Zoning laws cause lawsuits between houses of worship and cities

As houses of worship across the country file lawsuits against cities trying to ban them, South Florida could see more conflicts similar to the battle between a Chabad synagogue and Cooper City, Fla.

Last week, Franklin Zemel, an attorney who won a $2 million settlement on behalf of a Chabad synagogue from the city of Hollywood in 2006, threatened to file a similar lawsuit against Cooper City.

Zemel is representing the Chabad of Nova Outreach Center, which wants to open an Orthodox synagogue at the Timberlake shopping plaza in Cooper City.

The Cooper City Commission is poised to vote on a zoning law Tuesday night that restricts locations for places of worship. The commission tentatively approved the law May 27.

Hundreds of such lawsuits have been filed nationwide since the federal government passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in 2000, according to Eric Rassbach, an attorney with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C., law firm that represents houses of worship.

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