The other day, I posted about eruvs (AY-roovs), the religious loopholes that allow Orthodox Jews to leave the house and carry things on the Sabbath — which they’re technically forbidden from doing — by just… extended the boundaries of their property. Which they do by tying string around government-owned utility poles and creating a larger domain within which they can move around.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation recently sent a letter to officials in Miami Beach, Florida, urging them to stop allowing the religious items on government property.
Late last week, city attorney Raul Aguila responded to the FFRF and defended the eruvs:
… an Eruv does not violate the establishment clause, and can be legally permitted. It has the secular purpose of allowing Orthodox Jews to participate in matters of daily living outside of their homes on Saturday, their Sabbath. Thus, permits have been issued for the Eruv in Miami Beach…
The FFRF’s Andrew Seidel isn’t convinced at all:
… There is nothing secular about helping a religious sect comply with religious law. What do you think the reaction would be if Miami Beach endorsed and even helped devout Muslims rope off an area in which to adhere to Sharia law?
Orthodox Jews suffer no government-imposed burden on their religion. The Sabbath prohibitions on labor are imposed by their own religion. If they do not wish to adhere to those rules, the solution is to renounce Orthodox Judaism — not designate public and private property that they do not own as belonging to that sect. This is as absurd as a Catholic deciding to fast for Lent and then claiming the government has a responsibility to feed him. The government cannot favor one religion by alleviating its self-imposed burdens or allowing it to impose that religion over wide swaths of public and private property. This is not freedom of religion; it is the imposition of religion.
This isn’t over yet. I wish I could say it’s refreshing to fight a different battle, but it’s really the same principal we see all the time: One religious group thinking it can and should skirt the law because they feel the need to please their God. It’s not the government’s job to accommodate those wishes.
***Update***: According to FFRF, the person who originally filed the complaint says that at least one Orthodox Jew in the area claims that the park where the eruvs are located now belongs to them and not the city:
Today I learned that an Orthodox person who frequents the park has told at least one Hispanic resident who walks her dog in the park daily that she should find another place to walk; that Pine Tree Park is “for Jews only now”.
I have been visiting the Park daily for 25 years. … Each morning I clean up the plastic and styrofoam that washes in at the kayak launch. I tell you this so that you will understand how much the park has meant to me during my residence in Miami Beach. Now I no longer feel welcome in this park, and if I didn’t have to walk my dog, I would not set foot in it again until the religious structures are removed. Other neighbors have expressed similar feelings to me.
Obviously, the Orthodox Jews can’t “claim” the park anymore than a local Boy Scouts troop can. But it’s disturbing that the placement of an eruv in the area really makes them believe it’s part of their property.