Church and state and erecting convenient boundaries

As an evangelical Christian, I can appreciate the legal pretense of an Orthodox Jewish eruv.

I had never heard of such a thing until reading Michael Chabon’s brilliant alternate-history detective novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Yet it turns out that I’d spent most of the 1990s living within the sprawling Lower Merion eruv, and much of the next decade commuting into and out of and through the huge eruvin of Center City and University City. (The blue line on the map in this post denotes Philly’s Center City eruv.)

Here’s a helpful description of an eruv from the Jewish Press last month:

Jewish law prohibits carrying an object from a private domain to a public domain (or vice versa) or within a public domain on the Sabbath. … The creation of an eruv establishes, where possible, an extended private domain in which such carrying is permissible.

The rules regarding “carrying” between “domains” on the Sabbath are complicated, but deadly serious. Those rules are so extensive that it would be easy to violate them unwittingly or unintentionally. They also forbid some things that would seem necessary for anyone traveling to or from services on the Sabbath. Say you have severe asthma or extreme allergies and need to carry an inhaler or an EpiPen with you at all times. The law forbids you to carry such things from one domain (your home) to another (the street leading to your local synagogue) on the Sabbath. An eruv technically encompasses the entire area within a single domain, turning whole neigborhoods or cities into one “courtyard,” thus permitting carrying within the eruv without violating the law.

The idea shows an enormous, immersive respect for biblical law while simultaneously showing an enthusiastic willingness to elude that same law through ingeniously creative means. In a sense, the elaborate nature of the law-evading construct becomes an expression of reverence for the very law it evades. Technically, the law forbids you from carrying from point A to point B. The eruv creates a legal fiction whereby technically you can. The lawyerliness of the latter technicality pays tribute to the deep sincerity of the former.

In Chabon’s novel, the community’s dependence on the eruv and its keepers enables crafty, crooked men to wield power over others by making them the arbiters of who is or is not within the bounds of the law. They become the gatekeepers of others’ righteousness.

Like I said, this all seems terribly familiar to those of us who have lived within the subculture of white evangelicalism. So much so that it’s tempting to abandon the original point of this post and just go galloping off into exploring the eruv as a metaphor for white evangelicalism in America.

But here’s the key thing: The boundaries of an eruv have to be physical, tangible and real. They’re nearly invisible, even if you know where to look and you know what you’re looking for. Walk along Poplar Street in Philadelphia and look very carefully and you may spot the boundaries of the blue line on the map here — a length of wire, a bit of thin pipe affixed to a utility pole. The lines these boundaries draw enclose a fictive space, but the lines themselves must be real.

There are, of course, many, many rules about the rules that allow one to abide by the rules. (Familiar, all too familiar.)

Ari Kohen draws our attention to a battle over a proposed eruv in Westhampton Village, New York:

The eruv would consist of about 60 10-to-15-foot-long, five-eighths-of-an-inch-wide PVC strips affixed to utility poles, and painted to blend in with them. They would be difficult to see, and would be shorter than the poles themselves.

That’s how these things work. If you don’t know it’s there, you’d never know it was there. You can’t see it, and unless you’re an Orthodox Jew it doesn’t affect your life at all in any way.

And yet many of the residents of Westhampton Village — including the mayor — want to prevent the Orthodox community from constructing its eruv. They offer two reasons for this. The first is an attempt at a principled-sounding argument. The second is an accidental admission of simple discrimination (which is why Kohen’s post is titled, “Oops, You Said the Quiet Part Out Loud“).

Let’s address the supposedly principled argument first. Out in the Hamptons, they’re arguing that an eruv somehow constitutes an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment:

In 2012, the Quogue board of trustees ruled that constructing an eruv “would very likely constitute a violation of the establishment clause” of the Constitution, and denied the application. Southhampton and Westhampton Village have not made a formal ruling, but Mr. Teller, the mayor, said he agreed with that reasoning.

