Federal Appeals Court Denies Chestnut Ridge Homeowners’ Challenge of 2019 Place of Worship Law

The following is from Jerry Liebelson’s Chestnut Ridge Communications

On April 5th, 2024, a three-judge panel of the Federal Appeals Court for the 2nd Circuit affirmed the lower District Court ruling by Judge Nelson S. Román that neither CUPON nor the 3 long-term tax-paying resident homeowner plaintiffs have “any form” of legal standing to challenge the 2019 Place of Worship law as a violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

What this means is that Chestnut Ridge resident homeowners cannot obtain judicial review of a zoning law as a violation of separation of church and state, even though it allows a 10,000 square foot place of worship next door to virtually any residential property and can include a parking lot, offices, social hall, gymnasium and classrooms, with activities 7 days and nights each week, between 6:00 am and midnight. Click here to see one portion of the lawhttps://ecode360.com/35026959#35026959 You can read for yourself the reasoning behind this decision by
clicking here for the 21-page opinion. http://jlware.com/_LAWSUITS/FederalAppeal-CUPON-20221213-22-2710-cv/FederalAppeal-CUPON-22-2710-20240405-Opinion&OrderAffirmingLowerCourtDecision.pdf However, to properly assess their reasoning, you need to also see it in the context of the original filed appeal from 2022, which you can obtain by clicking here. http://jlware.com/_LAWSUITS/FederalAppeal-CUPON-20221213-22-2710-cv/FederalAppeal-CUPON-20221213-22-2710-cv_Brief&SpecialAppendix.pdf

Without going into the details of their reasoning, the judges ruled that the individual resident homeowner plaintiffs failed to sufficiently demonstrate the following 3 kinds of constitutional standing that the court has determined to be relevant to claims of Establishment Clause violation:
Municipal Taxpayer Standing–that there would be revenue loss from fees for variances no longer required under the new law; or expenditures to draft, review and hold meetings on the new law that were paid solely to advance the challenged conduct and not otherwise part of the village’s regular responsibilities.
Direct Harm (or Direct Exposure) Standing–that the plaintiffs are personally constrained or subject to control under a law grounded in a religious tenet or principle; or because they are personally confronted with a government-sponsored religious expression that directly touches their religious or non-religious sensibilities.
Denial of Benefits Standing-that the plaintiffs would be denied the cost and procedural benefits afforded only to religious groups under the law.

For CUPON of Chestnut Ridge, the judges ruled that it failed to demonstrate Associational and Organizational Standing – that its members had standing to sue in their own right; that the interests it seeks to protect are germane to CUPON’s purpose; and neither the claim asserted or relief requested requires participation of its individual members.
Meanwhile, the Orthodox Jewish Coalition was given full status to file their RLUIPA claims.

Plaintiff Response to the Ruling
CUPON and individual resident homeowner plaintiffs have provided the following response to the ruling:
This decision is another example of the current court system’s erosion of citizens’ abilities to obtain judicial review of elected officials’ legislative practices. The erosion of citizens’ First Amendment rights by this technical method of declaring No Standing is very disturbing and means that the only remaining method of challenging governmental decisions is at the ballot box.
The complaint on separation of church and state was dismissed on a technicality called standing. The Village may think of this as a victory, but none of the substantive legal issues or actual facts were reviewed by the federal courts. All they did was avoid the difficult issues by inventing a false technicality.

Jerry Liebelson
Chestnut Ridge Resident

Information about and how to subscribe to Jerry’s newsletter Chestnut Ridge Communications:
“This newsletter is written solely by me, Jerry Liebelson, a longtime resident of the Village, based on publicly available documents and attendance of village board meetings and workshops. It is NOT produced by the Village of Chestnut Ridge, which does not make this information available to residents in this way. To sign up directly send an email to PUBLIC@JLWARE.COM.
Feel free to email any questions, comments, observations or signup requests for the newsletter and to specific interest group emails. If you received this newsletter via forwarding or otherwise, please sign up directly; your personal contact info will remain private and not be distributed. Subscribers are not visible to one another.
Chestnut Ridge Communications is open to subscription for all residents in the village and nearby communities.
Jerry Liebelson
Chestnut Ridge, NY
Since 1962