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Dec 28, 2012 4:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Decision On Religious Boundary Lawsuits Could Come This Year

Jan 19, 2013 2:35 PM

The establishment of a mostly invisible religious boundary that would encompass most of Westhampton Beach and Quogue villages, allowing Orthodox Jews to push and carry objects to temple on the Sabbath, has been a point of contention for some residents for more than four years—and counting.

Proponents of the boundary are being led by the East End Eruv Association, the not-for-profit that picked up the baton after religious leaders at the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach first pitched the idea in 2008. Representatives of the group are insisting that any and all attempts to block the boundary’s creation violate the constitutional rights of those who would benefit from it, namely the observant religious Jews who make their homes, or second homes, near the Sunset Avenue synagogue. In 2011, the East End Eruv Association (EEEA) sued both villages and Southampton Town—a portion of the proposed boundary would fall on Quiogue, which is part of the town’s jurisdiction—in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, charging that all three municipalities have violated the civil rights of all observant Jews by blocking the eruv’s creation. Those who would utilize the boundary have noted that Jewish law requires that it be approved and recognized by those who control the area in which it would be placed—the main sticking point in the battle on the East End.

Opponents of the proposal, which include many year-round residents and even some Jews who belong to the Westhampton Beach synagogue, are countering that village and Southampton Town officials cannot be asked to make a decision that some could interpret as the government “favoring” one religion over another. Such action, argues Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius, would violate the constitutional rights of those who would not benefit from the boundary.

In May, the Quogue Village Board unanimously rejected an application filed five months earlier by the EEEA, requesting that board members approve the installation of 48 “lechis”—markers that would be affixed to utility poles to delineate the eruv’s boundaries—in the village. The grounds for the rejection: support for an eruv would violate the freedom of religion that other village residents enjoy and are entitled to under the U.S. Constitution.

In spite of recent suggestions that a federal court ruling is imminent, those familiar with the case said it could still be several months before that happens. The case is complicated by the fact that there are actually three lawsuits, as well as one countersuit, still in play, and all those need to be settled by the courts.

Until that happens, it appears that the tension between those who would benefit from the eruv, namely Orthodox Jews who attend services at The Hampton Synagogue, and those who vehemently oppose it will continue to fester just out of view.

Robert Sugarman, an attorney with the Manhattan firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP, which is representing the EEEA pro bono, said recently that the not-for-profit has no intention of giving up the fight. He also said his group continues to follow the path that has been recommended by the courts.

“We have followed the directives of the judge,” Mr. Sugarman said. “We are now pursuing our remedies against Westhampton and Quogue, and we look forward to the argument on those motions. We are also pursuing the application process with the Town of Southampton.”

In September, the EEEA filed an application with Southampton Town requesting that it be allowed to install 28 lechis on 15 utility poles on Quiogue, according to Katie Garvin, an assistant town attorney. She explained that the application requested that the Town Board approve the lechis. The request was denied by the Town Board in October, which explained that the EEEA would need a variance from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals to install the markers. The EEEA filed an application with the ZBA on December 4, but a decision has not yet been rendered.

Brian Sokoloff, an attorney with the Westbury firm Sokoloff Stern LLP and who is representing Westhampton Beach Village, also said his client has no intention of backing down. He explained that the village has two main arguments opposing the eruv’s establishment. The first is that the utility companies—the Long Island Power Authority and Verizon—do not have the authority to approve the creation of a boundary on public property. Second, he said that if a village or town approves such a boundary, it would be seen as favoring a religion, which violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. Quogue Village rejected the EEEA application on the same grounds in the spring.

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"mostly invisible" is that like a little pregnant?
By circaWHB (9), Westhampton Beach on Jan 18, 13 12:47 PM
"mostly invisible" is that like a little pregnant?
By circaWHB (9), Westhampton Beach on Jan 18, 13 12:48 PM
mostly ignorant, is that like a little stupid?
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Jan 18, 13 1:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
Seperation of church and state is the law of the land, for EVERYONE, there are none above the law.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jan 18, 13 5:19 PM
Well, thats' nice in hypothesis.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 18, 13 8:52 PM
LIPA is a state entity, and owns a majority share of the utility poles.

Here's where I "turn poeple off" ": Isn't religion really just a cheap way to explain science?

Before the periodic table, there was Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and later Aether.

