Stop by Bryant Park this week and you'll notice a nice, classy Sukkah, or ceremonial hut, where Jews celebrate the eight-day harvest holiday of Sukkot. The Chabad Lubavitch of Midtown Manhattan pays $10,000 to set up the structure, but it's open to people of all faiths to eat, sit, pray, or just hang out. That's tempting, but isn't the structure taking away precious park space for religious purposes, and violating the constitutional separation of Church and State? Where are the tea-baggers, y'all?
Constitutional law professor Ira Lupu tells City Room, "Cities are not supposed to endorse a partisan or sectarian message, and a sukkah would represent that. If the city is recognizing that this is the harvest festival, and we should thank God for the good harvest, that would be a constitutional problem." But Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson maintains that the city "accommodates cultural, athletic, political and religious events of all kinds." After all, there's a Christmas tree there in the winter, and sinful fashion Bacchanals at other times. As one regular park visitor puts it, "It’s part of the fabric of the city, like Fashion Week a couple of weeks ago, but with more yarmulkes."