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.

 

 

  • AnonymousSam

    I should ask, am I completely off-base with my interpretation of Al-Mã’edah, Sura 5:3-5? Does it only refer to desperate situations, or can it refer to when there simply isn’t an alternative in reasonable proximity? ^^;

  • Carstonio

    Adult-only swimming could be interpreted quite differently, like a swingers club…

  • Madhabmatics

    It really, really depends on who you consider a scholar with a correct ruling. (Much like pretty much all the rules, haha.)

    It’s something we argue about a whole lot internally. Mainly there are three positions.

    1) 5:5 says if people of the book slaughter it, it’s okay. No ifs, ands, or buts. We are in a Western country and there are Christians everywhere and given that it’s pretty likely that the dude who butchered that cow is Christian, it’s acceptable to err on the side of it being permitted. Don’t worry about it.

    2) While it’s totally okay to eat pork if you are starving, you aren’t starving to death, so just become a vegetarian / pescatarian. (The rules for fish are way, way more lax than for other meats.)

    3) The comedy option, a bunch of scholars think that it is NOT okay to refuse to eat something EXCEPT for health reasons, so switching your diet to a vegetarian / pescatarian one would be really bad. I guess these guys would want you to do #1 but feel guilty about it.

    You can imagine the arguments this can start.

  • P J Evans

     I think one of the Muslims I used to work with was vegetarian. (At least at work.)

  • Madhabmatics

     Man when I read “Adult lap swims” I was like “what the heck kind of pool is this”

  • AnonymousSam

    *Giggles at the third option* Reminds me of the “it’s all but mandatory, even though you’re not supposed to” scenarios that pop up in Judaism. “Can I carry a bucket of water into the neighbor’s lawn to throw it on him if he’s on fire?” “Why are you standing around, asking stupid questions while your neighbor’s on fire? Grab the bucket, idiot!”

    Okay, that’s actually about what I expected. Either way, it wouldn’t have deterred anyone unless they eliminated so many kinds of food that it defeated the purpose. The real purpose of the law was likely symbolic, trying to intimidate the Muslims into leaving the neighborhood.

  • Hilary

    Point of observation – most of the people raising possible objections to living with large amounts of ultra-orthodox Jews are . . . . other Jews.  Just because there is only ~13-14 million Jews in existance on the entire planet, doesn’t mean we all get along with each other.  Jewish fundamentalists . . . . oy oy oy.  They’re religious fundamentalists, there is no live and let live.  If that was more of the case, then that would be different.  But I don’t know the exact type of Jews involved, so I shouldn’t speculate too much. 

    If there was a compromise, then maybe things would be different.  “Let us put up the eruv, and we’ll honor and follow basic civil law about legal eqalitarianism between men and women outside our community.”  That would be the basic Jewish Bargin we’ve fine-tuned for centuries across countries and contenants.  Let us keep our traditions and holidays, pray and study without harrasement and prejudice, and in return we will pay taxes, do business, and be productive citizens.  Every time this bargin gets struck in our history of diaspora exile, it can work really well for both sides. 

    You’re right in seeing the problem here – how to balance religious equal protection under law, when the religious practises in question violate secular law.  The eruv doesn’t violate that, but demanding gender segregation from non-orthodox Jews and other non-Jews does.  If these ultra-orthodox have a history of that, it’s not surprising people are worried.   

  • Hilary

    Dude, do you have any idea how much this sounds like it came out of a yeshiva?  Sometimes I feel that if we could just drop Middle East politics and chill out over the Isaac/Ishmael thing, Jews and Muslims should get along great.  Maybe it’s in part because Judaism actually developed in Babylon, more then in Israel.  The developement from biblical Israelite to Rabbinic Judaism, writing the Babylonian Talmud. 

  • Tom

    I’m really reluctant to write this because it’s more a thought experiment to understand the stance of the opposition, rather than my own carefully thought out view, but I think there’s a difference between being reluctant to have people of a certain belief move to/dominate an area and, for example, people of a certain race.

