Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach v. Village of Westhampton Beach, No. 14-1441 (2d Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against defendants, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the creation in Westhampton Beach of an "eruv," a delineated geographic area significant to certain adherents of Judaism. The district court dismissed the complaint based on Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(c) and plaintiffs appealed. The court rejected defendants' two jurisdictional challenges and concluded, on the merits, that plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for a violation of the Establishment Clause against any of defendants. Two of the remaining three defendants are plainly not state actors and claims against these defendants must be dismissed for lack of state action. As to the remaining defendant, LIPA, plaintiffs have not plausibly pleaded that there was no secular purpose to the governmental action here. LIPA entered into a paid licensing agreement allowing the installation of items of religious significance on utility poles. Further, no reasonable observer who notices the strips on LIPA utility poles would draw the conclusion that a state actor is thereby endorsing religion, even assuming that a reasonable observer is aware that a state actor was the entity that contracted with a private party to lease the space. Finally, there is no risk of excessive government entanglement with religion. Accordingly, the court found no merit in plaintiffs' arguments and affirmed the judgment.