City of Portland Upholds Freedom of Religion

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
August 22, 2008 12:00 am

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Rabbi Allowed to Continue Praying in Home


PORTLAND — After more than five hours of testimony from neighbors, clergy, and supporters of religious liberty, the Portland Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously voted to allow a Portland Rabbi to continue prayer in his home. Rabbi Moshe Wilansky had received a cease-and-desist letter from Portland in May, ordering him to stop using his home as a “place of worship”. The Zoning Board of Appeals, however, rejected the city’s interpretation of the zoning ordinance, finding instead that the Rabbi was using his home in a perfectly acceptable way.

“Tonight was a victory for all Mainers who care about religious liberty,” said Zachary Heiden, Legal Director for the MCLU, who assisted in Rabbi Wilansky’s appeal. “The government is not allowed to tell people where or how to practice religion, and we applaud the Zoning Board for recognizing that truth.”

Prior to the appeal hearing, more than 200 people gathered on the steps of city hall to hear speeches from religious leaders from across the state and to demonstrate their support for freedom of religion. The show of support from across the religious spectrum continued in the hearing, making a big impact on all who attended.

Also representing Rabbi Wilansky were attorneys Marshall Tinkle and Paul Aranson. The City has a right to appeal the Board’s decision to the Maine Superior Court.

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