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Posts Tagged ‘religious freedom’
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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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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June 3, 2015 2

Governor Haley’s Ill-Considered Participation in Mass Prayer Rally

South Car­olina Gov­er­nor Nikki Haley is pro­mot­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in a June 13th Chris­t­ian prayer rally called “The Response: a call to prayer for our nation.”  She regret­tably is fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of for­mer Texas Gov­er­nor Perry who back in 2011 was a keynote speaker at sim­i­lar event bear­ing the same name and attended by 30,000.  Gov­er­nor Haley’s involve­ment in this event is not only deeply insen­si­tive to many of her con­stituents, but vio­lates the spirit if not the let­ter of the Constitution.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

South Car­olina Gov­er­nor Nikki Haley

Accord­ing to The Response web-site,

Amer­ica is now in such a state of cri­sis … and the root is not to be found in polit­i­cal agen­das, eco­nomic dol­drums, crime rates, or ter­ror­ist threats, as many believe. Our coun­try is in cri­sis because we are a peo­ple who are no longer hon­or­ing God in our pros­per­ity or humbly call­ing on Him in our predica­ments. The Response is com­mit­ted to acti­vat­ing a return to prayer by those with con­trite hearts, to pro­vide wit­ness that the Church is tak­ing a stand for right­eous­ness and ask­ing God for His mercy on the land we love.

It fur­ther states that although “… every­one is wel­come to come and join us in prayer, the focus of the prayer will be unashamedly Chris­t­ian. The only name that will be lifted up will be the name of Jesus Christ.” ADL sup­ports every American’s right to pray and fol­low the reli­gious beliefs of his or her choos­ing, includ­ing Gov­er­nor Haley’s.  But the found­ing fathers knew that the best way to pro­tect these fun­da­men­tal rights is to make sure that our elected offi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment would not impose one reli­gion over another or any reli­gion at all. Gov­er­nor Haley was elected to lead a reli­giously diverse con­stituency.  But her offi­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion in The Response and encour­age­ment of oth­ers to attend this event are deeply divi­sive.  It con­veys a dis­tinct mes­sage to non-Christians that they are out­siders.  Such offi­cial actions that divide Amer­i­cans along reli­gious lines are not a pro­duc­tive way to address our nation’s prob­lems. The genius of the First Amend­ment is that reli­gion in all its diver­sity has thrived in Amer­ica because gov­ern­ment is required to keep its dis­tance from it.   Gov­er­nor Haley would be wise to fol­low this essen­tial prin­ci­ple by recon­sid­er­ing her par­tic­i­pa­tion in The Response. 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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