A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a religious discrimination lawsuit brought against Baltimore County by Friends of Lubavitch, the organization that operates a Jewish outreach program in Towson.
In December, the group claimed Baltimore County discriminated against it when the county ruled that an expansion of its Chabad house was illegal and had to be torn down.
But District Court Judge George L. Russell III wrote in Sept. 30 order that the Friends of Lubavitch had not provided enough facts to support a claim of religious discrimination or “any consistent pattern of actions” adversely affecting Friends of Lubavitch or similar groups.
Nathan Lewin, an attorney representing Friends of Lubavitch in the religious discrimination case, said he intends to file a motion to reconsider the dismissal with the District Court.
The ongoing legal battle over whether an addition to the Chabad house can remain or must be torn down has roiled the Towson community of Aigburth since at least 2016. The Chabad group wants to keep its expansion, arguing that it’s used for community building and Jewish education, especially for students at Towson University and Goucher College.
Neighbors, meanwhile, have asserted that the expansion violates a land-use covenant in the building’s deed that stipulates any building on that property must be set back farther than the addition is.
Robin Zoll, who lives next to the Chabad house, is named as the plaintiff along with the Aigburth Manor Association of Towson in a similar, but legally separate, lawsuit concerning the house. She said she thought the discrimination claim was “totally unfounded."
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Zoll brought her lawsuit in 2016, and a judge initially ruled the addition would have to be demolished.
In January, however, Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Cox put a demolition order on hold, pending another appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Maryland’s second-highest court. The case will be argued in February, but won’t be assigned a specific date until 30 days prior.
The dismissed religious discrimination lawsuit does not carry direct legal implications for the ongoing appeal. While the appeal proceeds, Cox ordered Friend of Lubavitch to post a bond of $125,000, the estimated cost of demolishing the expansion.
Rabbi Menachem “Mendy” Rivkin, who lives in the Chabad house with his wife and children, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.