The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

I want to live in Ame-ri-ca!

Because only in the United States do we have, enshrined in our basic law, the right to establish a city populated exclusively by religious nutters:

Kiryas Joel is an enclave of ultra-orthodox Jews who belong to the Satmar Hasidic sect. Members of this group believe in separating themselves from others – they’d rather not be around non-sect members. Thirty-four years ago, they won the right to create their own village from the surrounding community of Monroe.

The village’s founders might have envisioned an idyllic community where people of a shared faith lived in harmony. It hasn’t worked out that way. As often happens when people live in insular communities, factions emerge. Dissidents in Kiryas Joel don’t like the way the town of about 20,000 is being run. The dissidents, who by some accounts now make up 40 percent of the community, say religious discrimination is rampant. They say if you don’t belong to the right synagogue, you’re a second-class citizen.

Money quote:

A sign at the village entrance admonishes visitors to dress modestly. Cleavage-revealing tops for women are verboten, and both sexes are told to cover arms and legs. Couples are advised to "maintain gender separation in public places." ... Imagine the reaction from the Religious Right if this were a town of fundamentalist Muslims and they erected a sign reading, "Women are welcome to visit if accompanied by a male relative. Please respect our values by wearing a burqa."

Of course, the same constitutional language giving people freedom of religion also takes a little bit back. In fact, the establishment clause comes before the free exercise clause. We adopted the first amendment to prevent having the head of state also be the head of the official church, as it was (and still is) in England. What does this mean for Kiryas Joel? Well, you see, if the village government and the biggest synagogue are the same people...yeah. Thus, the lawsuit.

I'll keep my eye on this.

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