Tag Archives: Church State Separation
Seder Plate

Freedom to Wander, Freedom to Believe: Religious Freedom on Passover

It is probably a safe assumption that Passover is most likely to be associated with freedom. As we move through the Seder, we reflect on our ancestors’ fight for freedom and those around the world today who are not free.

What is interesting to me, though, is that the Torah is not translated for the words “freedom” or “free.” Moses does not go before Pharaoh and ask for freedom, rather he asks for his people to be let go. And, I think this is a subtle and important distinction. There is something particular about being released from oppression, compared to assuming the rights to live according to your own beliefs and views. They are hopefully complementary actions.

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drawing oral argument

From Oral Arguments Onwards: Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood

This blog post is adapted from an Advocacy Update sent by Women of Reform Judaism on March 27, 2014. For more information about the background of these cases, check out this blog post.

Following oral argument on Tuesday morning in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, eyes are now turning to the end of June when the Supreme Court is likely to issue its ruling. Although much of the deliberating and deciding goes on behind closed doors, oral argument is an important opportunity to gauge what the justices are considering when looking at the case.

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Exterior Supreme Court

Reform Leaders Weigh in on Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Cases

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp. v. Sebelius. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism jointly released a statement, noting that:

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Exterior Supreme Court

Religious Liberty and Reproductive Rights: Understanding the Issues in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby

A version of this blog originally appeared at WRJblog on March 19, 2014. Check back here for more updates on Hobby Lobby after oral arguments this afternoon. For immediate updates, be sure to check out SCOTUSblog.com.

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobbyand Conestoga v. Sebelius. These cases have been getting a fair amount of coverage in the press and attention in the advocacy community over the past few weeks. If you are new to these cases, or if you’re excited (like me) to see what will happen before the nine justices on March 25th, here’s a rundown of the basic arguments, the stakes, the position of the Reform Movement, and some suggestions for further reading in anticipation of oral argument.

Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of the story to understand the questions before the Court.

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Exterior Supreme Court

Counting Down to Hobby Lobby

In just under three weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby LobbyStores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. These two cases ask whether private corporations have ability to exercise religious freedom, and if so, whether the contraception mandate enacted by the Affordable Care Act violates the religious freedom of those corporations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). If you want to read more about the details of the case, and to learn more about the Reform Movement’s position on the contraception mandate, check out this blog.

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Oppose Harmful Vouchers Legislation in Congress

During School Choice Week in January, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced two bills that would transform the public education system as we know it. By privatizing a majority of funds for public schools, The Scholarships for Kids Act (S. 1968/H.R. 4000) and The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education Act (S. 1909) (or the “CHOICE Act”) would together turn a significant amount of federal education funds into vouchers.

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The Problem with Vouchers

In the wake of School Choice Week, advocates took to their bully pulpits to rally support for state and federal school voucher programs. Supporters of vouchers in Congress have introduced new legislation that would redirect much-needed funding from public schools to private schools.

The Reform Movement has consistently opposed vouchers for many reasons, such as taxpayer funding for private education is essentially giving up on the public education system, and  many of the private schools that receive government money are religious schools, thus violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and breaking down the separation between church and state.

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School Choice in the Spotlight

Nothing says the end of January like school choice, right? January 26th kicked off “National School Choice Week,” a week of advocacy focused on different types of educational opportunities for children, from public schools, to charter schools, and above all, vouchers.

The term “school choice” and the language proponents use masks the detrimental effect that voucher programs have. Vouchers are a form of government subsidy given to parents to use towards tuition and other related expenses in private and parochial schools as an alternative to sending their children to underperforming public schools. From an purely education standpoint, vouchers are harmful because they redirect money from public schools to private schools – once the funds have gone to private schools, the general populace no longer has control over how the public money is spent. Ultimately, the “choice” in “school choice” lies with private school administrators, and not with parents. Read more…