After a seven-year long court case, a federal judge rules that an eruv is in fact constitutional ● The Jewish community of Westhampton Beach finally gets their long-awaited eruv once and for all ● Read More
A local battle for religious liberty has finally come to an end after seven long years. It takes the form of a unanimous ruling by a federal appeals court panel that the Westhampton Beach eruv is constitutional.
An eruv is an artificial boundary, usually consisting of barely visible wires on existing utility poles. It allows observant Jews to perform some otherwise prohibited tasks on the Shabbat.
Opponents claim the eruv violates the separation of church of state, notwithstanding that it’s almost impossible to spot if you don’t know it’s there. There are dozens of them in the tri-state area.
Now a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit US Court of Appeals has come down for common sense.
Far from finding the Long Island Power Authority guilty of violating the Constitution because it allowed plastic strips designating an eruv on its utility poles, the judges called the eruv “a valid accommodation to religious practice.”
That’s a key point, because the First Amendment prohibits government both from establishing religion and from impeding its “free exercise.” As Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty notes, the First Amendment “doesn’t require us to [simply] tolerate speech — it requires us to protect it.”
And let’s be honest. In Westhampton and other places where eruvs have been challenged, what’s really driving opposition is not constitutional concerns but the fear by some residents that an eruv opens the door to an influx of Orthodox Jews.
The right word for that is bigotry. And as the court has just ruled, the Constitution offers no protection for these prejudices.