“It’s about the separation of church and state,” he said.

That’s ridiculous. It ignores the existence of eruvin in communities all over the United States, none of which have been challenged, let alone ruled against, as any sort of religious establishment. Because they are not any sort of religious establishment — the state is not involved, and they do not affect anyone except the members of the Orthodox community. They are not noticed by anyone except the members of the Orthodox community.

If the city were being asked to fund the construction of the eruv, that would be a violation of the Establishment Clause. If the existence of the eruv meant that suddenly every resident had to begin abiding by the Orthodox Jewish restrictions against carrying on the Sabbath, then that would clearly be unconstitutional. But the town is not being asked to pay for any of this, only to allow its existence. And none of the non-Orthodox residents of the town will be asked or required even to acknowledge its presence.

So what’s really behind the opposition to the Westhampton Village eruv? The ugly truth seems to be that because it would make life easier for Orthodox Jewish residents, it might attract Orthodox Jewish residents, and the people of Westhampton Village don’t want those kind of people around. The law might not allow Westhampton to prohibit Orthodox Jews from building a synagogue, but perhaps the law can be manipulated to prevent them from being able to get to that synagogue. And if so maybe they’ll all just go away.

It’s discrimination, plain and simple. It’s no different from the anti-Islamic bigotry opposing the “Ground-Zero mosque” (which was neither a mosque, nor very near Ground Zero) or opposing the mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

That would be a harsh accusation to level against Mayor Teller and his constituents, but they’ve already confessed to it. As Kohen said, they unintentionally “said the quiet part out loud”:

Estelle Lubliner, another Jewish member of the anti-eruv group, said she feared that the eruv “will make more Orthodox people come in, and it’s not right to the history of these towns.”

“Why are they forcing the community to change?” she added.

…  [M]any in Westhampton Village — a diverse mix of Catholics, Protestants and Jews — say they fear the prospect of more Orthodox Jews moving in if the eruv is constructed. The mayor, Conrad Teller, estimated that perhaps 90 to 95 percent of Westhampton Village is now against it. “It’s divisive,” he said. “I believe they think somebody’s trying to push something down their throats.”

Storekeepers on Main Street have voiced practical concerns, because Orthodox Jews traditionally don’t spend money on the Sabbath. “Retail is hard enough as it is,” said Anick Darbellay, sitting in her dress shop on Friday. “I don’t want to have to shut down on Saturdays. Have you been to the Five Towns?” she asked, referring to an Orthodox Jewish enclave in Nassau County. “That’s what happened there.”

That’s just straight-up We Don’t Want You Here. It’s explicit bigotry, explicitly stated.

Kohen comments:

It’s absolutely bizarre — and very sad — that, rather than attempting to learn something about those whose beliefs are different, the majority population immediately acted like there was some sort of terrible threat to their country and their way of life.

Yep, the majority population perceives that a minority constitutes “some sort of terrible threat to their country and their way of life,” and so they impose legal restrictions against that minority, all the while trumping up disingenuous arguments that such restrictions against the freedom of the minority are necessary to protect the “religious liberty” of the majority. The very existence of the minority, the majority says, is “divisive.”

The eruv is a legal fiction that allows Orthodox Jews to carry on the Sabbath. The “religious liberty” argument of the privileged majority is a legal fiction that allows them to impose their will on others while pretending they’re making a principled stand for freedom.

The former is benign and unobtrusive. The latter is not.



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  • walden

    well, many of the opponents may have bad motives (apparently).

    But there is a real issue here, if I understand this correctly.
    What if, instead of PVC poles, another religious group wanted to affix crosses to the public utility poles in the public right of way?  Or prayer flags?  Flying Spaghetti monster logos?  Westboro Baptist flagpoles?  Once the public right of way is used for something that is not for the public benefit, but rather for communicative purposes — the door is open.