    The only reason I mention it is that East London used to have a large gay community, however recently (unfortunately it’s probably due to low property prices and inequality of opportunity for Muslim people coming to the UK) it has become London’s main Muslim area.  Now I know more than most that not all Muslims are homophobic, but let’s face it – most main religions have that element… and as a result there has been a big increase in homophobic incidents, including ‘gay free zone’ stickers quoting religious verses and gangs of guys ‘policing’ the area by filming themselves shouting homophobia at passers by.

    As a result the gay community has dissipated and gay people feel far less safe in that area.  Obviously I don’t have a problem with Muslims, any more than I do with Christians or any other religion, but I can imagine being a gay man living in that area and in a way I can understand his hostility to the change.  Obviously this hostility can manifest itself in very ugly ways – an East London gay pride march was cancelled a couple of years ago after it was discovered that the organisers had links to the English Defence League – a pseudo-racist anti-immigration group – who were obviously just looking to stir up trouble and were using the gay community as pawns to do so.

    For me this is one of the big problems with religion being included as a protected characteristic under anti-discrimination law.  On the one hand it is obviously wrong to discriminate against someone for being born into a certain family and a certain belief system, and we MUST have freedom of belief, but at the same time it becomes problematic to have sets of values and opinions protected by law.  For me someone’s values and opinions are one of the most justified areas to judge them on, after their actions.  This protection has led many UK Christians to pursue claims of discrimination when they are told they cannot discriminate against gay people.

    Obviously this situation is quite different, and I’m sure plenty of it is just old fashioned anti-Semitism, but the fact that one of the people quoted was Jewish themselves makes me wonder at what point you can justifiably be concerned about a local cultural change, when that culture brings with it a set of beliefs that might ultimately disadvantage you.

    I don’t have the answers, and it’s a line of thought that I’m a bit uncomfortable with because it would go down a storm with racists, so in a way I kind of wanted to hear the opinions of someone on here – knowing that unlike other sites you guys are generally thoughtful, reasonable and not racist!

  • Tom

    “There’s a women-only pool on Hampstead Heath in London that’s been going for a century or more.”
    And a men only one… As you can imagine, located on Hampstead Heath there’s plenty of mischief that goes on there!

  • The_L1985

    But they’re still allowing men to swim during other times.

  • christopher_y

    As a data point, my wife who is an ex-Catholic atheist, is a member of a women only gym, and would certainly avail herself of the facility if the municipally owned swimming pools had women only sessions. This is not because men are aggressively misogynistic in gyms and swimming pools, but because they tend not to check their privilege. At the gym, which is always crowded, she says the number of Muslims attending is roughly in proportion to the number in the general population, so I guess that would probably be the case at a pool too.

  • aunursa

    But they’re still allowing men to swim during other times.

    They’re only discriminating for a few hours a week?  Oh, well that makes it okay.

    And any men for whom the most convenient times and locations to swim coincide with the women-only sessions?  Well, those men would be just out of luck.

  • fraser

     Hialeah, FL. had the same problem when it tried to ban Santeria sacrifices. To avoid affecting anyone else, they wrote the law so narrowly and obviously targeted that the Supreme Court tossed it out.

  • Carstonio

     

    because they tend not to check their privilege

    You mean they’re acting like they’re entitled to the pool, treating the women like interlopers? As opposed, to say, ogling the women?

  • The_L1985

     Someone else said that, too.  The funny part is, most Santeros look pretty darn Catholic to people who aren’t familiar with Santeria–which is most people.  So, how on earth would they know the Santeros from the local Catholic majority?  Were the people who wrote the law planning on breaking into the homes of suspected Santeros (itself illegal) to see if they were killing chickens at the time?

    The entire law made no sense whatsoever.

  • Barry_D

     ”But they’re not religious symbols.”

    What are they?

  • Barry_D

     Yes, which includes removing such markers along with accumulated ‘lost dog’ signs in routine cleaning and maintenance.

  • Barry_D

     Are you actually ignorant of these matters?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Are you actually ignorant of these matters?

    Disqus tells me that this question was addressed to me, but isn’t telling me what it’s in response to. Assuming it’s meant as a real question and not a rhetorical one: if you can clarify which matters you’re referring to, I’ll clarify the state of my ignorance regarding them.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Out of curiosity, aunursa, I wonder how you feel about state-run or state-funded refuges for women’s shelters.

