The Village of Monroe has postponed a vote on a zoning law following a warning from the Attorney General’s Office that the proposal would violate the religious freedom of Orthodox Jews.
This is a victory for the frum community (at least for the time being). Near Kiryas Joel in Orange County, Monroe is home to an increasing number of Orthodox Jews.
According to a television news report, village attorney Alyse Terhune suggested Thursday night that rather than passing the law, “the board table this for the purpose of reaching out to the AG’s office and finding out what it is that they seem to be concerned with.”
“We very much appreciate the decisive action that the attorney general has taken. We are confident that with the help of the attorney general, this law and other laws that are drafted to impede the growth of the Jewish community in Orange County will be quashed,” activist Rabbi Yakov Mayer Ferencz was quoted as saying by Hamodia.
The proposed Local Legislation No. 5 would prohibit the use of schools, dwellings used as places of worship, and places of public accommodation.
According to the official statement, the goal is 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.”
Neil Dwyer, the local mayor, received a stern letter from Letitia James’ office suggesting differently.
The document states that the proposed rule “places restrictions on residential gathering places, neighborhood places of worship, community places of worship, and schools of general instruction that may violate the rights of Orthodox Jews to exercise their religion.”
“Proposed Local Law 5 appears to restrict Orthodox Jews’ freedom to practice their religion in defiance of state and federal laws,” the letter continues.
The stated justification of the statute is insufficient, in the opinion of the OAG, to support those limitations.
The OAG is not persuaded that the proposed law’s provisions are the least onerous ways to accomplish the law’s objectives, to the degree that they address real health and safety concerns.
The letter requires that the village submit a formal justification for the rule by September 29th and asks the village to postpone further action on the ordinance while the OAG carefully examines it. James tweeted following the postponement of the vote, “I won’t allow any sort of antisemitism or prejudice in New York.
That includes any effort to enact legislation that would be biased against communities of Orthodox Jews or restrict people from residing where they choose.