  • aunursa

    I appreciate when our host posts items that concern Jews and Judaism on days other than Shabbat (Friday night and Saturday) when observant Jews don’t use the internet.

    Here is a similar story of an eruv in Palo Alto, Calif. — that took eight years to receive city approval.

  • I love this post. You have no idea how incredibly rare it is for a Christian to “get” Jews!

  • Thing is, there is no communication involved. It’s designed to be unobtrusive, to the point where, unless you are very well informed and know what you are looking for and where to look, you would never know it’s there. The folks who care about eruv do not WANT anyone else to join their ranks, truthfully. They just want to be able to walk around with things in their pockets.

  • walden

     I understand the “intent” is to blend in.  But were I so inclined, after the installations occurred (even if painted to be the same color as the poles), I could easily petition for the village to allow my clients to install crosses of a similar size and dimension, flush with the light poles, and painted the same color as the previously installed eruv markers. Legally there would be no way for the village to prevent this.  Then, symbols of other types — religious and otherwise.   And as a legal matter, these items are communicative (even if the communication is only to the faithful).   What is going on, is the difference between neighborliness (sure, put your religious items where you need them, cause that’s being neighborly), versus the rule of law, which presupposes a lot of interactions that may or may not be neighborly.

  • SisterCoyote

    But they’re not religious symbols. If they were asking to paint a religious symbol on the utility poles to mark the border of their eruv, that would be a reasonable argument. But it’s something that’s all but invisible unless you’re an Orthodox Jew. I’ve worked in to a town with a significant population of Orthodox Jews for about six years now, and used to pass families walking to synagogue every week on my way to work. So there’s almost certainly an eruv somewhere, here, but I have no idea where, or what it looks like, or what poles it’s on, and I’ve probably walked past it, across it, through it more times than I can count.

    So – no, there is no real issue. Read the arguments, they’re not just “bad motives,” they’re flat-out bigotry. “We don’t want more Orthodox Jews in our neighborhood.” That is what they are saying. That is wrong, plain and simple.

    [edited because of typos. bah.]

  • Chris Hall

    Just a brief Jewish law comment — while Fred’s post is mostly right on the money, the example of Jews being unable to carry things like an inhaler or an EpiPen on Shabbat is not really correct. The requirement to protect your own life and health (and the life and health of others) overrides just about every other Jewish law – including Shabbat. So most Rabbis would insist that you do carry medicine on Shabbat if your life would be in danger without it.

  •  I understand the “intent” is to blend in.  But were I so inclined, after
    the installations occurred (even if painted to be the same color as the
    poles), I could easily petition for the village to allow my clients to
    install crosses of a similar size and dimension, flush with the light
    poles, and painted the same color as the previously installed eruv

    You could easily petition the village to do that now.  People petition for stuff like that all the time.  Well, maybe not stuff like your example, because that’s hyper specific, but things like Christmas displays on public land happen all the time and most cities have a petition system in place.

    However, you’re taking a long walk out into left field to make your point.  I’d be truly surprised to find out that there’s precedence for this action.

    Legally there would be no way for the village to prevent this. 
    Then, symbols of other types — religious and otherwise.

    Sure there would.  Seems to me from Fred’s description that the markers for eruv are specifically chosen to be unobtrusive and non-specifically religious in nature.  A cross is neither of those things.  I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that’s a defensible difference.

    There’s a difference between government accommodation of religion and government establishment of religion.  Seems to me that a defense could be mounted on that line.

  • walden

     I’m really not quarreling with the fact that, as reported, the reasons are bad, and that arguments are being made by bigots with bigoted intent.

    However, were I the solicitor for the village or town, I would have to advise them that if they permitted these installations in the public right of way that they would have no grounds whatever to prevent any other such installations (with the exception of making reasonable rules as to dimensions/color to prevent accidents from distracted drivers).   The next application that came in — for crosses or FSMs or whatever — would have to be granted on similar terms. And if the town denied the subsequent application they would be sued under the 14th and 1st amendments and RLUIPA, and would lose and be required to permit the installations and pay the attorneys fees of the prevailing party.