  • SisterCoyote

    H’m. That’s a fair point. They’re religious symbols to the Jews who depend on them and know what they mean – to anyone who doesn’t, which is most of us/the rest of us, they’re pieces of PVC pipe. Which doesn’t usually compel people to fall to their knees and declare faith.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Yeah, but to what extent is that true in a way that “But to anyone who isn’t a christian, it’s just a wooden lower-case ‘T’” isn’t?

  • CharityB

    It’s far more likely that the neighbors of Santeros would report them to the authorities and use that as a mechanism of harassment. If they could keep the Church involved in a lot of litigation, or even just threaten to, that might be enough to get them to relocate somewhere else. 

  • WalterC

    Those things would be different in the US. The law does allow for discrimination based on sex or gender as long as it serves a compelling governmental interest, which domestic violence shelters fall under pretty much everywhere in the US. It’s called exacting scrutiny, or intermediate scrutiny. (Neal vs. Michigan DofC, Craig vs. Boren). 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Are candles religious? What about bread, water, wine?

    Nope, but they’re all used in Catholic services.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Email notifs tell me ‘Are you actually ignorant of these matters?’ is a response to the comment ending ‘If we allow this, Christians might start putting up denominational decorations on their holidays, and then where would we be?’

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Ah! Thanks.

    Perhaps Barry is asking whether I was being ironic?
    If so: yes, Barry, I was being ironic. Thanks for asking.

  • RLS

     In Seattle specifically, there is a city ordinance that access to single-sex public accommodations (including rest rooms and changing rooms, and I’m pretty sure a women-only session at a public pool would qualify) must respect identification. They can’t police anyone’s gender. If someone turns up and says they’re a woman, the pool must respect that.

  • christopher_y

    Both, really. They tend to be stronger and more aggressive so they take over the lanes; and ogling the younger women.

  • Carstonio

    Assuming you’re correct, I would think that men-only swimming times would pose a similar problem. But you seem to be concerned only about the men impacted, as if it’s personal. Not the same thing as a white person complaining about not having a White History Month, but somewhat reminiscent of that same lack of perspective.

  • alfgifu

    Gender segregated swimming times seem to me to be one of those cases where there’s a legitimate argument on both sides – on the one hand, it’s a pity to restrict access to the pool based on stated gender or – even more problematically – apparent gender (from the perspective of the staff).

    But on the other hand, a pool is a shared facility that can be enjoyed better by some groups when other groups are not present (eg by adult swimmers when there are fewer children splashing about). Trying to schedule times to accommodate those needs better is a worthwhile goal.

    Personally, I think having occasional ‘womens only’ or ‘mens only’ sessions (and potentially age-segregated sessions as well) that are clearly advertised as such, and arranged to avoid clashing with peak demand, is a pretty fair compromise. But then I am coming from a UK perspective where that is par for the course.

    It hadn’t occured to me until reading this thread that there is an accompanying issue of reinforcing an unhealthily dualistic gender model. I’m not quite sure how it would be best to deal with that – I know a lot of swimming pools which have mixed-gender changing areas with small cubicles for privacy, so it certainly isn’t a given that going to the pool means choosing whether to walk through the ‘girl’ door or the ‘boy’ door (again, caveat that this is a UK perspective).

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    on the one hand, it’s a pity to restrict access [...] on the other hand, a pool is a shared facility that can be enjoyed
    better by some groups when other groups are not present

    I am sympathetic to this view in principle, but in practice I reject it.

    To say that more precisely:

    In principle, in cases where the entire population happens to divide naturally into N groups that are jointly exhaustive and mutually prefer to avoid one another’s company, and it’s possible to exclusively allocate a resource among those groups such that everyone’s legitimate needs are equally and adequately met, I endorse doing that.

    But in practice, the group boundaries we tend to draw are artificially imposed, don’t reflect jointly exhaustive divisions of the population, there’s no common understanding of what needs are legitimate and when they’ve been adequately met, and there’s no shared reliable notion of equality to be had among them.

