Heimish of Houston | Cases | First Liberty

Good Neighbors

Heimish of Houston has served the Orthodox Jewish community in the Fondren Southwest Northfield Subdivision of Houston for over two years, with the full knowledge of the homeowners association. Since its founding, several persons have moved into the same neighborhood to be able to walk to synagogue, as is required by Orthodox Jewish religious beliefs. In Orthodox Judaism, driving is prohibited on the Sabbath.

While numerous businesses and houses of worship operate in the same neighborhoods as Heimish of Houston, including a hospice care facility, a rehab house, a Ghanaian church, a Paper Shoppe, a Samskriti cultural center, a hair braiding salon, and a butcher, the City of Houston is demanding that this small Orthodox Jewish congregation stop holding religious worship—effectively banning adherents to Heimish of Houston’s form of Orthodox Judaism from living in that community.

Protecting Religious Liberty

In a letter sent to city officials on behalf of Heimish of Houston, First Liberty argues that both state and federal law, including the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA), the Texas Constitution, and the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause protect this small Jewish congregation from unreasonable regulations that substantially burden the free exercise of their religion.

But, after the city offered no response, in March 2021, First Liberty filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, City officials in Houston agreed that they will not enforce deed restrictions against a small congregation, Heimish of Houston.  The city also agreed to dismiss citations it had already issued to Heimish of Houston.

“Religious freedom prevailed,” said Justin Butterfield, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “We are grateful that city officials followed federal and state laws protecting religious practice, and we are thrilled that Heimish of Houston can continue to meet the needs of its community. We are also hopeful that Houston’s response will serve as an example to other cities of how a diverse city can welcome people of all faiths.”

“We are excited that this is over and that we can continue to worship together as a community,” said Yakov Wohlgelernter of Heimish of Houston.

“We are thankful that this settlement has brought resolution for our client and the congregation’s families,” added Jamie Bryan, partner at K&L Gates.

News Release
For Immediate Release: 4.20.21
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Houston Officials Agree to Permit Synagogue to Meet Following Religious Liberty Lawsuit
Houston agrees to cease enforcement of deed restrictions, dismiss citations 

Houston, TX—City officials in Houston, Texas, agreed that they will not enforce deed restrictions against a small congregation, Heimish of Houston.  In late March, First Liberty Institute and K&L Gates filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Houston for threatening the small Orthodox Jewish congregation that meets in a Houston neighborhood home.  The city also agreed to dismiss citations it had already issued to Heimish of Houston.

“Religious freedom prevailed,” said Justin Butterfield, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “We are grateful that city officials followed federal and state laws protecting religious practice, and we are thrilled that Heimish of Houston can continue to meet the needs of its community. We are also hopeful that Houston’s response will serve as an example to other cities of how a diverse city can welcome people of all faiths.”

“We are excited that this is over and that we can continue to worship together as a community,” said Yakov Wohlgelernter of Heimish of Houston.

“We are thankful that this settlement has brought resolution for our client and the congregation’s families,” added Jamie Bryan, partner at K&L Gates.

Heimish of Houston has been meeting in a home near its congregants for two years.  The members of Heimish of Houston are limited to holding religious gatherings in their communities because of their religious prohibition against driving on the Sabbath.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

 


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