We salute the Trump Administration’s announcement that the Department of Justice will be assisting faith groups facing discrimination by local authorities in the course of their efforts to establish houses of worship.
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told an Orthodox Union Washington conference that the DOJ was establishing a program called the A Place to Worship Initiative that will train federal prosecutors to work with putative houses of worship making claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act of 2000. Under that law, local officials have a high burden to meet in order to justify denials of zoning variances, building permits, and the like for religious uses.
Kudos to the OU for providing a welcoming venue for the Sessions announcement and for its work setting the stage for this defining moment. It is sad that in these topsy-turvy times, identifying with the president of the United States can be controversial and even hazardous to your health.
Sessions said that federal prosecutors in New Jersey were intervening in a lawsuit filed by Valley Lake Chabad in Woodcliff Lake alleging discrimination under RLUIPA over the town’s blocking its efforts expand its current shul or build a larger one.
This is a refreshing development, especially in light of the attitude the Obama Administration diosplayed toward the religious community and a further indication that President Trump is serious about protecting the rights of religious Americans to practice their faith.