Another Reason To Oppose Zoning Laws

The city government of Hollywood, Florida, on behalf of residents who don’t like to have certain kinds of Jews as neighbors, is using zoning laws to harass the Jews while it leaves members of other religious groups alone.

The Jews voted with their dollars and their feet to live and worship in Hollywood. Their neighbors are free to leave if they don’t like the situation, but instead are using the city’s legal muscle to try and keep the newcomers out. (Religious Jews always live near their synagogues, so forbidding synagogues in residential areas makes it difficult for religious Jews to live in those areas.)

There would be an outcry and lawsuits if any American city tried such tactics against blacks or gays or members of other minority groups. What’s different here? Nothing, except that the Jews in question are a very small minority and Hollywood thinks it can get away with pushing them around. This is an appropriate occasion for an anti-discrimination suit against the City, and it’s nice to hear that the Chabad people are planning one.

The mayor of Hollywood is trying to protect herself and her cronies by vigorously supporting anti-religious zoning restrictions, but insisting, somewhat belatedly, that they be applied evenhandedly. No thanks. One of the main problems with such restrictions is that it’s easy for cities to get away with not applying them evenhandedly. That’s part of why they are useful to politicians. Hollywood is only vulnerable here because it applied its own rules in such a heavy handed and blatantly discriminatory way as to make its adversaries’ case for them; the City might well have gotten away with it if its officials had been a bit more subtle and tactful. And who is the mayor of Hollywood, an ex-social worker, to say that organized religious observance is inappropriate in residential neighborhoods? That kind of arrogance in government officials is a much bigger problem than are low-key Sabbath gatherings in people’s residences.

3 thoughts on “Another Reason To Oppose Zoning Laws”

  1. Actually, I have seen the same tactics against Christian churches in the West Palm Beach area. The complaints seem to revolve around parking and congestion. Zoning laws are also used as a tactic in these cases.

    My only point is that the practice is not restricted to synagogues.

  2. Sure. I didn’t mean to suggest that this kind of abuse is directed only, or even mainly, against Jews.

  3. I’d put even money on the Insitute of Justice being interested in a case like this. It sounds similar, not identical, to a situation in Cypress, CA where the city tried to use eminent domain to buy a church’s property so it could be used for a Costco. This is easily a violation of the First Amendment (suppressing the right to assembly, speech, and religion.)

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