NEWARK, NJ - The Newark City Council unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. that declares Newark to be a safe haven for religious freedom and expression, and for those seeking refuge from religious persecution.

Ramos said the resolution was sponsored partially in response the recent attacks on religious communities throughout the country and, in particular, the horrific targeted shooting at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City that left six people dead, including a police officer.

In that incident, law enforcement authorities are investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism because the suspected assailants held views that reflected a hatred of the Jewish people.

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"Through this resolution, the City of Newark officially identifies itself as a community that welcomes and celebrates religious freedom," Ramos said. "I have communicated with a number of religious leaders throughout the City and County from all dominations and that have expressed some fears and concerns related these terrible incidents that have taken place. While some fears exist, the religious leaders also expressed confidence that Newark is a city with strong partnerships with our religious institutions."

The resolution notes that Newark will not tolerate a rising tide of religious persecution.

The Rev. Pablo Pizarro Jr., the pastor of the Light House Assembly of God Church in Newark's North Ward, said he was grateful to Ramos for sponsoring the resolution.

"It’s sad that in 2020 we still have to fight for the religion and freedoms we practice and value," Pizarro said. "The resolution sends a message to the city of Newark, its surrounding communities as well as New Jersey that we will continue to fight for the right to practice and express our faith and religious liberties."

Pizarro said Newark is a city where Christian, Jewish, Muslim and members of other religions are welcome.

"While we may have different theological beliefs, we still have one thing in common and that’s the betterment of our beautiful city," Pizarro said. "This is what the resolution represents."

The resolution also affirms freedom of religion acceptance in combating intolerance, negative stereotypes and discrimination against persons based on religion or belief and notes that the City Council does not condone any attempt to infringe on the ability of individuals to express their religious beliefs openly and freely.