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

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations