NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CN) - A Jewish group says the City of Hartford denied them the right to use a building for religious purposes, though Baptists and Catholics used the building to practice their religions for more than 80 years.
Chabad Chevra and Chabad House, nonprofit religious corporations, bought a house from the American Baptists Churches of Connecticut to use as a Chabad House. Chabad, also known as Chabad-Lubavitch, is one of the major groups of Hasidic Judaism.
The National Catholic Mission Center for the Philippines used the building for religious purposes from 1926 to 1958, then the American Baptists used it for religious purposes from 1958 until 2009.
Two months after buying the house, Chabad Chevra says, a city zoning officer served it with a cease-and-desist order. The group says it was ordered to stop using the building for religious purposes, based on an inspection that took place a month before Chabad Chevra bought the property.
Chabad says it tried to reduce its religious use of the building but Hartford demanded that it stop all religious practices and have denied its appeal.
Chabad calls the actions anti-Semitic.
It claims Hartford violated its rights by "preferring other religious institutions over the plaintiffs' proposed religious institution and sect ... [and] discriminating against the Jewish community in general and the plaintiff's proposed university student religious use in particular."
Chabad Chevra and Chabad House say they lost their $310,000 because they can't use the house for its intended purpose.
They seek a declaratory judgment that the city's actions are unconstitutional, damages, and an injunction allowing them to practice their religion in the Chabad House.
They are represented by Michael DePrimo of Hamden.
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