Maryland: Agudah Advocates Successfully for Shabbos Protection in Building Code

Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, executive director of Agudath Israel of Maryland, with Governor Wes Moore at the bill signing.

Following a concerning situation involving a Shul in Harford County, Maryland, Agudah Maryland’s advocacy efforts have resulted in a crucial legislative change to safeguard Shabbos observance in Maryland.

By FrumNews.com

Following a concerning situation involving a Shul in Harford County, Maryland, Agudah Maryland’s advocacy efforts have resulted in a crucial legislative change to safeguard Shabbos observance in Maryland.

Last April, Agudah Maryland received a call from the Rov of a shul in Harford County, reporting that local building officials had mandated the installation of motion sensors on all light fixtures as per regulations outlined in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Such a requirement would obviously present severe Shabbos-observance issues, as the act of entering any room in the building would activate the lighting (via a Psik Reisha) and thus be a serious violation of Shabbos.

The root of the issue stemmed from Maryland’s compliance with the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), standards issued by the International Code Council (ICC), the body which drafts the internationally-accepted building regulations. Since its inception in 1994, states have been incentivized by the federal government to adopt IECC requirements, leading Maryland to pass a law in 2019 mandating compliance. The initial iteration of the IECC required motion sensors in any new construction, prompting local officials to insist on their installation at the shul.

Agudah Maryland representatives worked collaboratively with the shul’s Rov to articulate the religious concerns to the building officials, emphasizing the infringement on the constitutional value of religious liberty, as Frum Yidden would be unable to utilize the shul. Through comprehensive explanation and dialogue, the Harford County building officials demonstrated understanding and receptiveness, ultimately reaching a resolution with the shul.

Recognizing the need for legislative action to prevent similar issues in the future, Agudath Israel Maryland engaged in discussions with the Maryland Commissioner of Labor. Subsequently, a decision was made to advocate for a change to state law, ensuring proper consideration of religious liberty in building regulations. During the recent legislative session, Agudah Maryland worked closely with state legislators to craft, explain, advocate, and pass the bill. With the law now amended, there is optimism that such issues will not arise in the future.

Furthermore, Agudath Israel Maryland has proactively engaged with the International Code Council (ICC) to educate them on the unintended impact of IECC regulations on religious observance. With the next iteration of the ICC code on the horizon, there is hope for accommodations to ensure religious practices are respected.

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1 Comment

  • Devorah Leah Adler 05/10/2024 | ב' אייר התשפ"ד

    Wow! יישר כחכם!!

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