    This is perhaps sad and unfortunate, but the town’s legal advisors are 100 percent correct.

    I also know that there are eruvs in some places in NYC, perhaps elsewhere in the US.  

  • sarah

    Huh. That’s near where I grew up — South Shore, Nassau County, not the Hamptons.  And the Philly map that Fred post encompasses my work place (but not my home, as I live in West Phila).

  • sarah

     *posted. Can I edit?

  • aunursa

    From Wikipedia

    In Tenafly Eruv Association v. Borough of Tenafly (309 F.3d 144), Judge Ambro, writing for the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals, held that Eruv Association members had no intrinsic right to add attachments to telephone poles on Borough property and that the Borough, if it wished, could enact a general, neutral ordinance against all attachments to utility poles that could be enforced against the eruv. However, Judge Ambro held that in this case the Borough had not enacted a genuinely general or neutral ordinance because it permitted a wide variety of attachments to utility poles for non-religious purposes, including posting signs and other items. Because it permitted attachments to utility poles for secular purposes, the court held, it could not selectively exclude attachments for religious purposes. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case. It was subsequently cited as precedent by a number of other federal courts deciding disputes between an eruv association and a local government.

  • walden

    I should say that the town could decide to allow this.  It would not be unlawful for them to allow it (not really an ‘establishment’ violation).
    But if they do allow it, they must be prepared for whatever follows.  (And maybe nothing would follow — maybe no-one else would apply for use of the right-of-way. But they would need to take this into account.)

  • quince

    Just a clarification quibble on this section:
    “Say you have severe asthma or extreme allergies and need to carry an inhaler or an EpiPen with you at all times. The law forbids you to carry such things from one domain (your home) to another (the street leading to your local synagogue) on the Sabbath.”

    This isn’t actually true.  For one, to preserve life takes precedence over all other laws — Pikauch Nefesh.  This is why people with severe diabetes aren’t supposed to fast as they observe Yom Kippur, for example.  This would seem to imply that there is an obligation to carry an inhaler or an EpiPen, even on the Sabbath, even in the absence of an eruv.  This is the view of most rabbis, though I suppose there may be some who would hold that you should just stay home rather than attend services.  

    But let’s suppose there isn’t the life-saving condition — for example, suppose you are talking about your keys or an ID card or something else you need to carry with you.  People get around the prohibition on carrying by modifying the attaching these items to a “Shabbos belt” — the idea is that  if the key is an integral part of a piece of clothing, you aren’t “carrying” it.  Presumably you could do the same thing with an EpiPen.

  • walden

     Thanks for the description of the Third Circuit case.  And this really is the point.  Most municipalities do not allow attachments to utility poles (except public safety signs) — although honored in the breach (“lost dog”, “we buy gold”) in a lot of places.  If they do allow it, they can’t discriminate based on content.

    And if they don’t usually allow it but vote to approve it, they can’t discriminate based on content thereafter.

  •  There are indeed eruvim (eruvot?) outside of NYC. Any community with a high density of Orthodox Jews probably has one. They’re extremely convenient.

    And the notion that, because a town has allowed an Orthodox Jewish community to establish an unobtrusive eruv, they would consequently be required to subsequently allow other religions to put up equally unobtrusive items, and that this is some kind of a problem, just cracks me up.

    I mean… horrors! If we allow this, Christians might start putting up denominational decorations on their holidays, and then where would we be?

  • Veylon

    The eruv might be better off petitioning local businesses along the same stretch for the right to erect similar such blended-in markings. As a couple others have noted, this would unfortunately open the door to a lot nonsense from a lot of other groups. If the government lets one group do, they’ll have to let everyone do it.

  • fraser

     Well if Christians want to put up colored tape or stuff that doesn’t look like religious symbols at all, more power to them.

