Joel Petlin, superintendent of the Kiryas Joel school district, tweeted: “Many municipalities in New York and New Jersey have attempted to use land use regulations to discriminate against the Orthodox Jewish community. It’s nice to see @NewYorkStateAG @TishJames standing up for the right to freely worship in every city, town, and village in NY State.