Tag Archives: Church State Separation
church street and state street signs pointing in different directions

The Harm that Vouchers Cause

This week is so-called School Choice Week (January 25-31), when pro-vouchers advocates try to take over the narrative and promote their views that the privatization of public funding into vouchers and tax credits promotes educational opportunities and expands choices for parents and students.

They could not be more wrong. Read more…

Supreme Court at night

Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Key Religious Freedom Protections

Earlier today, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in Holt v. Hobbs, holding that under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), prisoner Abdul Maalik Muhammed could grow a half-inch beard while incarcerated in Arkansas. This decision upheld the fundamental religious freedom rights of all people, of all backgrounds, and is heartening in light of the current debate over religious exemptions. The Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Women of Reform Judaism were pleased to join an amicus brief coordinated by American Jewish Committee on the side of Mr. Muhammed. Read more…

Sign that says (in French): I am a French Jew

In Mourning for France, Reminded of the Importance of Religious Freedom

On Tuesday night, many in the Washington, D.C. community — myself among them — gathered at Adas Israel Congregation for an event convened by AJC (and cosponsored by the Religious Action Center) in solidarity and remembrance with the People of France and the Jewish Community.

It was a beautiful event, including speakers such as Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and His Excellency Gérard Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States. Read more…

front door of the RAC, our year in blogs

2014 at the RAC: Our Year in Blogs  

The (secular) New Year brings new opportunities and new challenges in the world of Jewish social justice. The 114th Congress will convene on January 3, 2015 at noon. As we look towards what 2015 will bring, let’s take a moment to look back at 2014 through 14 RACBlog highlights.

This list is a mix of our most popular blogs or the blogs that represent landmark moments in our programming or observances. Don’t see your favorite blog here? Let us know in the comments! Read more…

Hanukkiah candles

Let’s Keep the Flame of Religious Freedom Burning Bright

The holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabee resistance over the Syrians led by Antiochus Epiphanes. The Syrians had taken over Jerusalem, desecrated the holy Temple, abolished Judaism, prohibited observance of Shabbat and the Festivals, in addition to outlawing critical Jewish rites like circumcision. The Jews were given two options by Antiochus, conversion or death.

The first night of Hanukkah — 25 Kislev — commemorates the day the Temple was renamed for the Greek god Zeus, and the resistance movement led by the Maccabees developed. The Maccabees, led by Mattathias and Judah, ousted the Syrians and restored Jerusalem to the Jewish people.

Read more…

lighting candles in a menorah

Light a Candle for Understanding

This time of year, it’s hard not to be drawn into conversations about the place of religious expression in public life. Christmas decorations abound, and religious minorities play up the celebration of a winter holiday to stake out a place in their communities. There is always a conversation about how important Hanukkah is in the Jewish tradition, probably a result of the effort I described to feel represented in a community or society where there is a widely-celebrated religious holiday.

Often, communities, local governments – particularly schools – also struggle with this question of representing different religions. The December Dilemma, as it is often called, describes the often uncomfortable conversation parents, students and other community members have to have about how not to make people feel alienated in their community.

Read more…

church street and state street signs pointing in different directions

Two Birds with One Stone

In this age of intersecting social justice imperatives — when advocates are looking for important overlaps between traditionally defined policy areas — it’s important to remember one key issue that has serious repercussions for both our public school system and the separation of church and state: vouchers.

Vouchers (and some private school tax credits), known to some as “school choice” efforts, essentially take money away from public schools and funnel it towards private, often parochial schools. The public schools system epitomizes the American values of opportunity and equality, and the Jewish people have historically been major supporters of our public school system in keeping with the values laid out by Maimonides who wrote that “any city that does not have a school in it shall be cut off [all contact] until they find a teacher for the children” (Hilchot Talmud Torah 2:1).

Read more…

Senior LA Sarah Greenberg submitting testimony at House Armed Services

House Subcommittee Hearing on Religious Accommodations in the Military, Today!

At 2pm this afternoon, the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel is having a hearing on Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services. This promises to be a fascinating hearing with a number of interesting people testifying before the committee:

  • Mr. Michael Berry, Senior Counsel, Director of Military Affairs, Liberty Institute
  • Dr. Ron Crews, Executive Director, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty
  • Mr. Rabbi Bruce Kahn, CAPT, CHC, USN (Ret)
  • Mr. Travis Weber, Director, Center for Religious Liberty Family Research Council
  • Mr. Michael Weinstein, President, Military Religious Freedom Foundation

You can watch the hearing live here.

This hearing comes at an auspicious time, when the Air Force released new regulations regarding religious expression. As we learn more about what the implementations of policy will mean for actual religious freedom and Establishment issues in the Armed Services, we will follow this closely.

In advance of the hearing today, RAC Deputy Director Rachel Laser submitted testimony for the record (I submitted it in-person on her behalf), which is included below: Read more…

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