The Supreme Court Has a Chance to Protect Sabbath Observance

March 6 2019

In 1972, at the encouragement of a group of religious-liberty activists, Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia—a member of a small Baptist denomination that observes the Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night—pushed for an amendment to the Civil Rights Act that would require businesses to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious observance. Although the amendment was made law, in 1977 the Supreme Court declined to apply it to the case of Larry Hardison, fired by TWA for refusing a Sabbath shift. Nathan Lewin, who helped to draft the language of Randolph’s amendment, hopes the court will now hear the similar case of Darrell Patterson, and rule differently:

Justice Byron White wrote the court’s [1977] ruling, and he was obviously concerned that the far-reaching interpretation that the court was then giving to the First Amendment’s prohibition against the “establishment of religion” conflicted with an interpretation of the law that could impose costs on private employers to satisfy the religious observances of their employees. White’s majority opinion declared: “To require TWA to bear more than a de-minimis cost in order to give Hardison Saturdays off is an undue hardship.”

First Amendment law was very different in 1977 from what it is today. [Then] Supreme Court majorities seemed to condemn even the most remote governmental assistance to religion. But that attitude was short-lived. . . . The court [in 2000] began an era in which the exercise of religion wins greater judicial respect. . . .

The de-minimis language has, over more than four decades, ruined the careers and employment prospects of thousands of religiously observant employees. There are many reported judicial decisions that fail to apply [the law] as Senator Randolph contemplated it. They permit employers to ban religious practices they dislike and to harm Sabbath observers and employees who have other unusual prescribed religious practices.

But close scrutiny of the Supreme Court’s recent actions raises hopes that these injustices will soon be corrected. . . . In a recent opinion explaining why they rejected a publicized religious-liberty case, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh said they are ready to “revisit” the Hardison ruling. . . . Resounding vindication of Darrell Patterson would correct a decades-long injustice, granting religious Americans the protection they so richly deserve.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: American law, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, Sabbath, Supreme Court

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas