Court upholds Westhampton Beach Shabbat boundary
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Court upholds Westhampton Beach Shabbat boundary

Symbolic NY fence made of plastic strips on poles does not violate separation of church and state

West Hampton Beach, New York. (screen capture: YouTube/WesthamptonBeachNY)
West Hampton Beach, New York. (screen capture: YouTube/WesthamptonBeachNY)

NEW YORK – A federal appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the recently constructed symbolic religious boundary around Westhampton Beach on Long Island.

The 2nd Circuit US Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the plastic strips placed on utility poles in the village to designate the eruv do not breach the separation of church and state.

“No reasonable observer who notices the strips on LIPA utility poles would draw the conclusion that a state actor is thereby endorsing religion,” the three judges wrote in their ruling.

An eruv, which allows Orthodox Jews to perform certain activities in the public domain during Shabbat, was erected in August.

Since 2008, community members have held a contentious debate on the concept of an eruv, with some saying the ritual boundary is an unfair intrusion of religion into public space. Jon Stewart addressed the debate on “The Daily Show” in 2011.

The case was brought by the Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach — a group of Jews against the eruv — against the Village of Westhampton Beach, the East End Eruv Association, Verizon and the Long Island Lighting Company, or LILCO. Verizon and LILCO were involved in the construction of the eruv.

A lawsuit in connection with the eruv around Westhampton Beach, a tony area approximately 80 miles from Manhattan, was dismissed in 2013.

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