Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Suit Says Proposed Annexation By Hasidic Town Violates Establishment Clause

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, in a lawsuit filed this week in state court in New York, an environmental group charges that the proposed annexation of 507 acres of land (and an alternative proposal to annex 164 acres) in the town of Monroe by the predominantly Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel violates the Establishment Clause. The 89-page complaint (full text) in Preserve Hudson Valley v. Town Board of the Town of Monroe, (NY Sup Ct Westchester County, filed 10/5/2015) alleges, in addition to challenges to the environmental analysis, that:
The Town Board’s and the Village Board’s determinations on the Annexation Petitions would unconstitutionally cede electoral territory and political power to a political subdivision whose franchise is, in effect, determined by a religious test. See Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grument, et al. ..., 512 U.S. 687, 114 S. Ct 2481 (1994) (holding that legislative action that created a separate school district solely to serve the Village’s “distinctive population” impermissibly delegated political power “to an electorate defined by common religious belief and practice, in a manner that fails to foreclose religious favoritism”). The unconstitutional result  posed by the Annexation Petitions, in and of itself, renders their form and content noncompliant with Article 17 of the General Municipal Law....
The lawsuit, growing out of petitions by Hasidic Jewish residents of Monroe to have their property annexed by Kiryas Joel, also raises other challenges to the annexation attempt.  In a separate lawsuit filed last week, ten municipalities also challenged the annexation.