Lakewood Rabbi Suing Governor, Murphy’s Laws Unconstitutional, Joined by Priest

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LAKEWOOD, NJ – Rabbi Yisrael A. Knopfler and Reverend Kevin Robinson have filed a lawsuit in federal court against Governor Phil Murphy and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick J. Callahan.  The suit claims Murphy’s executive orders to enforce “emergency powers” was an unconstitutional attack on the religious freedoms of New Jersey residents.   The lawsuit also claims that Murphy’s detailed list of nine allowed activities was a violation against state residents’ civil rights.   The suit also states, Murphy’s Law is “not a neutral and generally applicable restriction of constitutional rights on the grounds of a public health emergency, but rather a self-defeating hodgepodge of prohibitions and exceptions for regulating normal social, political, religious and economic activity, the likes of which has never been seen in the history of this State.”

The lawsuit continues:

This Amended Complaint, by a Catholic priest, now joined by an Orthodox Rabbi, expands the original challenge to Defendant’s plainly unconstitutional regime to include an administrative order, AO 2020-4, issued by the Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police in his capacity as State Director of Emergency Management on the same date as Order 107.

AO 2020-4 merely advises law enforcement officials, not the general public, as follows: “Pursuant to paragraph 5 of Executive Order No. 107 (2020), it is hereby clarified that gatherings of 10 persons or fewer are presumed to be in compliance with the terms and intentions of the Executive Order, unless clear evidence exists to the contrary.”

AO 2020-4 is on its face an unconstitutionally vague standard for law enforcement that fails to give adequate notice to the public, or even definite guidance to law enforcement, of which “gatherings” of ten-or-less violate the “presumption” of lawfulness because of “clear evidence… to the contrary.

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As pleaded below, AO 2020-4 is at variance with the defendant Murphy’s repeated advice to the public that all gatherings of any size are prohibited, including religious services of any kind, and that all “gatherings of people” may be reported to him, via a government-maintained informant website, as violations of Order 107.

Order 107, even as purportedly modified by AO 2020-4, is not a neutral and generally applicable restriction of constitutional rights on the grounds of a public health emergency but rather a self-defeating hodgepodge of prohibitions and exceptions for regulating normal social, political, religious and economic activity, the likes of which has never been seen in the history of this State. Therefore, it cannot withstand the required strict scrutiny and narrow tailoring of its scheme for selective suspension of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Plaintiff Father Kevin Robinson is a Catholic priest, ordained in 1991, who engages in priestly ministry in a church located in this District.

Rabbi Yisrael A. Knopfler, ordained 20 years ago in Israel, is a rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish tradition who presides over a synagogue and congregation located in this District. He is a resident of the State of New Jersey.

Defendant Philip D. Murphy is Governor of the State of New Jersey and is sued in his official capacity. At all times pertinent to this action Murphy and his subordinates have acted under color of State law.

Defendant Colonel Patrick J. Callahan is Superintendent of State Police and StateDirector of Emergency Management. As such, Callahan is the final decision-maker Case 2:20-cv-05420-CCC-ESK Document 7 Filed 05/04/20 Page 3 of 48 PageID: 78 4 respecting AO 2020-4, and is sued in his official capacity. At all times pertinent to this action, Callahan and his subordinates have acted under color of State law.

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Plaintiff Knopfler is a rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish tradition. Ordained over 20 years ago in Israel, he presides over a synagogue located in Lakewood, NJ, Congregation Premishlan.

Plaintiff Rev. Kevin Robinson is a duly ordained Catholic priest, ordained in 1991, who offers Mass and provides the other Sacraments of the Catholic Church to his congregation at Saint Anthony of Padua Church in North Caldwell, NJ.

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