JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – Federal agents have issued subpoenas to past and present Jackson Township officials as the Department of Justice continues pushing forward in the federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the township and its leaders.
In May of 2020, The Justice Department announced that it filed a lawsuit against Jackson Township, New Jersey, and the township planning board alleging they implemented zoning ordinances that intentionally restrict the operation of religious schools and housing associated with such schools, including religious boarding schools known as yeshivas, required by the Orthodox Jewish community.
The case was opened during the administration of former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and local officials were hoping that in January, the Biden regime change would show the town officials leniency. Instead, the DOJ has ramped up the case against the township and delivered subpoenas to town hall and to former Jackson officials.
The complaint alleges that the township passed two ordinances, and the planning board applied those ordinances in a manner that discriminated against the Orthodox Jewish community, in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Both ordinances expressly prohibit dormitories throughout Jackson, making it impossible for religious boarding schools such as Orthodox Jewish yeshivas to establish there. Although Jackson passed these ordinances to prevent dormitories anywhere in Jackson, the planning board has since approved, without requiring a variance, the plans for two nonreligious projects with dormitory-type housing.
“Religious discrimination has no place in our society and runs counter to the founding principles of our nation,” then U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said. “No religious community should ever face unlawful barriers or be singled out for inferior treatment. This complaint reflects our continued commitment to combat discrimination and unequal treatment.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig does not show any signs of letting up against the township.
Last September, FBI officials in the agency’s Red Bank office interviewed multiple individuals regarding a possible criminal investigation related to township officials. Agents questioned matters pertaining to Mayor Michael Reina’s statements and actions regarding Orthodox Jews in Jackson and about a series of questionable real estate development projects that had recently been approved in the township to award connected entities with approvals while blocking similar development projects owned by Orthodox Jews.
Last week, Reina contracted with a real estate agent to list his $1,200,000 home for sale starting in July and also modified his home’s contingency clause that would allow him an extended period of time to stay in his home once it is sold.
Township officials were asked in those subpoenas to turn over emails and communications related to the Orthodox Jewish developments in town. Some officials were summoned to meet with Department of Justice investigators at the agency’s Newark office in July.