A New York City municipal pool that maintains female-only hours has alarmed critics who say the accommodation to a particular religious group violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
WNYW-TV reports, the female-only hours at the Metropolitan City Pool were created so Hasidic Jewish females could swim with no men present, in keeping with their religion. But all women of any religion are welcome during that time.
The female-only pool hours have been going on for years, but gained wider public attention when someone complained about it to the city's Commission on Human Rights.
“This is insane,” Hassidic community leader Isaac Abraham told FOX5.
“Why don’t they go after and sue the bars and the clubs that give women free drink - entry into clubs for free and discriminate against men? Had the transgender people requested this even the ladies room would be removed.”
The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation said it was told by the city's Commission on Human Rights that the practice is discriminatory against men.
"We’re dealing with a city pool, this is a parks department facility and the parks department cannot discriminate against people based on gender in terms of access to the pool,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
According to the Associated Press, the controversy could be awkward for Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who relies on support from New York's growing ultra-Orthodox community.
De Blasio, who also has championed transgender rights, was asked last week whether "anybody who identifies as female" would be welcome during women-only pool hours.
He declined to answer directly, saying only that the city is reviewing the issue.
Currently park officials say, the female-only hours remain in place for two-hours a day, four days a week.