Chabad of East Boca Raton, Florida, is still entrenched in a legal battle for the right to build a synagogue. After two court victories for the synagogue, an opposition group has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, further extending the decade-long struggle.
“It shouldn’t take ten years to be able to build a house of worship,” said Daniel Blomberg, counsel at Becket, which represents Chabad of East Boca Raton. Becket, a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute, describes itself as dedicated to protecting “the free expression of all faiths.”
Chabad received approval from the city in 2008 to build a synagogue but soon began encountering opposition. And in 2015, a New York attorney sued the city on the grounds that construction of the synagogue on private land would violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which limits Congress from passing legislation favoring one religion over another.
Despite the fact that the surrounding area contains 22-story condos and multiple strip-malls, opponents also claimed the two-story synagogue would cause floods and prevent emergency vehicles from entering the area.
Blomberg noted that a federal law – the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) – allows religious institutions to avoid burdensome zoning law restrictions on their property use.
However, he added, “plaintiffs and their legal counsel are coming up with a claim that makes it impossible for religious groups to get equal treatment.”
The new synagogue, if built, will cost about $10 million and boast 18,000 square feet, Lifezette reported. Chabad of East Boca Raton currently meets in a small storefront.
“[The opponents] are not going to win,” said Rabbi Ruvi New, co-director of Chabad of East Boca Raton. “There is no merit to their case.”
Blomberg echoed the sentiment. “The Chabad has very strong legal arguments,” he said. “The plaintiffs’ arguments, while dangerous, are weak.”