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September 11, 2015 1

Marching for Fairness – the NAACP Journey for Justice

After par­tic­i­pat­ing in the his­toric vot­ing rights march from Selma to Mont­gomery on March 21, 1965, Rabbi Abram­son Joshua Hes­chel famously said:

“For many of us the march from Selma to Mont­gomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walk­ing is not kneel­ing. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even with­out words, our march was wor­ship. I felt my legs were praying.”


ADL Direc­tor of Inter­faith Affairs Rabbi David Sand­mel and NAACP Pres­i­dent and CEO Cor­nell Brooks on the road to Wash­ing­ton DC as part of the Jour­ney for Justice.


That march played a sig­nif­i­cant role in prompt­ing Con­gress to enact the land­mark Vot­ing Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) – per­haps the most impor­tant and effec­tive civil rights leg­is­la­tion ever passed.   In the half cen­tury since then, the VRA has secured and safe­guarded the right to vote for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans. Its suc­cess in elim­i­nat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tory bar­ri­ers to full civic par­tic­i­pa­tion and in advanc­ing equal polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment is undeniable.

Some­times legs pray.

And some­times legs carry you to Wash­ing­ton DC to demand progress toward jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all.

Today, fifty years after the pas­sage of the VRA, and two years after a deeply trou­bling Supreme Court deci­sion that essen­tially gut­ted the heart of the leg­is­la­tion — marchers are on their way to Wash­ing­ton to demand vot­ing rights pro­tec­tions again.  The NAACP has orga­nized America’s Jour­ney for Jus­tice, which started in Selma on August 1.  The Anti-Defamation League is one of the sup­port­ing orga­ni­za­tions for the 1000-mile march, as we had sup­ported the orig­i­nal Selma to Mont­gomery march.  Then-ADL National Direc­tor Ben Epstein wrote,

“We walked together—more than 3,000 Amer­i­cans: Negroes and whites, min­is­ters, rab­bis, Catholic nuns, stu­dents, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of orga­ni­za­tions, those who belonged to no group other than the human race—all in peace­ful demon­stra­tion against blind vio­lence, in ‘gigan­tic wit­ness’ to the con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed right of all cit­i­zens to reg­is­ter and vote.”

Jour­ney to Jus­tice cul­mi­nates in an Advo­cacy Day on the Cap­i­tal Hill on Sep­tem­ber 16.  Marchers and their sup­port­ers will have dozens of meet­ings with Mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Sen­ate.  The prin­ci­pal focal point for the lob­by­ing will be the need to address the dev­as­tat­ing impact of Shelby County v. Holder, a 2013 Supreme Court deci­sion which gut­ted a key pro­vi­sion of the VRA, dra­mat­i­cally lim­it­ing its effec­tive­ness and reach.

Last Novem­ber – the first major elec­tion since Shelby County – there were new restric­tions on vot­ing in 15 states, endan­ger­ing vot­ing rights for hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans. From voter ID laws that threaten to dis­en­fran­chise African Amer­i­cans, Lati­nos, stu­dents and elderly vot­ers, to cuts to early vot­ing and oner­ous require­ments for voter reg­is­tra­tion, the right to vote is in peril.

The proper response to the Shelby County deci­sion is the bipar­ti­san Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act of 2015 (S. 1659/H.R. 2867).  The VRAA reasserts appro­pri­ate fed­eral over­sight over efforts to change state and local vot­ing laws and pro­vides addi­tional safe­guards for voting.

Since, 1965 reaf­firm­ing the nation’s com­mit­ment to full vot­ing rights for all has never been con­tro­ver­sial.  Each time the VRA came up for reau­tho­riza­tion it has received over­whelm­ing, bipar­ti­san Con­gres­sional sup­port.  The last time Con­gress extended the VRA, in 2006, it did so after an exhaus­tive hear­ings on vot­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and the impact of the VRA – result­ing in thou­sands of pages of doc­u­men­ta­tion.  The leg­is­la­tion passed over­whelm­ingly: 390 to 33 in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and 98–0 in the Senate.

As we have com­mem­o­rated the 50th anniver­sary of the Vot­ing Rights Act (VRA) this sum­mer, we have been reminded just how far we have come – how impact­ful the VRA has been in ensur­ing the rights of all Amer­i­cans to have their say in our democ­racy.   Jour­ney for Jus­tice marchers and their sup­port­ers are demon­strat­ing that Con­gress must do more than merely com­mem­o­rate anniver­saries of his­toric civil rights vic­to­ries.  They must act.  Now is the time for Con­gress to act to restore the pro­tec­tions of the VRA and secure the right to vote for all Americans.


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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.

