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Villages Make Motions to Dismiss Eruv Discrimination Suit

The villages made the motion in early January.

The Villages of and have filed motions to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit that was filed against them in Jan. 2010 by the East End Eruv Association.

The motions come two months after a judge denied an injuction requested by the East End Eruv Association to install a controversial religious eruv boundary in the form of a thin wire, known as "lechis," along telephone poles within Quogue, Westhampton Beach and the Town of Southampton until the civil suit is concluded.

In his summary, Judge Leonard D. Wexler of the United States District Court in Central Islip said the association's request was not "ripe" because the organization failed to apply for permits to install the eruv, which allows Orthodox Jews to carry items they would not otherwise be able to carry on the Sabbath.

Since the decision, the East End Eruv Association has filed for a permit to install lechis on 48 poles in the Village of Quogue and a hearing is tentativly scheduled for March 19 at 10:30 a.m.

The association has not filed for a permit with the Village of Westhampton Beach where there is no village code to file under, as noted by Judge Wexler in his decision. The judge did urge the association to, however, file a proposed map with the village.

With the judge's decision in hand, the Villages of Quogue and Westhampton Beach separately opted to file motions to dismiss the civil suit.

Westhampton Beach's attorney Sokoloff Stern, LLP of Westbury, argues in the motion that the village has not discriminated against the East End Eruv Association because no formal applications have been made.

"Even assuming, for the sake of argument," Stern writes, "That Westhampton Beach had taken some action to prevent the establishment of an eruv, plaintiffs cannot succeed on a Free Exercise claim against Westhampton Beach defendents." 

He further stated, "To state a Free Exercise Claim, plaintiffs must show government action has impossed "a substantial burden on the observation of a central religious belief or practice..." He continued, "Plaintiffs do not claim that, without an eruv, they are unable to observe the Sabbath or practice Judaism."

Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said he could not comment on the motion since it is pending litigation.  Attorneys for the village did not return calls as or press time nor did Hank Sheinkopf, spokesman for the East End Eruv Association.

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