Neil Gorsuch Will Likely Restore Religious Freedom to Its Rightful Place

March 21 2017

The Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Gorsuch, nominated to join the Supreme Court, began yesterday. In Nathan Diament’s opinion, Gorsuch understands the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty expansively, in a way that the late Antonin Scalia—whom he was chosen to replace—did not:

In 1990, Scalia severely curtailed the First Amendment’s protection for the free exercise of religion. . . . At the time, Supreme Court precedents held that [certain state encroachments on religious freedom would be held to] the highest standard of constitutional proof, known as strict scrutiny. . . . A divided court overturned those precedents. Justice Scalia, writing for a five-justice majority, held that a person’s right to the free exercise of religion would receive a lower level of legal protection when the law in question doesn’t specifically target religion. . . .

Samuel Alito, appointed to the high court in 2006, was the first of the newer justices who had a record of disagreeing with [this particular opinion of Scalia’s]. Judge Gorsuch would be another. He appears to be sensitive to the needs of religious minorities and the role faith plays in people’s lives. . . .

[As a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals], Gorsuch wrote a separate opinion in Hobby Lobby, [a much-publicized 2013 case regarding the Affordable Care Act’s “contraceptive mandate”], arguing that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.” . . .

What comes through in [Gorsuch’s] opinions is a recognition that seems to have eluded Scalia in 1990: the law is meant to be a bulwark against infringement—whether by government or other powerful entities—upon a person’s religious conscience and practices. It is not enough to allow Americans to believe as they wish; they must also be able, generally, to act in conformity with their beliefs.

Read more at Orthodox Union

More about: First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, RFRA, Supreme Court, U.S. Constitution

 

Ending the Palestinian “Internationalization” Strategy

March 24 2017

Since Barack Obama (and Benjamin Netanyahu) assumed office in 2009, the Palestinian Authority has refused to negotiate with Israel, demanded the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders with its capital in east Jerusalem, and declined to agree to any concessions in return. To this end it has pursued a strategy of “internationalizing” the conflict by seeking recognition from international bodies and hoping that some sort of consortium of states will impose a solution to its liking on Israel. But with a new president in the White House, and a Middle East in disarray, this strategy seems less promising. Amos Yadlin and Kobi Michael explain why and how Israel and the U.S. can bring an end to it:

The Palestinian internationalization strategy was bolstered by a public-relations effort to [disseminate] the Palestinian narrative of the reasons for the conflict and the “just way of solving it,” and to saddle Israel with responsibility for the political deadlock. This was joined by general efforts to delegitimize Israel. This strategy, which focuses on a persistent, systematic effort to blacken Israel in international institutions, undermine its legitimacy, and deny the historic national connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, has scored several notable achievements in recent years. . . . One of the prominent achievements by the Palestinian national movement was the 2012 UN General Assembly resolution defining Palestine as a “non-member observer state.” . . . [T]he Palestinians [also] succeeded in entrenching within the U.S. administration the belief that Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank was the main obstacle to an agreement. . . .

Making it unmistakably clear to the Palestinians that they must return to the negotiating process and to mutual give-and-take, and also accept transitional and interim arrangements as preferable alternatives to the status quo, will engender greater potential for progress than during the Obama administration. As an initial sign to the Palestinians that the rules of the game have changed, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is in order. An American retreat from that pledge . . . [in response to] the Palestinian threats aimed at preventing this measure will weaken the American stature and become an incentive for the Palestinians to adhere to a strategy of bypassing Israel and evading direct negotiations. . . .

It is [also] important that the United States clarify that if the Palestinians prefer to continue their effort to isolate Israel in the international theater, instead of returning to direct negotiations, . . . [Washington] will back independent measures by Israel for determining its border in accordance with Israel’s strategic interests, while preserving the possibility of the future implementation of a negotiated two nation-state solution.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Peace Process, US-Israel relations