LGBT Zip code

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 25, 2015 1

When Hateful Speech Leads to Hate Crimes: Taking Bigotry Out of the Immigration Debate

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

When police arrived at the scene in Boston, they found a Latino man shak­ing on the ground, his face appar­ently soaked in urine, with a bro­ken nose.  His arms and chest had been beaten.  One of the two broth­ers arrested and charged with the hate crime report­edly told police, “Don­ald Trump was right—all these ille­gals need to be deported.”

The vic­tim, a home­less man, was appar­ently sleep­ing out­side of a sub­way sta­tion in Dorch­ester when the per­pe­tra­tors attacked.  His only offense was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The broth­ers attacked him for who he was—simply because he was Latino.

In recent weeks anti-immigrant—and by exten­sion anti-Latino—rhetoric has reached a fever pitch.  Immi­grants have been smeared as “killers” and “rapists.”  They have been accused of bring­ing drugs and crime.  A radio talk show host in Iowa has called for enslave­ment of undoc­u­mented immi­grants if they do not leave within 60 days.  There have been calls to repeal the 14th Amendment’s guar­an­tee of cit­i­zen­ship to peo­ple born in the United States, with alle­ga­tions that peo­ple come here to have so-called “anchor babies.”  And the terms “ille­gal aliens” and “ille­gals”— which many main­stream news sources wisely rejected years ago because they dehu­man­ize and stig­ma­tize people—have resurged.

The words used on the cam­paign trail, on the floors of Con­gress, in the news, and in all our liv­ing rooms have con­se­quences.  They directly impact our abil­ity to sus­tain a soci­ety that ensures dig­nity and equal­ity for all.  Big­oted rhetoric and words laced with prej­u­dice are build­ing blocks for the pyra­mid of hate.

Biased behav­iors build on one another, becom­ing ever more threat­en­ing and dan­ger­ous towards the top.  At the base is bias, which includes stereo­typ­ing and insen­si­tive remarks.  It sets the foun­da­tion for a sec­ond, more com­plex and more dam­ag­ing layer: indi­vid­ual acts of prej­u­dice, includ­ing bul­ly­ing, slurs, and dehu­man­iza­tion.  Next is dis­crim­i­na­tion, which in turn sup­ports bias-motivated vio­lence, includ­ing hate crimes like the tragic one in Boston. And in the most extreme cases if left unchecked, the top of the pyra­mid of hate is genocide.

Just like a pyra­mid, the lower lev­els sup­port the upper lev­els.  Bias, prej­u­dice and discrimination—particularly touted by those with a loud mega­phone and cheer­ing crowd—all con­tribute to an atmos­phere that enables hate crimes and other hate-fueled vio­lence.  The most recent hate crime in Boston is just one of too many.  In fact, there is a hate crime roughly every 90 min­utes in the United States today.  That is why last week ADL announced a new ini­tia­tive, #50StatesAgainstHate, to strengthen hate crimes laws around the coun­try and safe­guard com­mu­ni­ties vul­ner­a­ble to hate-fueled attacks. We are work­ing with a broad coali­tion of part­ners to get the ball rolling.

Laws alone, how­ever, can­not cure the dis­ease of hate.  To do that, we need to change the con­ver­sa­tion.  We would not sug­gest that any one person’s words caused this tragedy – the per­pe­tra­tors did that; but the rhetor­i­cal excesses by so many over the past few weeks give rise to a cli­mate in which prej­u­dice, dis­crim­i­na­tion, and hate-fueled vio­lence can take root.

Rea­son­able peo­ple can dif­fer about how we should fix our bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem, but stereo­types, slurs, smears and insults have no place in the debate.

Immi­grants have been a fre­quent tar­get of hate, and unfor­tu­nately, prej­u­dice and vio­lence are not new.  Many of our ances­tors faced sim­i­lar prej­u­dice when they came to the United States. In the 1800s, the attacks were against Irish and Ger­man immi­grants. Next was a wave of anti-Chinese sen­ti­ment cul­mi­nat­ing with the Chi­nese Exclu­sion Act in 1882. Then the hatred turned on the Jews, high­lighted by the lynch­ing of Leo Frank in 1915.  Then came big­otry against Japan­ese immi­grants and peo­ple of Japan­ese dis­sent, which led to the shame­ful intern­ment of more than 110,000 peo­ple dur­ing World War II.  Today, anti-immigrant big­otry largely focuses on Lati­nos.  The tar­gets have changed, but the mes­sages of hate remain largely the same.  It is long past time for that to end.

ADL, as a 501©(3), does not sup­port or oppose can­di­dates for elec­tive office,but we have a sim­ple mes­sage for all pol­i­cy­mak­ers and can­di­dates:  There is no place for hate in the immi­gra­tion debate.  There is noth­ing patri­otic or admirable about hatred and hate-fueled vio­lence.  The only accept­able response to hate crimes is unequiv­o­cal, strong con­dem­na­tion.  And the same is true for the bias, prej­u­dice, and big­oted speech that have recently per­me­ated the immi­gra­tion conversation.

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