University Heights man accuses city and mayor of violating his civil rights and religious rights

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 11:11 PM EDT

UNIVERSITY, Ohio (WOIO) - The City of University Heights shuts down a prayer group before it can even get started, and now a resident who is Jewish Orthodox has filed a federal lawsuit alleging religious discrimination, a violation of his civil rights as well as his religious rights.

Baltimore Attorney Jonathan Gross represents Daniel Grand of University Heights, “We allege and there’s tons of evidence that it was motivated by religious prejudice against Orthodox Jews, and also that they were singling him out personally.”

Grand in his lawsuit accuses University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan and the city of not only violating his religious rights by telling him that he could not hold a prayer group inside of his home back in January of 2021, and the law director sent Grand a cease and desist letter stating why “There’s an ordinance in University Heights that effectively gives the city unbridled discretion to allow you to have a prayer group or not have a prayer group in your home. We contend that is completely unconstitutional,” Attorney Gross tells 19 News.

Attorney Gross says Grand is asking a federal judge to rule the University Heights city code unconstitutional. Because he simply and peacefully wants to be able to pray in his home with others of the same faith, “My client, Mr. Grand prays three times a day. Once in the morning and twice in the evening with a quorum of 10 men.”

But, because those practicing the Orthodox Jewish religion don’t drive on the Sabbath, and the Jewish Synagogue is a bit of a walk, he basically just wanted to invite friends over to his home to start a weekly prayer group on the Sabbath when none of them drive.

But what Attorney Gross says is unclear is how the Mayor would even know about his plans.

19 News asked the City of University Heights and the Mayor for their side of the story, they sent a statement simply saying, “The City does not comment on any active court case.”

But, Grand’s attorney says what’s clear is the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that says you’re not allowed to discriminate based on religion, along with Ohio’s Constitution should override any local ordinance that they believe targets certain religious groups, “The Ohio Courts have expressly stated that Ohioans have a right to have a synagogue where they live. That they shouldn’t have to travel far to their synagogues,” Attorney Gross said.