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March 3, 2014 0

The Arizona Effect

Josh Deinert

AP Photo/Matt York

Last week Ari­zona Gov­er­nor Jan Brewer vetoed the State’s now infa­mous “reli­gious free­dom” bill. 

The clear intent of the SB 1062 was to effec­tively allow per­sons and busi­nesses to dis­crim­i­nate against the State’s LGBT com­mu­nity by pro­vid­ing a pow­er­ful legal defense based on asser­tion of a “sin­cerely held reli­gious belief.” 

Due to its expan­sive nature, how­ever, the leg­is­la­tion would have broadly sanc­tioned religious-based dis­crim­i­na­tion whether the vic­tim was Jew­ish, Mus­lim, Protes­tant, Catholic, Mor­mon, Hindu or of no faith.   And the Anti-Defamation took a lead­er­ship role in defeat­ing this dis­crim­i­na­tory legislation.

Gov­er­nor Brewer ulti­mately vetoed SB 1062 under fierce pres­sure from the State’s civil rights and busi­ness communities.

But what hap­pens in Ari­zona does not stay in Ari­zona.  Prior to Gov­er­nor Brewer’s veto, at least twelve other states, includ­ing Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio and Okla­homa, were actively con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.  Due to the back­lash against SB 1062, how­ever, Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio, and Okla­homa tabled their bills.  So the new talk­ing point in oppos­ing such leg­is­la­tion should be “fol­low the lead of the Ari­zona leg­is­la­ture at your peril.”

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February 24, 2014 0

Governor Jindal’s Dubious Comments on Religious Liberty

Accord­ing to Louisiana Gov­er­nor Bobby Jin­dal, there is a “Silent War on Reli­gious Lib­erty” in America. 

In recent remarks at the Ronald Rea­gan Pres­i­den­tial Library, the Gov­er­nor claimed that this war is being “waged in our courts and in the halls of polit­i­cal power.”  Although “churches in Amer­ica are not being burned to the ground, and Chris­tians are not being slaugh­tered for their faith,” he con­tends that this blood­less war “threat­ens the fab­ric of our com­mu­ni­ties, the health of our pub­lic square, and the endurance of our con­sti­tu­tional governance.”  bobby-jindal

Exhibit A in the Governor’s speech evi­denc­ing this pur­ported silent war is the Hobby Lobby case cur­rently pend­ing before the U.S. Supreme Court.  In that case, the Gov­er­nor is sup­port­ing own­ers of for-profit, sec­u­lar cor­po­ra­tions who are chal­leng­ing the Afford­able Care Act’s con­tra­cep­tion man­date on reli­gious free­dom grounds.

The man­date would require these cor­po­ra­tions to pro­vide employ­ees with com­pre­hen­sive health insur­ance, inclu­sive of pre­scrip­tion birth con­trol, or pay a mod­est tax.  From the Governor’s per­spec­tive, these cor­po­rate own­ers should be allowed to impose their reli­gious beliefs about con­tra­cep­tion on thou­sands of employ­ees who likely have diverse reli­gious views on the subject.

Exhibit B is a series of legal cases against bak­eries, florists and other wed­ding ser­vice providers who have refused on reli­gious grounds to pro­vide ser­vices to same-sex cou­ples.  Here too, Gov­er­nor Jin­dal over­looks the fact that many of these cou­ples find sup­port for their mar­riages in their reli­gious tra­di­tion, and could legit­i­mately claim that their reli­gion is being denigrated.

In his speech at the Rea­gan Library, the Gov­er­nor also said “… the fact is that our reli­gious lib­er­ties are designed to pro­tect peo­ple of all faiths.”  Stand­ing alone, this would be a forth­right state­ment on our nation’s cher­ished con­sti­tu­tional val­ues.  How­ever, given the con­text of his speech, this remark lacks cred­i­bil­ity.  The Governor’s appar­ent sup­port for cer­tain Chris­t­ian view­points being imposed on our plu­ral­is­tic work­force, mar­ket­place, and soci­ety erro­neously sup­ports the use of the Con­sti­tu­tion as a sword to advance the majority’s reli­gion rather than a shield to pro­tect the rights of reli­gious minori­ties or the non-religious.  It is unfor­tu­nate that the Governor’s sup­port for reli­gious free­dom seems selec­tive rather than universal.

