American Jews, the Constitution, and the Challenges to Religious Liberty

New threats to the freedom of religion—and new areas of constitutional uncertainty—have arisen in the U.S. in recent years, as seen in the desire of Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor to be exempted from new healthcare regulations regarding the provision of contraceptives and abortion, the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and even attempts to outlaw such Jewish rituals as circumcision and kapparot (the ritual dedication of chickens to charity on the eve of Yom Kippur). Yuval Levin addresses some of these questions with reference to the Jewish experience in America; Leonard Leo argues that religious liberty will be safe only if the government abides by constitutional restraints on its authority and on the separation of powers—both of which, he believes, have been too often ignored. (Moderated by Aylana Meisel. Video, 73 minutes.)

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Read more at Jewish Leadership Conference

More about: Freedom of Religion, Hobby Lobby, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Constitution

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy