Becket, a non-profit, public interest legal group, is defending an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in yet another lawsuit barring it from building new quarters in a Florida community.
After outgrowing two previous locations, the Chabad of East Boca Raton, Florida, has long been renting a small, storefront facility for its synagogue. After years of searching, the Chabad located property, took steps necessary to build, and received unanimous city council approval under a 2008 zoning law that gave all houses of worship equal rights to build.
Rabbi Ruvi New said they thought the synagogue would be a welcome addition to the community. Instead, he said it "actually caused a firestorm of opposition which we were just completely blindsided by."
In lawsuits filed by a small group of opponents over a period of ten years, the synagogue has won two court victories. The opposition is now appealing to the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Their lawyers contend that Boca Raton city officials violated the separation of church and state by granting approval for the site. (See video below for an explanation of the case.)
"I think it's a pretty big stretch to say that just because you allow a Chabad to be treated fairly, you're somehow establishing a religion," contended Lori Windham, the Becket attorney defending the synagogue.
Opponents previously argued the synagogue would cause problems due to increased traffic, prevention of emergency vehicle access, and flooding. The property is surrounded by tall buildings, strip malls, a convenience store, and 22-story condos.