A Montreal borough has banned new places of worship from opening on its main streets because local officials want to create a secular public space.
Four out of five councillors in Outremont voted Monday in favor of a zoning bylaw that restricts new synagogues, mosques, and churches from operating on Laurier, Bernard, and Van Horne avenues. Instead, religious spaces will be relegated to the outskirts of the borough, near the train tracks.
According to Outremont Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars, the policy was created to revitalize businesses in the area. Targeting religious groups "wasn't my purpose," she said.
But the hundreds of Hasidic Jews who live in Outremont are calling bullshit. Julius Grey, a lawyer representing two community members, said he will challenge the bylaw in court.
"Outremont's Jewish community is growing faster than other communities, and also attends synagogue at a high rate. It's clear that this bylaw directly targets members of this community, not to satisfy their needs but to threaten them," Grey wrote in a letter directed at council.
Grey said further demographic studies of the area need to be conducted, pointing out that observant Jews can't drive vehicles on Saturday and would need to walk half an hour to reach the strip where synagogues are permitted.
Jewish councillor Mindy Pollak, the lone voice of dissent on council, said the new rules are discriminatory.
"Is ghettoizing a place of worship really something we want to do in 2015 in Montreal?"
Apparently, it is. A petition supporting the bylaw has gained 900 signatures. Daniel Major, one of the authors, reportedly said, "We do not want there to be fewer places of worship on Bernard, but simply that there are not more."
I guess that leaves lots of room for something less controversial, like a Trump tower.
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