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September 3, 2015 11

Public Officials: If Your Religion Prevents You From Doing Your Job, Step Aside

Many of us make impor­tant deci­sions in our daily lives grounded in our reli­gious val­ues and beliefs. That should be respected, even per­haps, applauded. How­ever when one chooses to take an oath of office or accepts a posi­tion as a pub­lic offi­cial in a sec­u­lar con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy like ours, she has a respon­si­bil­ity to do the job she was hired to do. Rowan County Ken­tucky Clerk Kim Davis’s job requires her to issue mar­riage licenses to any­one who may legally get married.

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On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court for­mally rec­og­nized the dig­nity of les­bian, gay, bisex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple when it extended the free­dom to marry to same-sex cou­ples nation­wide. The Court ruled that the Con­sti­tu­tion for­bids states to ban mar­riage for same-sex cou­ples. Since the deci­sion, a small minor­ity of pub­lic offi­cials, most notably Ms. Davis, have argued that they should be exempt from hav­ing to issue mar­riage licenses to same-sex cou­ples, cit­ing their sin­cerely held reli­gious beliefs. The Supreme Court dis­agrees, and yet Davis con­tin­ues to defy the Court by deny­ing same-sex cou­ples mar­riage licenses. Now, she and, at her direc­tive, her staff, are refus­ing to issue mar­riage licenses mak­ing it impos­si­ble for any­one to obtain a mar­riage license in that county.

No one should ques­tion or chal­lenge Ms. Davis’s reli­gious beliefs. The fact that some news arti­cles and com­men­ta­tors have crit­i­cized Davis’s beliefs as incon­sis­tent or hyp­o­crit­i­cal is beside the point. The bot­tom line is that she has no right, con­sti­tu­tional or oth­er­wise, to refuse to do the job the state of Ken­tucky pays her to do.

The real­ity, as ADL’s ami­cus brief argued, is that over­turn­ing mar­riage bans ensures that reli­gious con­sid­er­a­tions do not improp­erly influ­ence which mar­riages the state can rec­og­nize, but still allows reli­gious groups to decide the def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage for them­selves. That remains true. Rab­bis, priests, min­is­ters can­not be com­pelled to par­tic­i­pate in mar­riages of which they do not approve. Reli­gions are not required to sol­em­nize any kind of mar­riage they don’t want to rec­og­nize. How­ever, that does not mean that gov­ern­ment employ­ees may aban­don their duties nor may they seek to impose their reli­gious beliefs on oth­ers by inter­fer­ing with their con­sti­tu­tional right to marry.

If Ms. Davis or oth­ers feel that they can­not ful­fill the duties they were selected to per­form, they should step aside and allow oth­ers to serve the community.

A 501©(3) non­profit orga­ni­za­tion, ADL nei­ther sup­ports nor opposes any can­di­date for polit­i­cal office.

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August 26, 2015 0

Holocaust Analogies Continue To Taint Discourse On Wide Range Of Issues

The charged polit­i­cal debates over issues rang­ing from Iran to abor­tion con­tinue to be tainted by inap­pro­pri­ate invo­ca­tions of Hitler, Nazis, and gen­eral Holo­caust imagery.huckabee-israel-holocaust-oven-tweet-twitter

These mis­placed and offen­sive com­par­isons, made by politi­cians, pun­dits, and oth­er pub­lic fig­ures,  triv­i­al­ize this unique tragedy in human his­tory.  They not only rely on his­tor­i­cally incor­rect premises and exag­ger­a­tions, but also deflect atten­tion away from impor­tant national discussions.

For exam­ple, U.S. Sen­a­tor and Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ted Cruz recently sent let­ters to pas­tors through­out the U.S. to encour­age them to speak out against Planned Par­ent­hood, claim­ing that abor­tion rep­re­sents an “ongo­ing holo­caust.” Of course, invok­ing the Holo­caust in the dis­cus­sions on abor­tion is noth­ing new.

The Iran deal is also an area where offen­sive Holo­caust analo­gies have been increas­ingly crop­ping up. On July 26, for exam­ple, Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mike Huck­abee stated in an inter­view that Pres­i­dent Obama’s poli­cies on Iran will “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” Huckabee’s cam­paign also high­lighted this inap­pro­pri­ate com­par­i­son in a graphic on Twitter.

