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December 4, 2014 0

The Price of Religious Exclusion

The Town­ship of Bridge­wa­ter, NJ recently set­tled a law­suit filed by a local Mus­lim con­gre­ga­tion – the Al Falah Cen­ter – for $7.75 mil­lion.  The law­suit alleged that the Township’s expe­di­tious pas­sage of a new land use ordi­nance which effec­tively barred the Cen­ter from con­vert­ing a for­mer 15,500 sq. foot ban­quet into a mosque vio­lated the fed­eral Reli­gious Land Use and Insti­tu­tion­al­ized Per­sons Act (“RLUIPA”).bridgewater

In Octo­ber 2010, the Cen­ter signed a con­tract to pur­chase a for­mer Red Roof Inn with the intent of con­vert­ing it into a mosque.  A prior Town­ship traf­fic study con­cluded that the pro­posed con­ver­sion would not increase traf­fic.  And in March 2011, the Sum­mit County Plan­ning Board found that the con­ver­sion raised min­i­mal traf­fic issues and it con­di­tioned approval of Al Falah’s land use appli­ca­tion on instal­la­tion of a new traf­fic light paid for by the Center.

But six days after the County issued its find­ing and shortly before a new state law favor­able to the Center’s land use appli­ca­tion went into effect, the Town­ship adopted a new land use ordi­nance that effec­tively barred Al Falah from using the prop­erty for a mosque.  Inter­est­ingly, the same ordi­nance did not affect the oper­a­tion of the other sev­en­teen exist­ing houses of wor­ship within the Town­ship, none of which are mosques.

A fed­eral dis­trict court found that the Township’s actions likely vio­lated RLUIPA, as well as denied Bridgewater’s motion for sum­mary judg­ment.  The Town­ship appealed this deci­sion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The Inter­faith Coali­tion on Mosques (“ICOM”), which is spon­sored by ADL, filed a friend-of-the court (ami­cus) brief with the Third Cir­cuit in sup­port of the Cen­ter.  How­ever, the case set­tled dur­ing the pen­dency of the appeal.

Under the set­tle­ment terms, the Cen­ter will not build a mosque on the Red Roof Inn prop­erty.  But the Town­ship will pay $2.75 mil­lion to buy an alter­na­tive 15-acre prop­erty for the Cen­ter and Bridgewater’s insur­ance car­rier will pay Al Falah another $5 mil­lion for alleged dam­ages and attorney’s fees.

The legal set­tle­ment is not an admis­sion of lia­bil­ity or dis­crim­i­na­tion.  But per­haps it has taught the Town­ship and oth­ers munic­i­pal­i­ties an expen­sive and vital les­son: reli­gious free­dom in Amer­ica is for all faiths, not just some.

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May 6, 2014 0

Moroccan Ghosts Hackers Deface Jewish Websites In U.S.

The Moroc­can Ghosts, a polit­i­cally moti­vated hacker group that tar­get­s the web­sites of Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in the United States, struck again last month when it defaced the web­sites of four Jew­ish insti­tu­tions belong­ing to the Union for Reform Judaism.moroccan-ghosts-hack-jewish-institutions-facebook ghosts

The hack­ers defaced the web­sites of Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in Col­orado, New Jer­sey, Mass­a­chu­setts and Geor­gia with an image of an indi­vid­ual wrapped in what appears to be a Pales­tin­ian flag and a state­ment say­ing, “When injus­tice becomes law … Resis­tance becomes a duty.”

A state­ment boast­ing about this lat­est cyber-attack on the Moroc­can Ghosts Face­book page read:  “Hack­ing 4 for­mal Zion­ist tem­ples in Amer­ica or in more accu­rate words [4] dirty places to con­spire and plot against Palestine.”

In response to the hack, ADL con­tacted Face­book to alert them to the page claim­ing respon­si­bil­ity for the hack and to urge them to inves­ti­gate the sit­u­a­tion. The Face­book page has sub­se­quently been removed.

In 2012, Moroc­can Ghosts defaced Jew­ish con­gre­ga­tional web­sites with their logo and an hour-long video deny­ing the Holocaust.

This lat­est cyber-attack is part of a larger trend of polit­i­cally moti­vated hack­ings tar­get­ing the web­sites of per­ceived sup­port­ers of Israel. ADL offers guid­ance to Jew­ish insti­tu­tions regard­ing online and dig­i­tal security.

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December 20, 2013 3

Pennsylvania White Supremacist Loses Fifth Child To State

Just days after the Novem­ber 11 birth, Penn­syl­va­nia author­i­ties took into cus­tody the new­born child of white suprema­cist Isidore Heath Camp­bell and his fiancée Bethanie Rose Zito, both of Ban­gor. The infant, named Eva Braun after the mis­tress and even­tual wife of Adolf Hitler, is the most recent child of Campbell’s to be taken away by fam­ily ser­vice agen­cies in Penn­syl­va­nia and New Jersey.heath-campbell-NSM-rally

Camp­bell, a heav­ily tat­tooed neo-Nazi with a pen­chant for wear­ing Nazi-themed cloth­ing, gained inter­na­tional noto­ri­ety in 2008 after a New Jer­sey gro­cery store refused to per­son­al­ize a birth­day cake for one of his chil­dren, named Adolf Hitler, from his ear­lier mar­riage with Deb­o­rah Lynn Campbell. 

Heath and Deb­o­rah had named their other chil­dren together Joyce­Lynn Aryan Nations (to honor a noto­ri­ous neo-Nazi group), Hon­z­lynn Hin­ler Jean­nie (in an attempt to honor infa­mous Nazi Hein­rich Himm­ler) and Hons Hein­rich (also a nod to Himmler). 

In 2009, New Jer­sey author­i­ties took cus­tody of those chil­dren as a result of alleged evi­dence of abuse or neglect due to prior domes­tic vio­lence as well as a deter­mi­na­tion that the par­ents did not have the psy­cho­log­i­cal capac­ity to prop­erly care for the chil­dren.  Heath Camp­bell has insisted that the chil­dren were taken by the state only because he gave his chil­dren white suprema­cist names. 

Camp­bell, the father of eight chil­dren from four dif­fer­ent moth­ers, does not have cus­tody of any of his chil­dren.  In June 2013 a New Jer­sey judge denied Campbell’s attempt to regain cus­tody of the chil­dren he had with Deb­o­rah.  Camp­bell and Zito appeared at the hear­ing wear­ing Nazi cloth­ing and regalia.

Camp­bell has had the sup­port of some of the local white suprema­cists in Penn­syl­va­nia and New Jer­sey, who have been post­ing updates from him on his fam­ily sit­u­a­tion in which he labeled the author­i­ties’ actions a “kid­nap­ping” and claimed that “they are tak­ing only white chil­dren [and are] now try­ing to clas­sify us as slaves.”  Camp­bell has urged peo­ple to fly Nazi flags and burn “Jew­ish flags” in sup­port of him.

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