June 13, 2024
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Weil Secures Major Victory for Religious Freedom in New York

(Courtesy of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP) Weil attorneys have secured another major victory for religious freedom throughout the New York area with a sweeping settlement on behalf of pro bono client Ateres Bais Yaakov Academy of Rockland (Ateres).

In 2018, Ateres, an Orthodox Jewish girls school, announced it had entered into an agreement to purchase the Grace Baptist Church in the town of Clarkstown as a new campus. In response, a group called Citizens United to Protect our Neighborhoods (CUPON) and a local chapter called CUPON of Greater Nanuet (COGN) worked with Clarkstown officials to block the sale. CUPON and local CUPON chapters have frequently organized to oppose Orthodox Jews’ efforts to purchase or build property in their communities.

After Weil achieved legal victories in Ateres’ federal litigation in December 2023, CUPON and COGN settled with Ateres this week. As part of the settlement, CUPON and COGN agreed to cease all operations, dissolve immediately and not reconstitute their organizations. These settlements build on the prior settlements that Ateres reached with Clarkstown, under which Clarkstown was required to pay $225,000 and for Clarkstown town officials to undergo training in religious liberty law, including the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), with a former DOJ official and certify its compliance to Weil.

“This important success closes the book on CUPON’s and COGN’s activities,” said Weil partner Yehudah Buchweitz, who led the firm’s pro bono team. “We are very proud to have represented Ateres Bais Yaakov Academy of Rockland in this matter. This case is unfortunately one of many instances where local residents work with a municipality to try to keep religious minorities from moving in or practicing their religion freely. This is America and people should be permitted to live, worship and go to school wherever they choose, regardless of their religious affiliation. Most importantly, this case sends a clear message to everyone across New York and beyond that we will continue to root out and fight against discrimination.”

In addition to Buchweitz, the Weil team also included retired partner and senior pro bono counsel Robert Sugarman and associates Mark Pinkert, Yonatan Shefa, Nicolas Lee, Liora Schiff, Sarah Schnorrenberg, Adena Kleiner, Shai Berman, Josef Trachtenberg, Daniel Lifton, Blake Steinberg, Ben Apfel and Avi Snider. The Anti-Defamation League and Agudath Israel of America filed amicus briefs in support of Ateres Bais Yaakov Academy of Rockland.

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