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May 22, 2013 2

State Department’s Religious Freedom Report Recognizes Severity Of Global Anti-Semitism

jewish-cemetery-desecration

Des­e­cra­tion of Jew­ish cemetery

On May 20, 2013, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry released the State Department’s annual Inter­na­tional Reli­gious Free­dom Report for 2012, describ­ing the U.S. assess­ment of the sta­tus of reli­gious free­dom in every coun­try. The report cov­ers gov­ern­ment poli­cies vio­lat­ing reli­gious belief and prac­tices of groups, reli­gious denom­i­na­tions and indi­vid­u­als, and U.S. poli­cies to pro­mote reli­gious free­dom around the world.

This annual report demon­strates the Amer­i­can com­mit­ment to the fun­da­men­tal demo­c­ra­tic right to prac­tice one’s reli­gion with­out inter­fer­ence from gov­ern­ment and sig­ni­fies and under­scores the role gov­ern­ments must play in pro­tect­ing that right.  It shines a light on a num­ber of impor­tant issues specif­i­cally related to the per­se­cu­tion of reli­gious minori­ties, includ­ing gov­ern­ment spon­sored dis­crim­i­na­tion, reli­gious big­otry and hatred prop­a­gated by the media, and vio­lence directed at spe­cific reli­gious denominations.

While address­ing all forms of reli­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion, the U.S. government’s role in mon­i­tor­ing and com­bat­ting anti-Jewish expres­sions around the world is an impor­tant fea­ture of the report. It high­lights inci­dents of anti-Semitism on the gov­ern­men­tal level, in pol­i­tics and within the media, and doc­u­ments acts of van­dal­ism and vio­lence directed at Jews. These include:

Iran — The government’s con­tin­ued Holo­caust denial and prop­a­ga­tion of anti-Semitic stereo­types, includ­ing pro­nounce­ments by Pres­i­dent Ahmadine­jad regard­ing “Zionists…ruling the major world affairs” for some 400 years.

Egypt — Senior Mus­lim Broth­er­hood offi­cials, includ­ing Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei, fre­quently issue anti-Semitic state­ments, while the media airs anti-Semitic pro­gram­ming, includ­ing the TV series “Horse­man with­out a Horse” based on the noto­ri­ous anti-Semitic forgery “The Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion.” The wide­spread hatred and vio­lence directed at Egypt’s Cop­tic Chris­t­ian com­mu­nity is also mentioned.

Venezuela — Anti-Semitism is quite preva­lent in the gov­ern­ment con­trolled media, par­tic­u­larly in opin­ion pieces and edi­to­r­ial car­toons. The recent pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy of Hen­rique Capriles, a Catholic of Jew­ish descent, was a main focus of the media’s anti-Semitism. 

Chile - There has been an increase in the num­ber anti-Semitic pub­lic state­ments, par­tic­u­larly across social media plat­forms. Inci­dents of anti-Jewish van­dal­ism are on the rise, and a num­ber of phys­i­cal attacks against Jews were doc­u­mented, includ­ing an assault on a 14 year-old by a group of Neo-Nazis.

The State Department’s report also makes a num­ber of ref­er­ences to ADL’s work in high­light­ing and com­bat­ing global anti-Semitism, par­tic­u­larly in Europe. These include:

Aus­tria – ADL’s train­ing projects with the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion on Holo­caust education.

Greece – ADL’s state­ments call­ing on gov­ern­ment author­i­ties to do more to counter the anti-Semitic rhetoric and vio­lent actions of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn polit­i­cal party.

Hun­gary – ADL’s state­ments call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to enforce a new law that would hold mem­bers of par­lia­ment legally account­able for espous­ing hate­ful remarks. This law was in reac­tion to an anti-Semitic state­ment by a mem­ber of country’s neo-Nazi Job­bik party, who called on par­lia­ment to “assess how many MPs and gov­ern­ment mem­bers are of Jew­ish ori­gin and who present a national secu­rity risk to Hun­gary.” The report also cited ADL’s sur­vey on anti-Semitic atti­tudes in Hun­gary which showed a sig­nif­i­cant rise in the per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion har­bor­ing anti-Semitic attitudes.

Turkey – ADL’s state­ment crit­i­ciz­ing a cos­met­ics com­pany for fea­tur­ing Adolph Hitler in a sham­poo com­mer­cial that ran on state television.

The State Department’s Inter­na­tional Reli­gious Free­dom Report for 2012 can be found here.

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