Overturning “Roe vs. Wade” Doesn’t Threaten Jews’ Religious Freedom

July 10 2018

With the fate of Roe vs. Wade again in question following the retirement of Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court, some Jews have argued in favor of upholding the decision based on claims of religious liberty. That is, since halakhah—even in the eyes of the most Orthodox—not only permits but requires abortion in certain circumstances, a ban on abortion would threaten Jews’ freedom to practice their religion. Mitchell Rocklin and Howard Slugh contend that this line of reasoning perverts the meaning of religious liberty:

The irony of this particular pro-choice argument is that liberal Jews are advancing it even as they are quick to accuse traditional proponents of “religious liberty” of seeking to impose their religious views on America. . . .

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case illustrates this [point]. The plaintiff, an arts-and-crafts store named Hobby Lobby privately owned by the Green family, sought an exemption from a regulation requiring employers to provide health insurance that covered abortion-inducing drugs. The Greens argued that providing such insurance would violate their religious liberty, and they therefore requested a religious-liberty-based exemption.

The Greens did not argue that abortion-inducing drugs should be outlawed, that their employees should be prohibited from buying such drugs, or that the government could not require other employers to purchase such insurance. The Greens made a much more modest claim: they should not be required to participate in a process that they considered sinful. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, finding that the government had not proved that exempting employers with sincere religious objections would prevent it from achieving its goal: ensuring that women had access to the drugs in question. The law continued to apply to the vast majority of Americans, and the government was free to fill the gaps through other methods. . . .

This brings us back to abortion. Too many Jewish pro-choicers have, in contrast [to the Greens], demanded a blanket constitutional right to abortion in virtually all circumstances. They insist upon such a permissive abortion regime because, in some circumstances, Jewish law may permit or require a mother to procure an abortion. But they are not arguing that they would need specific religious liberty-based exemptions from an abortion ban. Nor are they arguing that a state may achieve its goal of protecting the life of the unborn, so long as it does not unnecessarily infringe on their religious beliefs.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Abortion, Freedom of Religion, Hobby Lobby, Politics & Current Affairs, Supreme Court

When It Comes to Syria, Vladimir Putin’s Word Can’t Be Trusted

July 13 2018

In the upcoming summit between the Russian and American presidents in Helsinki, the future of Syria is likely to rank high on the agenda. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has already made clear that Moscow won’t demand a complete Iranian withdrawal from the country. Donald Trump, by contrast, has expressed his desire for a complete U.S. withdrawal. Examining Moscow’s track record when it comes to maintaining its past commitments regarding Syria, Eli Lake urges caution:

Secretary of State John Kerry spent his last year in office following Lavrov all over the world in an attempt to create a U.S.-Russian framework for resolving the Syrian civil war. He failed. . . . President Trump [now] wants to get to know Putin better—and gauge his willingness to help isolate Iran. This is a pointless and dangerous gambit. First, by announcing his intention to pull U.S. forces out of the country “very soon,” Trump has already given away much of his leverage within Syria.

Ideally, Trump would want to establish a phased plan with Putin, where the U.S. would make some withdrawals following Iranian withdrawals from Syria. But Trump has already made it clear that prior [stated] U.S. objectives for Syria, such as the removal of the dictator Bashar al-Assad, are no longer U.S. objectives. The U.S. has also declined to make commitments to give money for Syrian reconstruction.

Without any leverage, Trump will have to rely even more on Putin’s word, which is worthless. Putin to this day denies any Russian government role in interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Just last month, Putin went on Austrian television and lied about his government’s role in shooting down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. Why would anyone trust Putin to keep his word to help remove Iran and its proxies from Syria?

And this gets to the most dangerous possible outcome of the upcoming summit. The one thing that Kerry never did was to attempt to trade concessions on Syria for concessions on Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014. There was a good reason for this: even if one argues that the future of Ukraine is not a high priority for the U.S., it’s a disastrous precedent to allow one nation to change the boundaries of another through force, and particularly of one that signed an agreement with the U.S., UK, and Russia to preserve its territorial integrity in exchange for relinquishing its cold-war-era nuclear weapons.

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Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Crimea, Donald Trump, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin