UPDATE: EELC attorneys Aaron Kleinbaum and Raghu Murthy are in court defending the Ramapough against municipal summonses alleging that they have violated the zoning code by constructing teepees on their property. Teepee summonses amount to harassment, Ramapough attorney argues.
The Ramapough Lenape Nation – a State-recognized Tribe that owns land in Mahwah, NJ – won an important victory in Court when Judge McGeady announced a September 7, 2017 decision preventing the Hunt & Polo Club from participating along with the Township of Mahwah to prevent the ceremonial use of the Tribe’s property.
Next Thursday, September 15, Judge McGeady will consider the Tribe’s motion to dismiss the Township’s Complaints. The Tribe will argue, among other things, that the Mahwah’s zoning ordinance and prior municipal approvals allow prayer and community cultural assembly at Sweet Water; that the Complaints are impermissibly vague; and that the Township’s harassment violates the Tribe’s sovereignty and the Tribe’s Constitutional right to free religious exercise on its own property.
The Tribe’s legal team includes Aaron Kleinbaum and Raghu Murthy of the Eastern Environmental Law Center and Mahwah attorney Thomas Williams. The case has the support of the National Lawyers Guild. The Tribe’s attorneys appeared in Court against the Hunt & Polo Club before Judge McGeady of the New Jersey Superior Court. Judge McGeady issued his decision in favor of the Tribe from the bench after oral argument.
Judge McGeady, ruling in Hackensack Superior Court, concluded that the Hunt & Polo Club’s allegations against the Tribe are not an issue of public importance, and therefore does not justify allowing the Hunt & Polo Club’s participation in the Township’s case. Judge McGeady also found that the dubious factual claims made by the Hunt & Polo Club are irrelevant and prejudicial against the Tribe.
Karenna Gore, Director for the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, said, that the Ramapough Tribe members are “a people who have lived, prayed, and performed ceremonies in this region since long before the establishment of the United States of America. Many of them have also served our country since the days of the American Revolution, including by providing shelter, food and care for their neighbors and risking and giving their lives in the United States military.”
The Eastern Environmental Law Center is a public interest non-profit environmental law firm, located in Newark, New Jersey, working on behalf of environmental and conservation organizations to protect communities, open space, wildlife, and the natural heritage and public health of the eastern United States for generations to come.