At their meeting moments ago, the Jackson Township Council announced they have reached a settlement with the New Jersey Attorney General’s office regarding the ongoing civil rights lawsuit.
The lawsuit against Jackson Township, which was filed in April, 2021 by then Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, alleged that Township authorities violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by using their zoning powers to make it harder for Orthodox Jews to practice their religion and to deter them from moving there.
The State’s complaint, which was filed separately from the one brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, alleged that Jackson’s adoption of discriminatory zoning ordinances and enforcement practices was motivated in part by officials’ desire to appease Township residents who reacted to the Township’s growing Orthodox Jewish population by expressing hate and fear on social media, in complaints to Township officials, and in public meetings.
According to the State’s complaint, starting around 2015, a vocal group of Jackson residents began complaining to local officials about an influx of Orthodox Jews into Jackson Township. Some residents have amplified their views in hateful social media posts, which have included statements like “we need to get rid of them like Hitler did” and “filthy f’ing cockroaches.”
According to the original complaint, some Jackson officials allegedly sympathized with residents’ anger and fear that Jackson was “becoming a subdivision of Lakewood.”
In response, officials devised plans to create and enforce rules that would stymie the religious observances of Orthodox Jews in Jackson and, as one former Zoning Board member said in a Facebook post, quell “the tsunami of orthodoxy that is mounting at the border.”
Through ordinances and enforcement actions, the complaint alleges, Jackson Township exploited its power to regulate land use and housing to disrupt vital aspects of Orthodox Jewish life in Jackson and to interfere with the ability of observant Orthodox Jews to live there.
The State’s complaint also alleged that Jackson Township dedicated significant resources to monitoring the homes of Orthodox Jews even after officials warned that taxpayer funds and government resources were being wasted and that officials were not finding significant code violations.
Second, the complaint alleges that Jackson Township officials engaged in discriminatory application of land use laws to inhibit the erection of sukkahs by the Township’s Jewish residents, particularly in their front yards.
According to the complaint, after residents began to question and complain about the appearance of sukkahs, Jackson Township officials modified their interpretation of a local ordinance to effectively prohibit sukkahs in front yards.
Third, Jackson officials allegedly discriminated against Orthodox Jews by enacting zoning ordinances in 2017 that essentially banned the establishment of yeshivas and dormitories, where yeshiva students typically reside so as to avoid the distractions of secular life.
Fourth, the complaint alleges that Jackson discriminated against Orthodox Jews by enacting a 2017 zoning ordinance that targeted and effectively banned the creation of eruvim – symbolic, boundary-defined areas in which observant Orthodox Jews are permitted to engage in certain activities otherwise prohibited on the Sabbath and during the holiday of Yom Kippur.
The terms of the settlement were not announced.
This is a developing story and will be updated.