A lawsuit seeking damages from the planned construction of a mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero was dismissed from New York State Court in November. Plaintiff Vincent Forras (who rents office space about 8-10 blocks away from the site) claimed to represent “himself and all others of and in the City of New York, County of New York, similarly situated.” Judge Lucy Billings dismissed the entirety of the complaint for failure to state a claim.
The plaintiff in Forras v. Feisal Abdul Rauf et al. brought claims of public and private nuisance, emotional distress, and assault. Defendants moved to dismiss based on the failure to state a claim. The court rightly points out that the standard for surviving a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is a “forgiving standard.” However, even with all of Plaintiff’s factual allegations being taken as true, he still failed to state a claim under each and every count. Judge Billings observed that any distress or injury that had been suffered by Plaintiff had actually been cause by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and not by Defendants. Additionally, Judge Billings stated that Defendants’ conduct of using their own property as a mosque and cultural center was not the type of extreme and outrageous conduct required to support a claim of infliction of emotional distress. The parties also submitted cross-motions for sanctions against each other which were largely denied.
The decision in this case, while likely not a difficult legal decision for Judge Billings, is a victory for religious institutions of all faiths. Allowing a case such as this to move forward or succeed would be a dangerous and disturbing precedent. Such an occurrence would affect not only Muslims but also members of every other faith in America. While there will always be disagreements about religion in America, attempts to inhibit the peaceful and reasonable practice of religion cannot and should not be tolerated.
Decisions like this should also serve as a warning in regard to the decision of whether or not to file a claim. To be sure, many claims are legitimate and worthy of being pursued. However, many other claims are sometimes fueled by emotion rather than strength in law. It is this type of claim that is often dismissed and may come dangerously close to being found frivolous. The legal system is designed to discourage claims such as the ones in Forras, and for good reason.
The attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, plc have extensive experience in matters concerning religious institutions across the country. We represent individuals and institutions of all faiths. If you feel that your rights or those of your organizations are being violated, please do not hesitate to contact us.