Ramapough Lenape Nation loses appeal over teepee fight

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MAHWAH -

The Ramapough Lenape Nation tribe has lost an appeal in Mahwah over what it says boils down to religious freedom.

A judge ruled that the group violated zoning laws by constructing teepees without a permit back in 2016. The ruling upholds the summonses and fines given out by Mahwah officials.

The tribe argued that this was religious freedom, protected by the First Amendment. They said that that the property was being used for prayer and cultural ceremonies.

RELATED: Court order struck down in Mahwah teepee dispute 
RELATED: Ramapough Lenape Nation teepee dispute with Mahwah heads to state court 

"The question really is now about religious freedom. I think when you're so disrespectful that you're calling a teepee - which people have prayed in for generations, for centuries - a tent, I think your motives also need to be questioned,” says Ramapough Lenape Nation Chief Dwaine Perry.

The judge did reduce the fines. He says that the case is about complying with zoning laws, not religious freedom.

Tribal leaders say that they plan to appeal.

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