There's a growing controversy in New Jersey surrounding religious communities, symbols of their faith and towns enforcing local ordinances.

Understandably, people get up in arms when it comes to things like politics and religions, and it's only exacerbated when they mix. The current issue in Jackson is among the latest controversies involving a growing discussion in New Jersey on the line between maintaining local ordinances and infringing on religious freedom.

The township is already being sued in federal court after a new ordinance was interpreted as preventing an eruv — basically, a symbolic boundary that lets Orthodox Jews conduct certain tasks normally prohibited outside the home throughout town — from being erected in the town. And now, the Lakewood Scoop is alleging documents show former Council President Robert A. Nixon was deeply involved in the process of rooting out illegal houses of worship in people's homes — encouraging public officials to spy on Orthodox Jews in the process.

Nixon told New Jersey 101.5 the town wasn't targeting Jews, and the town's code enforcement office was only responding to an onslaught of complaints about potential violations.

The challenge when the media reacts to anonymous blogs is that before the facts are discussed and the context is understood, the accusation of racism and bigotry become equal to the facts in the case. It's a tactic that has been used more often than not to disparage people who, in many cases, are just trying to do the best job possible as a public servant.

The latest target is my friend Rob Nixon. I've known Rob for nearly three decades and I can say that I've never heard him utter a racist or anti-Semitic word in all of the time we've been friends.

The truly unfortunate thing about stories like this are that once you've been accused of being a bigot, most people hearing about it move on and never hear the follow up retraction. You get hammered on "page 1" and then forgiven on "page 30."

Rob Nixon is one of the most thoughtful and dedicated public servants that I know. He's committed to his town, his state and serving his constituents to the best of his ability. I spoke to him Tuesday on Chasing News and encouraged him to stand and fight. The baseless accusations of bigotry have to end. Context and character are key. A man's career should not come down to a baseless and anonymous attack from a blogger.

I don't know the nature of the original complaints leading to emails regarding potential zoning violations. I do know that the man in the center of the controversy is exactly the guy you want representing constituents from all backgrounds, races, nationalities and faiths.

Stand strong Rob.

Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea.

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