The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the New Jersey town of Toms River after its refusal of a zoning variance that will allow a Chabad rabbi to lead prayers in his home.
From the Asbury Park Press:
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Toms River’s zoning laws affecting religious land uses, including the Board of Adjustment’s requirement that a rabbi obtain a use variance to continue operating his Church Road home as a house of worship.
“Our investigation will focus on the Township’s zoning laws affecting religious land uses,” Sameena Shina Majeed, acting chief of the Justice Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, wrote in an April 28 letter to Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher. “We are also reviewing, as part of our investigation, the Township’s requirement that Rabbi Moshe Gourarie obtain a use variance in order to engage in religious worship and educational activities at 2001 Church Road.”
In December, the township’s Board of Adjustment said that Gourarie must seek a use variance to continue operating the Chabad Jewish Center at his Church Road home. A 2009 revision to the township’s zoning ordinance banned churches in the residential zone that includes Gourarie’s property. Gourarie purchased the property in 2011.