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Courts Have No Business Determining the “True” Requirements of Any Religion

June 13 2018

Writing for the majority in the Supreme Court’s ruling on the case of the Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that “it hardly requires restating that government has no role in deciding or even suggesting whether the religious ground for [a] conscience-based objection is legitimate or illegitimate.” Howard Slugh believes this point very much worth stating, and argues that it has particularly important consequences for Jews:

Governmental entities have a nasty habit of refusing to protect religious practices that are, in their view, religiously mistaken or illegitimate. . . . On June 5, one day after the Supreme Court decided Masterpiece, a district-court judge handed down a decision in Estes v. Clark. In that case, a Jewish prisoner named Bruce Estes sued his prison for refusing to provide kosher food as well as a ram’s horn for use in traditional holiday services.

The prison argued that Estes could not claim it had deprived him of religious liberty because the prison food was kosher enough to meet his religious needs. . . . [B]ased on its understanding of Judaism, the food was kosher. The prison even hired a rabbi to testify that Estes misunderstood his faith. Estes hired his own rabbi to testify that the prison was not, in fact, properly preparing kosher food.

It should be immediately obvious that this sort of religious debate has no place in an American court. Judges are not qualified to determine which rabbi speaks for the only “True Judaism,” if such a thing even exists. And, even more important, the law would protect Estes’s right to religious liberty even if his personal faith differed from normative Judaism. Every American has a right to live in accordance with his conscience, regardless of whether he follows an orthodox faith. Fortunately, the court saw through the prison’s nonsense. It decided that, for the purposes of Estes’s religious-liberty claim, the relevant question was whether eating the prison food would violate his own sincere religious beliefs. The court recognized that it had no business attempting to discover and apply the “true” Jewish law. Rather, it had to accept the validity of Estes’s sincere religious beliefs. . . .

Unfortunately, these cases do not always go as well as the Estes case has gone so far. . . . Minority religions, such as Judaism, are the most vulnerable to mistreatment by judges inclined to play religious inquisitor. Judges, most of whom are likely unfamiliar with Jewish practices, are more likely to misunderstand or discount the importance of those practices relative to more common religious rituals. . . . Jews observe laws that may strike non-Jews as obscure, from refusing to wear a mixture of wool and linen to only eating wheat harvested at certain times of the year. Jewish Americans’ religious liberty should not depend on a judge’s ad-hoc determinations regarding the validity of such practices.

Read more at National Review

More about: American law, Freedom of Religion, Gay marriage, Religion & Holidays, U.S. Constitution

 

America Is Right to Withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council

June 21 2018

Yesterday the U.S. announced its decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which serves primarily as a forum for the worst human-rights abusers to condemn Israel while ignoring the atrocious behavior of tyrants. Anne Bayefsky writes:

Among the 47 UN states calling the shots on the organization’s top human-rights body are such human-rights paragons as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, . . . Qatar, and Venezuela. . . .

There is no doubt that the UN Human Rights Council is a productive tool for anti-Semites. Discrimination against the Jewish state is baked into its procedures . . . as well as its composition. The council reserves one permanent agenda item for every one of its regular sessions solely for condemning Israel. All other 192 UN member states are considered together under a separate item, if they are discussed at all.

The council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than any other country on earth, and nothing condemning almost 90 percent of the world’s states. The council has held more emergency special sessions on Israel than on any other country, including Syria—where at least 500,000 have died and up to 12 million have been displaced.

But even beyond the disturbing fact that anti-Semitism thrives at the United Nations under the guise of human rights is that the “human-rights” experts, the nongovernmental organizations and the academic entourage surrounding this whole apparatus, have the council’s back. For months, they have been flooding the airwaves and [the American ambassador to the UN Nikki] Haley and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s email inboxes begging the Trump administration to stay on the council. In a nutshell, they make one basic point: the demonization of Israel, even if undeserved, is peripheral to the common good. Pompeo and Haley have courageously decided to set them straight. Equal rights cannot be built on inequality for Jews and the Jewish state.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy, UNHRC, United Nations