Thursday, August 20, 2020

Worshipers Lack Standing to Sue Synagogue Picketers

 In Gerber v. Herskovitz, (ED MI, Aug. 19, 2020), a Michigan federal district court dismissed for lack of standing a lawsuit against protesters who for almost 18 years have picketed an Ann Arbor, Michigan synagogue every Saturday morning with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel signs. Plaintiffs, who attend Sabbath services in the synagogue or in an adjacent building, also sued the city of Ann Arbor for failing to enforce the City Code against the protesters.  Plaintiffs contend that the picketing interferes with their Free Exercise right to practice their religion without being harassed. The court held, however:

There is no allegation that the protestors prevent Plaintiffs from attending Sabbath services, that they block Plaintiffs’ path onto the property or to the Synagogue, or that the protests and signs outside affect the services inside. Plaintiffs merely allege that the Defendants’ conduct causes them distress and “interferes” with their enjoyment of attending religious services. This is the “subjective chill” that is “not an adequate substitute for a claim of specific present objective harm or a threat of specific future harm.” Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, 13-14 (1972). This type of “chill” does not confer standing and is not actionable.