Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Lawsuit Challenges Proposed Eruv As Establishment Clause Violation

Last week, a group opposed to the creation of an eruv by Orthodox Jewish residents of the Village of Westhampton, New York filed suit in federal district court seeking a declaratory judgment that use of public property, including utility poles, to create a symbolic religious boundary violates the Establishment Clause. The suit also seeks an injunction against construction of the eruv, which is comprised largely of plastic strips running up utility poles to intersect with existing wires that create the symbolic boundary. The complaint (full text) in Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach v. Village of Westhampton Beach, (ED NY, filed 7/30/2012), alleges that:
The eruv ... will mark certain wholly public spaces within the Village with religious significance. Indeed, it will invest a large portion of the Village with a narrow and parochial religious function.... [I]t will be a constant ... reminder to the community at large, that the secular public spaces of the Village have been transformed for religious use and identity; to the non-Jewish residents, that the Village and LIPA have given preferred status to the Jewish religion as the only faith to be permitted to permanently affix religious symbols to utility poles ... or to physically demarcate certain public spaces with particular religious significance; and to large portions of the Jewish community... that one particular form of Judaism has been preferred and endorsed by the Village over another.
Newsday on Sunday reported on the filing of the lawsuit. [Thanks to Pew Forum for the lead.]