|Congregants at the oldest synagogue in the United States asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to review a decision giving a New York congregation control of Rhode Island's Touro Synagogue and a set of bells valued in the millions.
Lawyers for Newport's Congregation Jeshuat Israel asked for a review of last year's decision by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that it presents important constitutional issues surrounding religious liberty.
"If allowed to stand and be followed, the decision will fundamentally alter how ordinary disputes involving religious parties are tried and decided, and introduce an element of arbitrariness and cherry-picking by courts as to what secular evidence may be considered or ignored in any particular case," lawyer Gary Naftalis wrote in the filing.
He argued that the ruling in favor of Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan unfairly disregarded secular evidence and establishes a two-tiered legal regime: one for religious groups and another for those that are secular.
Lou Solomon, a lawyer for New York congregation and also the head of its board, said the request is "unfortunate," but it's their right. He said the other side was continuing to undermine their "ability to regain the harmonious relations" and had "presented absolutely no reason for the Supreme Court to review much less disturb the decision of the First Circuit."