  • Jenny Islander

    Oh yes.  The Pennsic War, an annual massive gathering of the Society for Creative Anachronism that has been compared to a medieval fair, has an eruv every year.  I don’t know whether there are eruvim (sp.?) at other SCA wars, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were.

  • MikeJ

     That’s the reasoning of a smart assed 12 year old. Plenty of people are capable of differentiating between, “we want to do something unobtrusive for our religious practice”and “we want to act like assholes because you haven’t narrowly tailored your rules to prevent this particular flavor of assholism.”

  • Kubricks_Rube

    These are not random religious markings. They serve an integral purpose in allowing certain citizens to practice their faith. The same cannot be said for random crosses or FSM pennants on public property.

  • Peter

    Is there a reason they have to attach something?  I’m assuming it must be physical to portray the ‘courtyard’ effect Fred mentioned.  Also, do they explicitly need permission, or are they just asking to be nice? 

    Otherwise, just hit the appropriate poles with a touch of spray paint, up high where people can’t easily reach it.  My guess is, it would be there uncontested for a long long long time.

    Or, perhaps, if it’s a generally Orthodox neighborhood, there may be enough neighbors to keep the decorations on private property and still have it function as intended.

    I’m trying to think of a similar thing in the Christian realm to prove my point, but I can’t really come up with one.

    For example, would you allow a private group to install a makeshift stone altar, not religiously adorned in any way, just some stones set specifically to help people pray, if they want to, near the front of the courthouse?  Off to the side, with nothing to call attention to them, except the occasional person praying on them.

    Would you allow a private religiously-affiliated group to install a monument to the aborted unborn?  It would, again, be off to the side, have no markings, perhaps make it a simple granite cube with a huge gash in it.  It’s not even specifically religious, per se.  The government would have nothing do with it, except to allow it to exist on clearly government-owned land.

    Would you allow a private group to affix a simple , unobtrusive black band around utility poles, to protest abortion?  Again, there’s nothing specifically religious about it.

    I don’t know.  I’m not claiming these ideas are completely analogous in any way, but I’m trying to think of similar ‘non-infringing’ uses that one may still consider to violate the church/state separation.

    Maybe the fact that I’m stretching shows that it’s probably okay.
    I don’t know.

  • AnonaMiss

    As a woman, I find the idea that attracting more Orthodox Jews is a bad thing to be a valid objection. I don’t want to invite into my neighborhood any organization which enforces gender segregation among its members. Orthodox Judaism is a bastion of purity culture, so the establishment of a sub-community of Orthodox Jews creates a hostile environment for the women of the community at large.

    We see this strongly in Israel.

    And in the rare cases outside Israel in which they’ve gained enough power and influence to impose their rules upon goyim, they haven’t shied from doing so.

    Of course, this is not the argument the naysayers are using. It would be a better world if it was.

  • Lunch Meat

    Private citizens are allowed to put crosses and other decorations on sidewalks and highways to commemorate those who have been killed in accidents, right? In most places in the US?

  • Katie

     I would assume that they are present at any camping event where Orthodox Jews are in attendance.  I know of at  one gentleman who was in the habit of arriving as early as possible on Friday to set up his tent, so as to be done with work before sundown, and he’d mark out an area that he and his friends were camping in so he’d have an eruv. 

    Pennsic is a bit unique in the SCA for the sheer number of religious observances that happen on site, which is partially because it goes on for longer than most SCA events, has more people  and is isolated enough that its easier to arrange to have services on site than it is to travel offsite.

  • Carstonio

    For a minute, I was expecting Fred to suggest that evangelicals adopt their own version of eruv. Or to point out that what evangelicals seek is the exact opposite, wanting its restrictions to apply to everyone. I admire the concept of the eruv as a way to follow self-imposed restrictions in a society without imposing those restrictions on others.

  • Speaking as a surveyor, they may not be allowed to put up their eruvim markings on the poles, regardless of the city – Most utility poles are owned by the utility companies, and they (generally) don’t allow any markings on them, other than ones put there by the municipalities.  Not that people don’t put things on utility poles anyways, but they aren’t supposed to –  they are privately owned in most cases, even though they do reside within the public right of way (usually).  

    Also, hail to my SCAdian brethren!

  • Jim Roberts

    Peter, many large courthouses, most hospitals, the vast majority of jails and various other secular buildings don’t just have an altar but an actual chapel, usually conveniently labelled “chapel” right on the door. The altar would likely be superfluous.

  • aunursa

    Generally I don’t have a problem with gender segregation within an organization.  I would have a problem with an organization attempting to impose gender segregation on non-members.

    A San Diego-area YMCA offers women-only swim hours in order to accomodate the area’s Muslim population.  I distinguish the YMCA from a government-supported UK facility that also offers women’s only sessions in order to accomodate the Muslim population.

  • Madhabmatics

    Guys, if we allow incredibly non-obvious stuff on telephone poles, the next step will be people advertising their yard sales on them

  • Madhabmatics

    Actually I really like that guy who was like “but what if someone wanted a cross up there but camouflaged it so that only people who knew it was there could see it” because that’s sounds awesome, imo camo all symbols and hide them around so that in the future people think your town is a hotbed of secret societies

  • CharityB

     Well, that’s the issue with semiprivatization like the bus service example. The government contracts with a private company to operate a part of the municipal bus system. That private company turns out to be run by someone who believes that their religion requires them to discriminate against women.

    (The company’s bullshit, “We don’t require women to ride in the back of the bus, you can’t prove that we did that, and we promise we’ll stop” argument that they used to conclude the dispute notwithstanding though).

    But that doesn’t make semiprivatization or outsourcing a bad thing; all it means is that you have to be careful. It’s not acceptable to merely sign a franchise agreement with a group; you have to check up on them and respond to complaints about the service at least as vigorously as you would if you were providing the service directly. It wouldn’t be an issue at all if the bus service has been fully private, but the fact that it is contracted with the city and has signed an agreement requiring compliance with the same regulations as the rest of the city made it an issue.

  • I honestly don’t why it makes a difference who owns the pool. The council might be offering them primarily at the request of the Muslim community but they’re not turning away non-Muslims. And if course, it’s also in England with no Establishment Clause and a State Church.

  • Dani B

    The utilities in WHB already signed contracts to have an eruv on their poles.

  • MaryKaye

    My city–Seattle, which is not known for religiosity–has directional signs for large churches and synagogues on public streets.  As long as similar signs are allowed for non-religious establishments (Boys and Girls Club, Antioch College, Rhododendron Garden, etc), and there’s no discrimination on the basis of which religion or sect, I don’t see a problem.

    I have not seen signs for the local mosque, but it might not qualify on the basis of size; it’s much smaller than the signed churches and synagogues.

    Seattlites fought very hard for the right to put things on public utility poles; posting has a lot of historical significance to the music scene here.  I would be very surprised if people objected to the eruv.  I personally would not.  If it leads to the Street Scramble (a race I participate in) wanting to put inconspicuous markings on utility poles; or Catholics numbering poles to facilitate a Stations of the Cross event; I can live with that.  I think we can make room for religion in public space–just not for religious bias or exercise of religious power.

  • Me: “Actually, I agree, having the government pay to put up an eru…WAIT THAT ISN’T EVEN…SHEESH.”

    Then there is this:

    “I believe they think somebody’s trying to push something down their throats.”

    Hey, you know, if you have to start your weird racist waffle with “I BELIEVE that SOMEBODY THINKS that SOMEBODY ELSE is going to do something…” well, shoot, dude, let me just say that those weasel words wouldn’t even make it into a Wikipedia entry.

