By Charlie Warner, Special to the Independent
At a hearing next week, Orange County Superior Court Judge John C. Gastelum is scheduled to hear a motion over the merits of a lawsuit filed against the Urth Caffe of Laguna Beach by seven women who claim they were subjected to religious discrimination when they were asked to leave the premises.
Days after the original April 22 incident, an attorney representing the ejected patrons who were wearing hijabs filed a lawsuit claiming religious discrimination in Orange County Superior Court. On June 22, Urth Caffe filed a counter lawsuit of trespassing.
“The claim of discrimination by Urth Caffe is fraudulent. It is simply manufactured,” said David Yerushalmi, an attorney representing the restaurant’s owners, who last week filed briefs to counter a motion to strike the trespass claim. “I do not begrudge them to file lawsuits for discrimination if in fact there’s any viable basis whatsoever.”
Yerushalmi pointed out that owner Shallom Berkman is Jewish and married to a Muslim woman. He also said that Urth Caffe’s clientele are predominantly Muslim. On the very same day of the incident, there were women wearing hijabs who were not escorted from the restaurant, he said. “I cannot figure out how they came up with the claim of religious discrimination,” he said.
Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney in Pasadena representing the Muslim women, said “to be frank, we are still in the early stages. However, the fact that David Yerushalmi was hired speaks volumes,” said Tajsar, describing Urth Caffe’s counsel as an anti Muslim crusader.
Yerushalmi is part of the American Freedom Law Center, based in Washington, D.C., self-described as “the nation’s first truly authentic Judeo-Christian public interest law firm.”
The Anti-Defamation League, a century old international organization aimed at fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry, said in a 2012 profile of him that he “has a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.”
Relying on the authorities to eject rowdy customers is not uncommon among restaurant managers. According to Yerushalmi, Laguna Beach police instruct café and restaurant managers to politely ask customers to leave for whatever the reason and to call authorities if they resist. Police were summoned to Urth Caffe on April 22 by managers.
Yerushalmi claims a political agenda by the lead plaintiff, Sarah Khalil Farsakh, and cites her ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR’s website describes its purpose as “a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding.”
Farsakh’s attorney Tajsar sees the case differently. “It is important to be vigilant when it comes to communities that are faced with racial exclusions. Individuals should do their part to prevent discrimination so that is doesn’t infect society.”