So basically, Southampton is playing the game on easy. Just give a reason that isn't utterly ludicrous and doesn't openly flout the Constitution. You can do it right?
The zoning board had ruled that the eruv — PVC poles on 15 of Southampton Township’s telephone poles — would “alter the essential character of the neighborhood.”The "change the character of the neighborhood" argument ... I dunno. It might fly, given the deference that "arbitrary and capricious" implies. But the second argument about an eruv being a theological "loophole" is a huge mistake by the city that may doom their defense strategy.
In addition, the board took theological issue with the concept of the eruv itself, calling it a “loophole” that is “motivated by the personal desire … to be freed from the proscriptions of Jewish law,” the New York Post reported.
It's not that their theology is wrong per se -- I've often joked that Orthodox Jews devote half their creative energies to coming up with ever-more restrictive religious proscriptions, and the other half to inventing increasingly creative ways to circumvent them. The problem, rather, is that they were doing theology at all. And that is a huge First Amendment no-no. Perhaps the clearest and most obvious Establishment Clause violation is the state taking it upon themselves to decide what tenets are valid aspects of a religious faith and which ones are "loopholes."
Without that statement, I'd guess Southampton would have had a fighting chance in court. With it -- good luck.