    Worse, we aren’t very good at even recognizing that any of that is the case. That is, we have a habit of treating our artificial social boundaries as though they were natural kinds, of marginalizing and ignoring people who don’t fit into the buckets we’ve allocated, of treating the needs of in-group members as intrinsically more legitimate than the needs of out-group members, of noticing the unmet needs of in-group members more reliably than the unmet needs of out-group members, and of thinking we treat different groups equally when in fact we don’t.

    Hence, the oft-quoted “separate but equal is never equal.”

    So in practice, when I find myself wanting to allocate system resources this way, my inclination is to take a long hard look at who actually has the power to impose their own preferences on the system and who doesn’t, and to make my resource-allocation choices based on equalizing that power imbalance where I can.

    The result of doing that is almost always a resource-allocation profile that feels deeply weird and counterintuitive to me and most of my peers.

  • Tricksterson

    First off the markers are not themselves Jewish symbols as a cross most defintely is of Christianity.  Second the poles are for a practical purpose whereas a cross would serve not puurpose but advertising, which is the opposite of what the Orthodox Jews want.  if the were wanting to put up Stars of David as boundary markers, you’d have an argument.  As it is you don’t.

  • Carstonio

    While I share many of your concerns, what do you propose as a solution? In this specific case, are you concerned that the women-only sessions might backfire and inadvertently perpetuate male privilege? Christopher mentioned the problem of men taking over the lanes during open swims. I suspect this is less about a natural strength advantage and more about a feeling of entitlement that exploits that advantage. Where sex and gender are concerned, the issue may be not artificial social boundaries, but artificial attitudes about genitalia differences.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    As I said, I endorse looking at who actually has the power to impose their own
    preferences on the system and who doesn’t, and equalizing that power imbalance
    where we can.

    In the specific case of gender and swimming pools,
    my expectation is that if we do that, we’ll find there’s an existing
    imbalance such that female-identified swimmers lose out to
    male-identified swimmers, and that intervening to establish compensatory
    restrictions on male-identified swimmers or compensatory advantages to
    female-identified swimmers (including but not limited to women-only
    sessions) can equalize that imbalance, in which case I endorse such
    interventions.

    That said, if that is the problem I would likely
    prefer sessions from which men are excluded to sessions restricted only
    to women.

    Even more would I prefer a more careful analysis of
    how the existing imbalance functions, which might support a less
    intrusive and more efficient intervention. What that intervention might
    be I don’t know; actually collecting data about the real system is often
    a necessary step before usefully intervening in that system.

    But
    I recognize that gathering more data isn’t always cost-effective, and I
    also endorse basing interventions on the most likely model given the
    information that we have at any given point rather than endlessly
    collecting more data.

    So, putting that all together, I endorse women-only sessions while reserving the right to change my mind given more data.

    In this specific case, are you concerned that the women-only sessions
    might backfire and inadvertently perpetuate male privilege?

    Well,
    I hadn’t been thinking in those terms, but now that you ask of course
    this sort of backlash  from the powerful is always a risk when
    intervening to equalize power. That’s not an ethical
    reason not to do it, though in some cases it can be a
    tactical reason, in the “pick your battles” sense.

    I
    don’t know enough about this specific case to have a
    strong opinion, but I’d be surprised if that were a
    significant enough tactical concern here to change my position.

  • Carstonio

    No disagreement with your general principle about equalizing power imbalances.

     if that is the problem I would likely prefer sessions from which men are excluded to sessions restricted only to women.

    Would the excluded sessions be open to children of both sexes? I imagine there would have to be an age cutoff for the males, perhaps 13 or 14. As you said, there may be a a less intrusive and more efficient way to counteract the power imbalance.

  • Tricksterson

    And where they can legally impose their values on others that’s a danger, or where there’s a realistic danger of their being able to do so.  However it’s nowhere near a danger here nor likely to become one.  What you’re stating is analogous to those who are afraid of sharia beoming the norm in the United States.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Would the excluded sessions be open to children of both sexes?

    At the risk of repeating myself, the nature of the intervention ought to depend on what, based on currently available evidence, we think the nature of the imbalance is.

    So really, my answer is “Don’t ask me, ask someone who has actually studied the system!”