The analo­gies are not only used by politi­cians.  In a sign of how our pub­lic dis­course has coars­ened, crit­ics of pub­lic offi­cials also invoke Nazi analo­gies.  When New York Con­gress­man Jer­rold Nadler pub­licly sup­ported the pro­posed agree­ment on Iran, he report­edly was swamped with hate­ful mes­sages on social media.  One com­men­ta­tor referred to him as a “kappo,” a ref­er­ence to Jews who worked for the Nazis in con­cen­tra­tion camps.  curt-schilling-muslims-hitler-tweet-twitter

The Holo­caust com­par­isons are not lim­ited to the polit­i­cal world either. On August 25, ESPN “Sun­day Night Base­ball” ana­lyst and for­mer major league pitcher Curt Schilling shared a post on Twit­ter that com­pared extrem­ist Mus­lims to Nazis. The tweet sug­gested that a sim­i­lar per­cent­age of Mus­lims are extrem­ists as Ger­mans were Nazis. It also included an image of Hitler.

Such inap­pro­pri­ate Holo­caust ref­er­ences seem to sur­face around almost any con­tro­ver­sial issue. For exam­ple, dur­ing the charged polit­i­cal debate over gun con­trol in the after­math of the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School shoot­ing, there was a flurry of inap­pro­pri­ate invo­ca­tions of Hitler, Nazis, and gen­eral Holo­caust imagery by pub­lic fig­ures.  Oppo­si­tion to Pres­i­dent Obama’s Afford­able Care Act engen­dered sim­i­larly offen­sive comparisons.

Pub­lic dis­course today is seri­ously lack­ing in civil­ity and respect for dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on impor­tant issues.  One unfor­tu­nate exam­ple of this lack of civil­ity is repeated inap­pro­pri­ate ref­er­ences to the Holo­caust.  It is long past time for pub­lic offi­cials and pub­lic offi­cials to stop invok­ing the Holo­caust in an effort to score polit­i­cal points.

* As a 501(c )(3) non-profit orga­ni­za­tion, the Anti-Defamation League does not sup­port or oppose can­di­dates for polit­i­cal office.

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July 30, 2015 0

Mezuzah Is Fair Housing Decision’s Overlooked Beneficiary

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25th favor­able fair hous­ing deci­sion was a big win for the civil rights of all Amer­i­cans, includ­ing Jew­ish con­do­minium own­ers and renters who are pro­hib­ited from plac­ing Mezuzahs on their outer door posts.

A mezuzah is a small, unob­tru­sive object – typ­i­cally less than six inches long and an inch wide – which for mil­len­nia has been placed on the outer door­posts of Jew­ish homes in ful­fill­ment of reli­gious oblig­a­tions.  It is not a dec­o­ra­tive choice for Jews, or a choice of any kind.  Rather, an obser­vant Jew­ish per­son can­not buy, rent or reside in a res­i­dence where place­ment of a mezuzah on the outer door­post is prohibited.

Mezuzah-RS Many con­do­mini­ums, devel­op­ments and rental com­mu­ni­ties are sub­ject to gen­er­ally applic­a­ble aes­thetic or other restric­tions which pro­hibit the dis­play of all reli­gious or sec­u­lar sym­bols on outer door­posts and doors, includ­ing the mezuzah.  In the vast major­ity of these sit­u­a­tions, home­owner asso­ci­a­tions or land­lords accom­mo­date Jew­ish res­i­dents by allow­ing them to post their mezuzahs with­out issue.

How­ever, in the minor­ity of cases where asso­ci­a­tions or land­lords refuse to allow the mezuzah, the Court’s deci­sion is a valu­able legal tool.  In Texas Dept. of Hous­ing v. The Inclu­sive Com­mu­ni­ties Project, Inc., the Court rec­og­nized “dis­parate impact” the­ory under the fed­eral Fair Hous­ing Act.  As a result, gen­er­ally applic­a­ble hous­ing rules or prac­tices that have the effect of unin­ten­tion­ally dis­crim­i­nat­ing on the basis of race, color, reli­gion, sex, famil­ial sta­tus or national ori­gin, includ­ing restric­tions bar­ring dis­play of the mezuzah, vio­late the Act.

In light of the Court’s rul­ing, ADL has issued a new pub­li­ca­tion enti­tled, “Reli­gious Accom­mo­da­tion for the Mezuzah: Your Rights Under Fair Hous­ing Laws,” which in addi­tion to dis­cussing accom­mo­da­tions under fed­eral law cov­ers the four state laws (Con­necti­cut, Florida, Illi­nois and Texas) that specif­i­cally pro­hibit rules bar­ring dis­plays of the mezuzah and other reli­gious sym­bols in outer door areas.

Pro­vid­ing reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions for the mezuzah is a prin­ci­pled and wor­thy prac­tice.   Now that the Court has ruled in favor of dis­parate impact under the Fair Hous­ing Act, home­owner asso­ci­a­tions and land­lords should be on notice that pro­vid­ing such accom­mo­da­tions is not only the right thing to do, but legally required in most instances.

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