WE'VE GOT A NEW DEMI-GOD!! You're gonna' love 'im!!!
Jan 18, 13 8:49 PM appended by Mr. Z
My Agnosticism is not a lack of faith. It's a lack of faith in religion. I have chosen to have faith in knowledge, and emipirical data, as well as faith in humanity. Do you need faith to believe in proving theory? Absolutely. Faith is not about religion. It's about hope. Just for reference...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 18, 13 8:49 PM
I'd agree that Religion to fill holes in science is absurd. Read "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". That in effect is the essence of the book.

Yet logic woks here. If you found a rock would you say it was divinely placed at that spot? No. Two rocks in a row? No. A string of rocks in a row..maybe but most likely not because our observation is that rocks are usually random and perhaps there was a hand that laid these in a line. What is that line went alway around the earth. ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Jan 19, 13 9:16 AM
Well, there is this thing called a glacial moraine.

I've seen the wind roll snowballs.

Nature is full of "odd" behavior...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 21, 13 9:48 PM
Just for the record I am against any stupid religious "law". Asked once what I gave up for Lent, I responded "religions with dietary restrictions".

To have a rule that you go through all these machinations to basically subvert the rule is silly. This reeks of a bunch of 5 year olds in clubhouse who make rules to keep people out but make exceptions to justify what they do and with whom they do it.

Harsh...maybe so. But I can't wait to see the first stroller being pushed from ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Jan 19, 13 9:21 AM
God created Man and Woman and all was well with the world.....Then they made religion. The theory of the Eruv is like the Second Amendment. Alot got lost in translation over the centuries.
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Jan 19, 13 10:53 AM
Actually, my understanding is that the eruv was created in rabbinical law, not in the Talmud so it probably does not date back "over the centuries". Can someone in the know tell us the circumstances involved in establishing the first eruv and how it has progressed to where we are today?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jan 19, 13 11:53 AM
so it was created by a mere mortal, not God ? Read jewish history. This law stems from the building of one of the original temples, which, by the by, wasn't last year. There are volumes written about the Eruv. As a non-Jew, I find Jewish history fascinating and in many ways relevant to life today. That said, erecting Eruvs on telephone poles is a stretch. Consider if you will, distributing a map to the faithful with the boundries delineated. Gets the same job done without the controversy. Everybody ...more
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Jan 19, 13 3:32 PM
"Dad, why do adults fight over little symbols on telephone poles?"
"Because we are stupid, son."
"Oh, that's what I thought. Can we get ice cream now?"
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jan 19, 13 12:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
Dad. What happens when the shoe is on the other foot? Oh thats another story!
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jan 19, 13 4:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
This made me giggle :)
By Terbear (77), Southampton on Jan 26, 13 5:47 PM
The attorneys' fees for this entire situation to be resolved could be staggering over the next decade [sic].

Do the various state and federal courts have the authority to require that the parties post a bond for all costs and fees if they lose?

Is there a motion in any court to combine all cases in one venue (normally this would be a federal court)?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 19, 13 12:55 PM
"Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach" has filed a federal lawsuit to prohibit the eruv on constitutional grounds. While I cannot read the article, I assume that it refers only to to state lawsuits filed by E3A against Quogue and Westhampton Beach. Being a superior court, the federal suit is the only meaningful one. Nothing will happen until IT is decided, probably on appeal.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 19, 13 7:50 PM
Push or pull something in defiance of The Almighty in front of MY house on the Sabbath? Better think twice, I've got water balloons.
By loading... (601), quiogue on Jan 23, 13 9:35 AM
better fill them on Friday
By Hambone (514), New York on Jan 25, 13 9:24 AM
um, no....Friday is holy to Pastafarians!
By loading... (601), quiogue on Jan 25, 13 7:25 PM
I thought Wednesday was Prince Spaghetti Day...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 25, 13 7:29 PM
Eruv is just an excuse to do stuff your religion says you shouldn't do. In my apartment building in NYC, one of the many home networks that came up was "eruv (followed by numbers)" I mean come on. You want to be super-duper-orthodox religious person but you need to be on the Internet on the sabbath? Please. If you want to observe sabbath rules, then observe sabbath rules. I have inlaws who are orthodox -- not ultra orthodox. They obey sabbath rules because that's part of their identity. They don't ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on Jan 27, 13 12:35 AM