The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, has joined with the Rabbinical Council of America, the Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters and Agudath Israel of America to file a ‘friend of the court’ brief in support of upholding a city ordinance in Boca Raton, Fl. that allows for the construction of a Chabad synagogue on private land.
The amicus curiae brief calls on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Court to affirm the ruling of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
In the lawsuit, Gerald Gagliardi and Kathleen MacDougall v. the City of Boca Raton, Chabad of East Boca and TJVC Land Trust, two Boca residents claim that by allowing a synagogue to be built on private land, the city is establishing Judaism as the city’s religion and is discriminating against Christians. The suit also alleges the Chabad synagogue would decrease neighboring property values and cause traffic and parking problems.
A 2008 city of Boca Raton equal access zoning law affords all houses of worship the same land use rights as those provided to secular entities.
The Chabad of East Boca, which currently meets in a storefront, has been trying to secure a permanent space for 10 years. In 2015, the city approved plans for the Chabad to build a synagogue.
The ongoing legal battle has forced the Chabad of East Boca to shelve plans to build a $10 million, 18,000-square-foot synagogue and museum.
Stated Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane:
“We stand with the City of Boca Raton and Jewish leaders across the country and call on the court to affirm the provision of equal treatment to the Chabad of East Boca and all houses of worship.”
Attorneys Alan M. Dershowitz and Miles E. Coleman of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP serve as counsel for the friend of the court brief, which states:
“The Chabad of East Boca…has a constitutional right to ‘sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.’ The City of Boca Raton correctly gave religious groups the same land use rights available to secular groups, and the District Court did not err by dismissing the suit.”
The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s activity in Florida includes the Teach Florida project.