Beverly Hills Rabbi Defends Right to Hold Religious Gatherings in His Home

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A rabbi in Beverly Hills is fighting for his First Amendment rights after the Los Angeles suburb sent him a “notice of violations,” seeking to prevent him from holding Jewish services in his home. 

The nonprofit First Liberty Institute and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which represent Rabbi Levi Illulian, sent a letter to Beverly Hills Code Enforcement Attorney and Prosecutor Steven H. Rosenblit on Wednesday calling on Beverly Hills to retract that notice. 

“We have demanded that the city immediately withdraw its June 12, 2023, ‘Notice of Violations’ letter and acknowledge in writing that Rabbi Illulian is within his legal rights to engage in religious activities at the Home with family and friends,” First Liberty, a Plano, Texas-based conservative law firm, specializing in religious freedom, told The Daily Signal in an email. 

If it doesn’t, First Liberty made clear in its letter to Rosenblit that it will take the city to court for violating Illulian’s First and 14th Amendment rights

For several months, Illulian provided Jewish religious services, such as Shabbat, for his guests. That was until February, when he received a notification that a neighbor had reported him for causing noise, parking trouble, and increased trash in Illulian’s backyard. 

The city investigated, but as First Liberty noted in its letter to Rosenblit, “After spending nearly a month investigating the complaints, the City initially (and correctly) concluded that the alleged violations were unfounded and closed its case.”

After receiving another complaint in March, the city reopened its investigation and utilized what “Orwellian tactics” to spy on Illulian and his guests by taking photos of them and flying drones over his home, First Liberty noted in its letter to the city.  

On June 12, the city notified Illulian through the “notice of violations” letter that if he did not stop holding private religious gatherings at his home, he would be “subject to criminal and/or civil proceedings in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.” 

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Illulian responded by contacting First Liberty while continuing “to host his private and intimate religious gatherings … as is his right under the Constitution,” First Liberty told The Daily Signal.

Since then, “the City has continued its concerning and potentially unconstitutional surveillance of the home during that time, including by photographing guests coming and going from the Rabbi’s home and even using a drone to survey the property,” First Liberty noted in its letter to Rosenblit. 

First Liberty told The Daily Signal, “The City’s actions here, including barring all religious gatherings with friends and family and engaging in multi-hour stakeouts, are particularly egregious abuses of government power,” especially since Illulian only sought to provide community. 

Illulian started celebrating Jewish dinners at his home “as a means of supporting an aging, home-ridden Holocaust survivor,” First Liberty’s press release says. 

The rabbi wanted to create what he called an “intimate religious gathering.” As a result, he made sure he did not invite more than his home could hold and asked those he did invite to park varying distances from his home so as not to inconvenience his neighbors. 

First Liberty said it will continue to defend Illulian “because the First Amendment and the [federal] Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act … protect the right of Rabbi Illulian and all Americans to engage in private religious exercise at their homes with family, friends, and neighbors, free from government burden and interference.”

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The post Beverly Hills Rabbi Defends Right to Hold Religious Gatherings in His Home appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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