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December 4, 2014

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

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

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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