Miami Beach removes Jewish eruv from park (July 24, 2014)

Miami Beach Park in Miami, Fla., will no longer permit religious eruvin to be erected over public property, after a complaint was filed by FFRF.

An eruv is “an urban area enclosed by a wire boundary that symbolically extends the private domain of Jewish households into public areas, permitting activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath.” An eruv — constructed of 15-foot plastic poles connected by string — was installed by two members of the Orthodox Jewish community in Pine Tree Park without a permit.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter to the City of Miami Beach, explaining why religious displays are not permissible on public property: “The religious significance of the eruvin is unambiguous and indisputable. They are objects which are significant only to some Jews as a means to obey religious laws that have no bearing on non-adherents.”

He noted: “Eruvin extend the ‘property of an individual’ to the eruv boundaries, thus enabling Orthodox Jews to break the rule laid out in Exodus 16:29 without fear of divine retribution. In other words, eruvin are designated specifically so that a certain religious sect can avoid adhering to their own onerous rules. Eruvin do not seek to alleviate a government-imposed burden; they seek to alleviate a self-imposed religious burden.”

Seidel added, “Allowing Orthodox Jews to permanently demarcate large areas of public property as a private Jewish household that is ‘property’ of the Orthodox Jewish community forces those of other faiths and no faith to live within an Orthodox Jewish religious enclosure, including members of other Jewish denominations who are offended by the Orthodox Jewish elevation of legalistic constructs over what they believe to be the true spiritual values of Judaism.”

On July 10, FFRF received a response letter from the city insisting that, “[A]n eeruv 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.”

Seidel replied on July 14, rebutting the city’s contention that these religious displays were in fact secular. “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.”

On July 24, FFRF’s complainant confirmed that most of the eruvin had been removed from the park, she called it “a great victory.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation