U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Consider Stopping Anti-Semites From Protesting Outside Shuls on Shabbos

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Agudath Israel of America said it is deeply disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Marvin Gerber v. Herskovits, et al., a case involving antisemitic protests outside an Ann Arbor, Michigan congregation on Shabbos mornings. In April, Agudath Israel, joined by nine other Orthodox Jewish organizations, filed an amicus brief asking the Court to hear the case.

Every Shabbos morning, for nearly twenty years, the Beth Israel Congregation and its worshipers have been subject to antisemitic harassment as they attended prayer services. Signs displayed by the protesters include anti-Jewish slogans such as “Resist Jewish Power,” “Jewish Power Corrupts,” and “No More Holocaust Movies.” This hateful intimidation has brought extreme emotional distress to congregants, including one of the plaintiffs, a Holocaust survivor, who has stated that the harassment at times prevented him from attending Beth Israel services.

Beth Israel congregants originally turned to the City of Ann Arbor for relief, asking it to enforce its law requiring such protests to obtain a permit, But the city refused to take action. They then took the case unsuccessfully to federal trial and appellate courts. Eventually, two Beth Israel members asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. One of the petitioners, Marvin Gerber, selected noted constitutional attorney and scholar, Nathan Lewin, to bring the case before the justices, as Mr. Lewin enjoys an extensive and compelling record arguing religious freedom causes before the High Court.

“This is an astounding and chilling outcome to a twenty-year saga,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel. “The harassment and intimidation in this case are not protected free speech but included antisemitic epithets that historically have led to violence against Jews. We will continue to fight these cases, which at the very least constitute vicious interference with the congregants’ constitutional right to worship freely.”

8 COMMENTS

  1. Why doesn’t the JDL or other Jewish group photograoh and find out who these people are ,and set up protests outside their homes with signs calling them racists and anti-semites???

  2. I wonder how the US Supreme Court would rule on a case of protesters outside a Southern Baptist church who have signs about sexual harrassment of women and children.

  3. Why didn’t they sue under Michigan law? They might be able to get an injunction or civil damages for nuisance. To make a “federal” case about a private person exercising free speech rights, they need to show some sort of government support, in which case they would have to show that the local officials were supporting the protest, and then they could sue under the local officials and the locality, and that the government’s support of the protest was designed to deprive the plaintiff of federal rights.

    If a Yid picketed a private home objecting to the occupant’s previous role as (as an example) a concentration camp guard who actively engaged in murder, would we want the nazi to be able to sue?

  4. Thank הקדוש ברוך ה that there is a Jewish state to go to. Maybe people would wake up to the importance of the state of Israel a Jewish county, yes it has or should I say we have our issues we are not perfect. But gd forbid, we have a home to go to. Imagine in 1939 if the state of Israel existed how May Jews would be alive today!!!

  5. This was a frivolous lawsuit from the beginning, and it would have been beyond astonishing if the Supreme Court had agreed to hear it. There are simply no grounds for stopping these demonstrators. They are on public property where they have every right to be, they are not blocking access to the house of worship (I will not call it a shul), and they are not threatening violence.

    This is America, and if they are not free to do what they’re doing then nobody is free. I’m actually shocked that the Agudah, which properly filed an amicus FOR the Ku Klux Klan when its rights were being violated, would file here against these people who are no worse than the Klan. And I’m shocked that Nat Lewin would take on such a meritless case.

    “Charedi sheker”, yes, this is the medinah shel chessed, where everyone has equal rights. That includes antisemites.

    Huju, you are lying. You don’t really wonder how the court would rule if it were a church. You know very well that it would rule exactly the same way. You know that the courts have unanimously upheld the odious Phelps family’s right to demonstrate outside fallen soldiers’ funerals. You know the long line of cases about demonstrators outside abortion clinics, in which the Supreme Court has said multiple times that so long as they are not close enough to obstruct access and are not threatening violence they cannot be restricted. So why would this be different?

    Akuperma, Michigan law cannot override the first amendment. The Jews did sue under state law, seeking an injunction, but all the courts, at all levels, properly ruled that the first amendment protects the demonstrators’ right to express their opinion, close enough for the targets of their hateful message to hear it. That is black letter law, and it’s a good law.