    That said, for the system under discussion I share your implicit expectation that there’s an age below which there’s not a significant power imbalance correlated with gender for a mixed-age group, so I would expect that not excluding people younger than that age based on their gender would make sense.

    Of course, we could also have a conversation about whether it makes sense to exclude people younger than that age more generally, but that’s a separate issue. More generally, I suspect intersectionality is also a key thing to take into account for this kind of analysis.

  • Tricksterson

    Prediction:  More than a few non-Muslim women will wind up using the women only time.  That’s when there might be a problem, if the Muslims try to claim that time exclusively for “their” women.  Then there would be a problem with the 1st Amendment.  But if they don’t then I don’t see a problem.

  • Tricksterson

    Are they turning away non-Muslim men but permitting Muslim men in?  If so I see a problem, if not then not.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    My point about state-funded women’s shelters is, they exist on the same spectrum of women-only swim times at public pools: they both can be instituted to address the problem of victims of sexual/sexualized harassment, abuse, and assault are disproportionately female.

    Given a culture in which women are largely seen as existing purely for sex, where our worth is equated with our bodies, and where the sight of a woman in a swimsuit is sexualized to the point that that’s the only way some people seem to want to engage with us when we’re in swimsuits (which is to say, cat calls if they like the way we look, “comic” protests of DO NOT WANT if they don’t)… it’s pretty damn reasonable for public pools to provide a time when a woman doesn’t have to brave that kind of attention just to swim a few laps.

    And kudos to those who have already mentioned this. There were a few post making that point. Unfortunately I think it got lost in the noise of “Women-only swim sessions mean the religious women-haters are moving in!”

    Obviously a women-only swim time can be instituted because a dominant religion decrees that men shouldn’t be around those icky women, too, but it isn’t the only reason; and if the legitimate reason just happens to make religious misogynists happy too, that doesn’t delegitimize the legitimate reason.

    I was curious as to what aunursa thought about that, whether he thinks that in the name of a principled non-discriminatory stance women should just suck it up and deal with potential harassment or stay home if they can’t hack it, whether he even thinks that women’s shelters too are discriminatory absent an equal number and capacity of men’s shelters; but given that Walter’s used my post as a jumping-off point in egg-sucking lessons I figured it would be best if I just made my point clearly: I believe there is a sufficiently compelling reason that provides for the availability of a public pool’s women-only swim session. It is not at the same severity level as the need for women’s shelters, but it is of a kind and on the same spectrum.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Belated afterthought: Dave is right re: gendered power imbalances. I seem to be belaboring a point Dave has already made quite adequately.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Given the way these things tend to go in the 21st century US, the more likely scenario is that the community would be happy to have gender-segregated pool times for “secular” reasons, but the second a group of Muslims show up and mention that they’ve got a religious reason to be in favor of those segregated times, people who normally are just fine with religious displays in public spaces will suddenly think “But separation of church and state!” and abolish the gender-segregated pool times.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     What keeps bugging me in this conversation is that there seems to be a willingness to say “We will not accomodate your believs. Either violate your religious faith, or you are de facto forbidden from using this public facility which is available to anyone who follows a more socially acceptable religion,” which, even if you think the religion is misogynistic strikes me as “The powerful religions can deny access to public services to members of the minority religion as long as we’re careful to not make it be *technically* a religious ban”

  • Lorehead

    The article says that the markers are specifically designed to be invisible and unobtrusive.

  • Lorehead

    Supposing that happened, what harm would result?  Next to the eruv pole, there’s a small cross, also painted the same color.  And maybe below that, a picture of some family’s missing pet.  Why is this a serious problem?

  • Lorehead

    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.

    I strongly disagree that men have any right to impose “standards about women and modesty” on women who disagree, whether those women belong to “their community” or not.

  • Carstonio

    I’m not picking up on such attitudes in the conversation, although they might be there and I missed them. I agree with Nicole that there are valid secular reasons for women-only sessions at public pools, as long as these are open to all women regardless of religious affiliation.

  • Lorehead

    With regard to pool sessions open only to women, my first reaction is: all right, suppose there are a number of women requesting them, and this is their genuine preference and not something they’re being forced into.  Do their reasons matter?  Do we have to fight something that would be convenient for those women just because it would make Muslims happy?


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