Sunday, October 09, 2022

City's Harassment Of Private Prayer Services In Rabbi's Home Violated 1st Amendment

In Congregation 3401 Prairie Bais Yeshaya D'Kerestir, Inc. v. City of Miami, (SD FL, Oct. 6, 2022), a Florida federal district court refused to dismiss claims that city officials' harassment of a rabbi's home that hosted daily minyans (prayer services) for invited guests violated the 1st Amendment.  Private groups worshiping in a person's home are permitted in residential areas under the city's zoning code. The court said in part:

Defendant, wielding the City Code "like a club" ... issued multiple erroneous citations against Plaintiff for zoning code violations...; sent City personnel to the Property a staggering 126 times...; installed a surveillance camera that monitors only the Property ...; conducted at least one warrantless search...; and otherwise singled Plaintiffs out for harassment.... These events have had "a chilling effect on Plaintiff[s'] First Amendment Rights."... . Defendant's conduct, at least as alleged, could certainly "chill a person of ordinary firmness from exercising his or her First Amendment rights."  [Quote updated.]