Jewish Organizations Shouldn’t Be Fighting against Religious Liberty

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a convent that wishes for the state of Pennsylvania to exempt it from providing employees with health-insurance plans that cover abortifacients, sterilizations, and contraceptives. (The nuns had proposed a workaround that would ensure employees had access to such treatments if so desired.) Among the signatories to an amicus brief filed in favor of Pennsylvania were several Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Union of Reform Judaism, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Howard Slugh and Mitchell Rocklin write:

According to the ADL, [whose lawyers were among the brief’s main authors], the burden of religious liberty cannot be imposed on the public. Nonbelievers cannot be forced to “underwrite objector’s religious choices,” the brief states. “When nonbeneficiaries would be detrimentally affected, religious exemptions are forbidden.”

It’s a problematic argument for the simple fact that if . . . taken seriously, it would invalidate most religious accommodations. When an accommodation benefits one party, it almost always burdens someone else. Take, for example, kosher food, which can cost prisons or the military in excess of three times the cost of non-kosher meals. [N]o one would argue that Jewish prisoners or military personnel should not have their religious liberties protected by having kosher food provided to them.

The ADL’s position would turn this proud tradition on its head and declare that America only protects religious liberty when it is easy and inconsequential to do so.

Furthermore, the brief’s position would significantly harm American Jews. To support its view that the Supreme Court rule against accommodating the Sisters’ religious liberty, the brief cites a 1985 Supreme Court case striking down a Connecticut law that required employers to accommodate people who observe the Sabbath, . . . on the grounds that the Constitution does not give anyone the right to force nonbelievers to conform to their needs. But for the Supreme Court to consider expanding this precedent would undermine the work of Jewish groups, which have long sought more robust protections for Jewish employees who wish to observe the Sabbath.

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Read more at Forward

More about: ADL, American Jewry, American law, Freedom of Religion, Supreme Court

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism