New Jersey Capitol Building in Trenton
New Jersey Capitol Building in TrentoniStock

Officials from Jackson Township, New Jersey are not backing down against a claim made in court that the town discriminated against Orthodox Jews using zoning powers.

Jackson’s zoning board of adjustment and planning board on Tuesday called on the court to dismiss three counts of the four-count complaint from New Jersey’s attorney general. The charges include allegations that municipal employees illegal conducted surveillance of homes they suspects of being used for prayer gatherings and unlawful religious schools in residential neighbourhoods, reported the Law360 website.

Calling the counts “nothing more than vehicles for plaintiffs to set forth inflammatory factual allegations designed to ignite plaintiffs’ own narrative that defendants, as well as all 57,731 Jackson Township residents, are anti-Semitic hate-mongers,” they wrote in their legal brief that the claims reflect a “thinly veiled effort by plaintiff to control the public’s opinion for the purpose of causing defendants unfair prejudice.”

In late April, New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced that the state had filed a civil rights lawsuit against Jackson Township, alleging that township officials violated anti-discrimination law by using zoning powers to deter Orthodox Jews from practicing their religion and from moving there.

The state’s case was based upon allegations that Jackson officials used discriminatory zoning ordinances and enforcement practices at the behest of town residents who spoke out on social media and in public meetings, including with hateful comments, against Jackson’s increasing Orthodox Jewish population.

Jackson Township borders the municipality of Lakewood, which has a population of over 50,000 Orthodox Jews, including the second largest yeshiva in the world. The lawsuit alleged that certain Jackson officials were sympathetic to residents’ views that Jackson was “becoming a subdivision of Lakewood.”

The suit alleged that town residents were against having Orthodox Jews in Jackson because they “refuse to assimilate” and believed they would “destroy our neighborhoods.”

The state’s case rests on a claim that town officials crafted a plan to use new zoning rules to deter the religious practices of Orthodox residents of the town.

The lawsuit alleges that by using land use and housing ordinances and enforcement Jackson was able to “disrupt vital aspects of Orthodox Jewish life” and make living there not viable for Orthodox Jews.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)