City of Miami Beach Defends Eruv; Atheists Compare Sticks and String To Sharia Law

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Thumbnail image for eruv2.jpg
Photo by Michael Miller
Some locals have complained about an eruv in Pinetree Park, seen here tangled on a tree.
Miami Beach's volcanic eruv-tion rumbles on.

On Monday, Miami Beach city attorney Raul Aguila responded to complaints that an eruv in Pinetree park is unconstitutional. Aguila told the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) that the city-sanctioned eruv is "consistent" with U.S. court decisions. But the FFRF has shot back, arguing that "there is nothing secular" about the symbolic sticks and string structure.

"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?" wrote FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel.

See also: Atheists Claim Eruv "Imposes Orthodox Judaism" on Miami Beach, Demand Removal

The religious freedom flap began two months ago when Miami Beach residents complained about an eruv that had popped up in Pinetree Park.

The argument escalated last week when FFR got involved. The national atheist organization complained to the City of Miami Beach, arguing that the eruv was an unconstitutional merger of church and state.

"The religious significance of eruvin is unambiguous and indisputable," FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel wrote yesterday. "They are objects which are significant only to some Jews as a means to obey religious laws that have no bearing on non-adherents. They have no meaning except as a visual, public communication of a purely religious concept for religious believers of a single faith. The City cannot allow such permanent religious displays to be erected on public land."

See also: New Orthodox Jewish Eruv in Pinetree Park Raises Constitutional Questions

In its July 10 letter, FFRF went so far as to suggest that the eruv had effectively roped Miami Beach's non-orthodox residents into a religion, community, or even "family" without their knowledge or consent.

"Allowing an eruv to be established and maintained publicly designates the enclosed area, in this case the entirety of Miami Beach, as affiliated with Orthodox Judaism. It imposes Orthodox Judaism on members of the public by surrounding their community with the physical indicia of a religion that they do not practice," Seidel wrote. "The eruv's observers also must, according to the group that maintains it, 'consider those who reside [in the eruv] as one family' in order to allow the otherwise prohibited activities. This is another imposed designation on those who happen to live in the eruv."

In a letter dated the same day, city attorney Aguila answered that "The City of Miami has acted consistent with the decisions of various courts in the United States... that an Eruv 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," Aguila continued. "Thus, permits have been issued for the Eruv in Miami Beach. With regard to the Eruv in Pine Tree Park, request has been made to responsible persons to properly obtain permits for the Eruv at that location. While we plan to continue to act in accord with the above, we appreciate your interest in the matter."

My Voice Nation Help

The Eruv has been in Pinetree Park for years. It didn't just pop up recently.

Con: The poles that hold the string are ugly white PVC plumbing pipes.

Pro: I enjoy showing the Eruv to visitors, and it adds to the authenticity of Miami Beach.

My recommendation: whomever installs the Eruv should remove the ugly poles, and tie the string high in the trees.  Miami Beach should: (a) require the poles to be removed; (b) not approve a permit; and (c) do nothing else. If someone ties a string, then they tie a string; it will not be officially sanctioned.


Let's keep the argument clear. The Eruv is not a permanently erected structure. It's a string, it's a temporary fleeting thing. It's only a substantial structure in the minds of a Orthodox Jew. In our secular legal world it is temporary fleeting thing. For example, just because some family people have a Halloween party at a park does not mean the park has became some permanent pagan amusement park.    


 I see nothing wrong with an Eruv as along as it is not paid for or maintained by any branch of government and as long the law still respects this space as public.  If Orthodox Jews are dissuading people from being in the space, that should be treated with the same policing procedures that are in place to deal with turf wars between gangs.


We need to be constantly vigilant of religious intrusion into all our lives.

Dave Simmons
Dave Simmons

Now all I want to do is host a satanic ritual directly next to this. On a Saturday. When it's crowded.


Outrageous as well as setting a bad legal precedent. This has nothing to do with religion; it is about abiding by our nation's constitution. With all due respect to City Attorney Aguila, he needs to look at this again. The issue is a very important one, the separation of church and state. Too much of this crosses the line in Miami Beach. If you want to set up a creche or menorah or the Virgin Mary in a bathtub, on your front lawn, that's your use of your own private property. We are talking about public land here...and, last time I checked the US Constitution, we have no state religion in the United States. And, for the record, I am not an atheist and this has nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

Tony Prieto
Tony Prieto

I'm offended, not as an atheist but at it's ugly art. If it's religious then I'm offended because your religion is as stupid as every other religion.

orleans topcommenter

The absurdity of it all is that Orthodox Jews build the eruv in order to get away from their religion's imposition. If they are observant, then they should stay home on Saturday... but to fence off the entire city so that their home extends to the entire city sounds like cheating to me...


@jomanning If Raul recommends approving a permit, then he will cost the city a bunch of $ in legal bills. The city will eventually lose in court.

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