Chabad Jewish Center of Toms River, Inc. (“Chabad”) has settled its religious discrimination lawsuit against the Township of Toms River, New Jersey (“Township”), putting to rest its allegations that the Township violated each of RLUIPA’s provisions by requiring Chabad to obtain a variance to continue to use its property (“Property”) as a Chabad house, house of worship and religious school. We previously posted about this case here and here.
As part of the court’s entry of settlement, the Township will allow Chabad to operate a Chabad house at the Property, a term defined as “a residence for a rabbi and his family who are affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement within Chassidic Jewish tradition, and who engage in certain religious observances with other individuals at that location including Sabbath services, meals, religious classes, and Hebrew school classes.” Chabad’s use of the Property is subject to conditions designed in part to protect public health and safety: (i) limiting the maximum number of people permitted for on-site events; (ii) requiring Chabad to inform guests of certain parking restrictions; and (iii) permitting Chabad to erect a sign on the Property, compliant with the Township’s existing bulk ordinance for signage. In addition, the Township must dismiss all zoning and building citations issued against Chabad, and pay Chabad $122,500 for damages and attorney’s fees in connection with the federal litigation.
The United States Department of Justice has closed its investigation into the Township’s zoning practices. Nicole Siegel, an attorney in the Justice Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Division, wrote: “In light of the resolution of that lawsuit and other documents and information provided by the township, and after considering the relevant facts and applicable law, we have decided not to take enforcement action pursuant to RLUIPA against the township. Consequently, we have closed the investigation.”
The Court’s Order for Judgment in Chabad Jewish Center of Toms River, Inc. v. The Township of Toms River, Docket No. 3:16-01599 (District of New Jersey 2018) is available here.