  • Of course the whole thing is a bit like the Garfunkle and Oates song (Definitely NSFW.) Creating a legal fiction to get round a self-imposed legal fiction is basically just stupid. 

  • Carstonio

    I have moral reservations about religions having such rules regarding gender. I automatically think of the gender apartheid being practiced by some Muslim fundamentalists and some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

    But I doubt that’s sufficient grounds for the YMCA to reject women-only swims. And I’m not sure how the First Amendment prohibition on favoring some religions over others would play out for these swims.

    Also, this explains the issue with signs on poles:

  • aunursa

    The council might be offering them primarily at the request of the Muslim community but they’re not turning away non-Muslims.

    But they are turning away non-Muslim men during these sessions.

    And to bring this back to America, I added a link in my previous comment to an article indicating that Seattle will begin offering women-only sessions at four city pools.

  •  I personally don’t have a problem with a local authority swimming pool offering women only sessions. If they were only open to Muslim women that might be a problem, but they are not, and I am sure that there are women of all faiths and none, who might well prefer to go swimming without the attention of men

  • Carstonio

    But they are turning away non-Muslim men during these sessions.

    A better and more constitutional approach would be to turn away all men during the women-only session and turn away all women during the men-only session. The policy shouldn’t be about any particular religion specifically. I can imagine some non-Muslim folks wanting some exclusive time for secular reasons.

  • LL

    Why isn’t there an app for this? Seems like there should be.

  • aunursa

    They are turning away all men during the women-only session.  My point was that non-Muslim men who do not subscribe to the gender segregation are prohibited despite the fact that it is a government-supported facility.

  • aunursa

    Previously Seattle allowed women-only swimming sessions that were private rentals paid through grants.  However the new program will be conducted by the city, which makes it ripe for a discrimination lawsuit.

  • Daughter

    True this. Because there is no reason for Christians to put up something similar (unless somehow they’re deceived into thinking they’re hiding in catacombs), so the only reason for a Christian to petition for something similar is to be an asshole.

    Reminds me a little of the guy who decided to start a “Christian salt” company because he was offended that so many cooking show chefs used kosher salt.

  • I don’t want to invite into my neighborhood any organization which enforces gender segregation among its members.

    I agree with this.

    “It’s a religion, so any discrimination against it must be bad” is not an argument I find compelling at all. People are allowed to get away with far too much in the name of religion, and severe gender inequity and abuse of women and children are at the top of that list. 

  • Lunch Meat

    Do the pools have sessions that are integrated, or are all the sessions men-only or women-only?

  • Hilary

    As far as the second argument “We don’t want those people here” my first thought was “What type of neighbors have the Orthodox been so far?”  Because Jewish fundamentalists can be just as obnoxious and hard to live with as anybody else’s fundamentalists.  If we are talking modern orthodox, then they are very observent Jews who are still willing to interact with the rest of the world.  But ultra-orthodox haredi black hat fundamentalists*? As a liberal, Reform Jew I would not want to live next door to a large number of ultra orthodox who think their right to religious freedom trumps my right to be a modern American Jewish woman when we pass on the street.  I wouldn’t mind living next to modern orthodox who understand their right to enforce their community standards about women and modesty ends outside of their community.  If they can live and let live – I won’t be a nudge about them if they won’t be schmucks about me.

    *I’m not calling them ‘black hat fundamentalists’ as any code word or put down, or insinuation about being evil spies, but because they wear black hats. 

    But for the first arguement – a small, inconspicious addition to public grounds not meant to enforce anything on anybody who doesn’t already follow the culture shouldn’t be a problem.



  • Madhabmatics

     They do turn away all men, they don’t let in Muslim men either

  • Carstonio

    If there are plenty of open sessions, I would think that wouldn’t be an issue. Religion aside, I would think the more relevant concern would be any gender inequality. Such as the pool refusing to also offer a men-only session if there were a demand for one, or giving one gender or the other most of the pool time.