Religious Liberty issue image

NYCLU, ACLU v. Village of Kiryas Joel

Location: New York
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: December 11, 2013

What's at Stake

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union have filed a lawsuit challenging the village of Kiryas Joel’s refusal to disclose public records about a sex-segregated park.

Summary

The park is on 283 acres of unincorporated land and opened in the Satmar Hasidic enclave last year, according to press reports. Media photos show that women and girls are confined to areas of the park with red benches, slides and jungle gyms, while boys and men are confined to areas of the park with blue equipment. Separate walking paths re-enforce the sex-segregation. News reports indicate the park is supervised by the village’s religious leader, the Grand Rebbe, and its Committee on Modesty. Special funding was apparently provided by the village’s mayor.

In July, the NYCLU and ACLU filed a Freedom of Information request for records pertaining to the purchase, financing, operation and maintenance of the park, but that request was denied in August. NYCLU and ACLU attorneys appealed the denial, but the village failed to respond to, or even acknowledge, that request. Under New York law, failure to respond within 10 days constitutes a denial of the appeal.

As part of the public records request, the NYCLU and ACLU submitted news articles in which Kiryas Joel officials acknowledged both the existence of the park and the Committee on Modesty. But village leaders responded to the information request by denying the park exists.

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