Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Native Americans Sue To Keep Use of Prayer Ground

On Monday, a suit was filed in New Jersey federal district court on behalf of the Native American Ramapough Lenape Nation claiming that local officials along with a neighboring housing association are attempting to prevent the Ramapoughs from using their own prayer ground for religious activities. (See prior related posting.)  The complaint (full text) in Ramapough Mountain Indians, Inc. v. Township of Mahwah, (D NJ, filed 5/14/2018), alleges in part:
Defendant Township of Mahwah is imposing cumulative crippling fines against plaintiff Ramapough of $12,500 per day, totalling $480,000 as of May 14, 2018, to end religious use of property, to eliminate sacred sites, and prevent assembly.
...  By letter dated September 5, 2017 Mahwah sent a letter purporting to revoke a 2012 zoning permit that it failed to disclose to Ramapough or State Courts recognizing religious use and logs with masks carved in them ... unilaterally and secretly without notice nor opportunity to be heard.
... Defendant Polo Club, in furtherance of this campaign to pressure the Ramapough Nation into ceasing its religious practices, to assemble and in fact to yield up the land, has made numerous unfounded complaints to the police department and used the New Jersey municipal "private warrant" process to bring criminal charges against Ramapough members.
Plaintiffs claim that these actions violate their 1st and 14th Amendment rights, RLUIPA and international treaties.  Courthouse News Service reports on the lawsuit.