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Violating Beliefs

October 07, 2000|NORINE DRESSER | Norine Dresser's latest book is "Multicultural Celebrations" (Three Rivers Press, 1999). E-mail:

One Saturday, police interrupted a home prayer service and requested that the homeowner sign a citation acknowledging that he was operating a house of worship in a residential zone. The owner said refused to sign then but offered to sign later.

The officer denied his request, handcuffed the man and drove him in a police car to jail.

What did it mean?

The man receiving the citation was Orthodox Rabbi Moshe Omer of the Las Vegas Kabbalah Center. As an observant Jew, he was not allowed to talk on the phone, sign a piece of paper or ride in a car on the Sabbath, which begins at Friday sunset and lasts until Saturday sundown.

If he had signed the papers when the officer arrived on Saturday, he would have violated his religious beliefs, which were then compromised by being forced to ride in the police car.

The zoning controversy remains unresolved regarding use of Omer's home as a religious center in a residential neighborhood. Nonetheless, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman publicly apologized to the rabbi for being taken to jail for practicing his religion.

Regarding Jews observing the Sabbath, Democratic Vice Presidentialcandidate Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, says that if elected, hewould work on important matters of state on the Sabbath but would walkinstead of ride to the Saturday, Jan. 20, 2001 inauguration ceremony.

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