When You Shouldn’t Say What You Really Think About Other Faith Traditions



Some recent, angry exchanges between leaders of different religious traditions have led me to consider the principles that should guide us when reacting to disagreements with other faith groups.

If I strongly disagree with a Christian or Muslim, I am free to say what I wish, of course, and there is an argument to be made that I should always say what I think. As a believing and practicing Jew, I do not hesitate to comment on, praise, criticize or analyze statements by any Jewish leader or Jewish group. Should I not be true to myself and my beliefs whenever someone representing a non-Jewish tradition says things that are contrary to my deepest moral convictions?

Well, actually, no. I suggest that there are important distinctions to be kept in mind. Specifically, I think that there are two rules to follow when deciding what is appropriate to say – and what is not – when commenting on the positions of other religious groups.

Rule No. 1: When a religious leader or group speaks on a matter of public policy that impacts all Americans, those who have different views and who represent other religious traditions can and should speak out.

For example, if an evangelical Protestant leaders calls for a law banning abortions, such a law will limit the rights of all. In this case, I feel free and indeed obligated to express my belief, rooted in my own religious teachings, that abortion is a difficult matter but that every woman, after prayerful consideration, should be able to make this determination for herself, without interference from the state.

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Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

About Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is president emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism. He speaks and writes frequently about Israel, religious life, social justice, and other topics of interest to the Jewish community. Read his full bio and writings on the URJ website.

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