Sunshine state synagogue stymied; lawsuit continues Despite two wins in court, decade-long legal battle now at appeals court
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Chabad of East Boca Raton, Florida is once again fighting for its right to build a synagogue. Despite two court victories in less than a year in Gagliardi v. The City of Boca Raton, Fla., the Chabad’s battle for a house of worship is once again back in court. With the help of a New York lawyer famous for attacking religious civil rights law, a small opposition group is prolonging the lawsuit by appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
In 2015, the Chabad received overwhelming support from the community and unanimous approval from the city of Boca Raton to begin construction of their new synagogue. But a New York attorney sued the city on behalf of a small group opposed to the synagogue. The suit claims that by allowing a single synagogue to be built on private land, the city is establishing the Jewish religion and discriminating against Christians. But the city ordinance they are suing over requires equal treatment for all faiths to build houses of worship. This latest appeal continues a decade-long battle to prevent the Chabad from building a permanent home.
“Enough is enough. It is past time to drop the legal shenanigans and let Boca Raton welcome the Chabad into the community,” said Daniel Blomberg, counsel at Becket, which represents the Chabad of Boca Raton. “This ugly attempt to turn a disagreement about zoning into a federal lawsuit sets a dangerous precedent, harmful to everyone in Florida. The attack on the synagogue here threatens houses of worship everywhere.”
Since 2007, the Chabad of East Boca Raton, an Orthodox Jewish center, has encountered heavy, well-funded opposition to its attempt to build a new center for its growing congregation. Opposition to the synagogue claimed that allowing the synagogue to build would overwhelmingly increase traffic, prevent emergency vehicle access to the area, and lead to “inevitable” flooding. Yet the site of the proposed 2-story synagogue is surrounded by much larger buildings, including strip malls, a 7-11, and massive 22-story condos.
Some groups launched a website against the Chabad that contained anti-Semitic posts. The Chabad also suffered a string of attacks in the last few years, including the destruction and theft of glass mezuzahs that contain sacred scripture, a smashed synagogue door, and a physical assault against a teenage member of the Chabad who was told to “go back to Auschwitz” and that “Hitler was right.”
“It’s sad that a very small group would rather have a tattoo parlor or a liquor store in their community than a synagogue. Houses of worship of all faiths should be free to live and worship in their communities,” said Blomberg.
Becket has represented many religious institutions that have faced illegal opposition, including the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, a mosque in Tennessee, and the Church of Our Savior, an Anglican congregation in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
The Chabad is represented by Becket and Kirkland & Ellis.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at email@example.com or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more here).