Partial Victory in Ramapough Appeal on Fundamental Right to Religious Practice, Rights Attorneys Say

January 11, 2019, New York – Yesterday, in response to a Superior Court ruling in New Jersey that categorically rejected certain fines levied against the Ramapough Lenape Nation for placing a sacred prayer circle on their own land, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

We welcome the Superior Court’s refusal to uphold fines against the Ramapough for placing a sacred prayer circle, constructed from natural materials, on their own land. The Ramapough have a fundamental right to gather to worship on their land, as they have for centuries, and we look forward to defending this right in federal court.

Today’s ruling was issued by the Bergen County Superior Court, Municipal Appeals Division and cut in half the amount of fines issued by the township of Mahwah, NJ for ostensible zoning violations. The ruling upheld fines of approximately $5000 against the Ramapough for erecting a tent on their land over a 102-day period, without seeking a permit, and which was then removed.

The Center for Constitutional Rights represents the Ramapough in a federal lawsuit against the township of Mahwah, NJ, and the Ramapo Hunt and Polo Club for racial and religious discrimination. The law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP serves as pro bono co-counsel in the case. The Ramapough are represented in the appeal of the state case by members of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

January 11, 2019