Constitutional Faces: The Hasidic Faction of Kiryas Joel

December 4th, 2011

They’re back in court (SDNY this time)!

Behind the suit is a long-standing and much-litigated dispute between two factions of the Satmar Hasidim over which faction’s rabbi should be the leader of the community. The dominant faction that controls the main synagogue (Congregation Yetev) and which holds political offices in the community is led by Grand Rebbe Aron Teitelbaum. (See prior related posting.)  Plaintiffs argue that the Establishment Clause has been violated because:

the Mayor of the Village holds a leadership position in Congregation Yetev, and … his “dual religious and governmental roles” operate to establish an official faith becuase his religious beliefs trump his governmental role with respect to his actions as Mayor…; [and] all the other Village officials are members of Congregation Yetev, and therefore are controlled by the Grand Rebbe’s dictates….

The court held, however that:

the Supreme Court held in McDaniel v. Paty … that the Establishment Clause does not bar an individual from holding public office simply because he is a member of the Clergy.