Swimming into Trouble-Should Jewish Women Be Left Out to Dry?

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There has been some controversy about the women only swimming hours that a pool in New York has offered to accommodate the large orthodox Jewish community for the past 30 years.

An anonymous caller complained about the female only swim times and claimed this was discrimination. Some may feel that since it is a public pool there should not be any women only hours because for some swimming with only women is motivate in faith and think this violates the principle of the separation of church and state. On the other hand, people don’t seem to notice that removing female only swimming based on religious convictions is also discrimination in that it would bar Orthodox Jewish women from public services. (Prince, J. Cathryn 2016)

I personally see no reason men and women cannot swim at the same time even if modesty is a concern since I found some very nice modest swimwear. There is no need to be basically naked in the age of the internet when you can find almost any amount of coverage you could possibly want although I admit custom modest swimwear can be very pricy. So I am lucky to be able make stuff work with some cheap modest swimwear I found on sale, but not everyone is so lucky. I can understand that.

I also understand that if I base what others should or should not be allowed accommodation for on my own convictions regarding what is appropriate others should be able to do the same to me. I know I wouldn’t like that. I think we need to be able to show consideration for others. I see no reason for a public pool to stop offering women only swim sessions for orthodox Jewish women and whoever else may want it for religious reasons-especially if there are also mixed swimming sessions for others.

Separation of church and state does not mean the public is free from religion, it means the state cannot prohibit or promote religious practice by law. As I quote “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” (“First Amendment”, n.d)

Personally due to abuse issues I think I would even appreciate female only swim hours and find the thought quite appealing after I read about it. I think in some cases I think it could be offered as even a disability accommodation issue for PTSD for some people if the distress of not being comfortable not fully dressed around men is bad enough, it isn’t necessarily a religion issue at all.

But if secular society at a large has come to the place that it disregards sex segregated bathrooms (despite the risks of abusers exploiting access to the other sex regardless as to the comfort levels of others regarding this) there is no reason to assume society would respect other sex segregated activities that involve less body exposure. It would not be consistent to say a man and go in the women’s’ bathroom but he is not allowed to swim with women because that would not make sense for them.

Although mixed swimming may be seen as much of an issue to some or the thought of it may seem offensive to others it is discrimination to choose not accommodate religious differences in this case by offering female only swim sessions as well as mixed swimming options. So while many seem to assume separation of church and state means public services cannot accommodate religious belief it means it is against the law for the government prohibit religious exercise. So it isn’t against the law to have religious accommodations in pubic and pool should not have to cease offering women only swim sessions.

References:
Author Unknown n.d “First Amendment” Law Cornell received from https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment
Prince, J. Cathryn (2016) “Women-Only Swim Hours at Brooklyn Pool May Take a Dive After Anonymous Phone Call” Times of Israel received from http://www.timesofisrael.com/women-only-swim-hours-at-brooklyn-pool-may-take-a-dive-after-anonymous-phone-call/

Picture originally found here

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