Lost Messiah, June 1, 2016
Is the Separation of Church and State Being Trampled by Religious Fundamentalists?
We are commenting on an article posted in Clarkstown – What They Don’t Want you to Know, which is based upon an editorial in The New York Times, both of which are posted below. For easy reference, we have highlighted the comments of the former in black and the latter NYT article in blue.
We have mixed feelings about the article and the editorial which we similarly had about the changes made in a Walmart store in Harriman to accommodate the ultra-Orthodox.
The focus of the article below is public pools and segregated women’s hours, which as we understand have been designated for years.
There is some indication that when the hours were first doled out, they were provided so that stay-at-home mothers could go swimming with their children and could feel safe going for a swim without fear of being preyed upon by men. It appears that those hours may have in part been established without solely a religious focus in mind, but with an environment that is, or was, really not equal when it came to the safety of women and their children.
In our view, the segregated hours at public pools, among many other accommodations for particular groups, has evolved into a religious debate from what might not have begun that way. We believe that the evolution of this debate comes from a paradigm shift in the practice of religion, a decrease in numbers of moderate religious groups to a significant growth in fundamentalist radical religious groups. This includes Jews, Muslims, Mormons and the list goes on. We are troubled that as a culture, whether secular or religious, we may have started sliding down a very slippery slope over how far a country founded on the principles of “inalienable rights” and the strict “separation of church and state” is willing to go to pander to the rights of religious fundamentalists.
For the women among us, religious and secular, there is some virtue to being able to go to a beach and not feel like we are being watched, scouted, preyed upon like a bear in a meat market. In some small measure, we are in part thankful for separate pool hours. We feel our kids are safer when there is a village of women watching over them. At the same time, we are also wary of the freefall into a fundamentalist abyss where this separation becomes a justification for, a mode of enabling, the subjugation of women rather than moments of freedom for them.
Please take a look at the comments from Clarkstown – What They Don’t Want You to Know and the New York Times Editorial.
The Violations Of Church And State Continue For The Ultra-Orthodox Religious Sects.
Even the most liberal paper in the United States shares our position in this morning’s editorial and ‘blackface’ Brooklyn Assemblyman, Dov Hikind, is right in the middle of the destruction of the Human Rights Laws.
Apparently if Dov Hikind and his ilk are to be believed, ‘human rights’ applies only to radically insular religious sects.
New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/…/opin…/everybody-into-the-pool.html…
Everybody Into the Pool
Four times a week this summer — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:15 to 11 a.m., and Sunday afternoons from 2:45 to 4:45 — a public swimming pool on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn will be temporarily unmoored from the laws of New York City and the Constitution, and commonly held principles of fairness and equal access.
The pool will instead answer to the religious convictions of one neighborhood group. At those hours, women (and girls, too, on Sundays) will have the pool to themselves. Men and boys will not be permitted. Orthodox Jewish beliefs demand modesty in dress, and a strict separation of the sexes, and those are the beliefs to which the taxpayer-owned-and-operated Metropolitan Recreation Center will yield.
Sex-segregated hours have been the rule at the pool since “sometime during the 90s,” according to a spokesman for the parks department. The policy was instituted at the request of Orthodox women, apparently without any serious community objections.
But a recent anonymous complaint led the city’s Commission on Human Rights to notify the parks department that the policy violated the law. Then a new pool schedule was issued, with the women’s hours removed. That alarmed female swimmers, who alerted politicians, including the local assemblyman, Dov Hikind.
The change was swiftly undone. The department now says it is working with the commission to come up with a solution that is acceptable — and legal — but for now, the women’s hours will remain.
Which is unfortunate. The city’s human rights law is quite clear that public accommodations like a swimming pool cannot exclude people based on sex. It allows for exemptions “based on bona fide considerations of public policy,” but this case — with its strong odor of religious intrusion into a secular space — does not seem bona fide at all.
Indeed, what Mr. Hikind, in a statement, called a “victory for human rights” is in fact a capitulation to a theocratic view of government services. Mr. Hikind wrote: “The community can rest much easier this Shabbos knowing that men and women can continue to swim separately.”
It’s pretty clear what “community” Mr. Hikind means, and it is not the diverse neighborhood he was elected to represent, nor one that includes everybody who lives there.
Defenders of segregated swimming say men will have plenty of other hours to use the pool, which is true. But the summer sun shines equally on the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox, and that plus the New York City humidity make everybody uncomfortable and hot under the collar.
There is no just way to tell a sweaty Brooklynite on a Sunday afternoon that he should be ejected onto Bedford Avenue because one religious group doesn’t want him in the pool. The best solution would be for the city to immediately end religious segregation in the pools, and limit the rules of separation only to practical considerations, like keeping lap swimmers away from splashing children. Let those who cannot abide public, secular rules at a public, secular pool find their own private place to swim when and with whom they see fit.