Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Is it 2014 or 1964?: Time for a Voter’s Bill of Rights in Ohio

By Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk

Is it 2014? Tell me, really. I live and work as a rabbi in the State of Ohio where you’d think it was 1964. In Ohio, our Secretary of State, our legislature, our Governor and so many others speak out against cheating in the election system. They don’t point to any causes of voter fraud because the insinuation that there is rampant fraud and unfairness in our election system is itself a fraud.  Just two years ago, the Ohio legislature passed a massive election system overhaul called Ohio House Bill 194 and then was forced to withdraw its implementation. Why? Because thousands upon thousands of Ohioans made their voice known that voter ID laws, restrictions on poll workers from helping voters find the proper polling location, and cutbacks in early voting hours, were unfair restrictions and were roundly rejected by the citizens of Ohio. Read more…

Kids in Prison?

March is the Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing, organized by the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. This month is an opportunity for the faith community to address the way in which our society holds children accountable when they are convicted of crimes.

Did you know…

  • Children sentenced to life in prison are among the most vulnerable members of our society. Nearly 80% of such children reported witnessing violence in their homes.
  • The racial discrepancy of youth sentenced to life without parole is massive. African American children receive such a sentence at 10 times the rate of white children.
  • 77% of girls sentenced to life without parole say they have been sexually abused.
  • Children housed in adult prisons are eight times more likely to commit suicide; five times more likely to be sexually assaulted; two times more likely to be assaulted by staff; and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon compared to children in juvenile facilities. Read more…
Safe Schools Improvement Act

Support the Safe Schools Improvement Act

This past weekend marked the sixth and last RAC L’Taken Social Justice Seminar for the year. For the past 3 months, every other weekend, approximately 300 students have come from all over the United States to Washington D.C. to learn about their role in the political system and how they can be advocates for the issues they care most about. The weekend culminates in a visit to Capitol Hill where the students have the chance to advocate before their members of Congress on the most pressing issues of our time.

This year, students interested in the rights of LGBT individuals had the opportunity to attend an in-depth session on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and particular challenges of marriage equality and adoption rights that primarily effect LGBT adults. In their visits on the Hill, they drew connections from their own lives to talk about why ENDA is such an important, common-sense piece of legislation that would directly affect them and the many LGBT people they know and love.

In having the chance to hear these student’s speeches and personal stories about why the rights and equality of LGBT people is so important to them, I was struck by how some of the students that identified as LGBT spoke about personal experiences of discrimination and harassment. While LGBT children can talk about the fear of growing up and being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity, how do we protect LGBT children from the discrimination they face in their youth? In their school communities and beyond? Read more…

Capital Punishment on Purim?

Purim, on the one hand, is an easy holiday to love. There are costumes, hamentashen, a fun story and songs; we are obligated to have a good time. On the other hand, Purim is also controversial—and one such area worth highlighting is the role of capital punishment in the Purim narrative. Since the era of rabbinic Judaism, capital punishment has been practically impossible under Jewish law, and Reform Jews have long formally opposed the death penalty, “believing that, there is no crime for which the taking of human life by society is justified.” But on Purim, we come across the death penalty several times as we read the Megillah.

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Voting Rights: Too Crucial to Ignore

Since I last wrote about the Voting Rights Amendment Act on this blog, the crucial bill has continued to make progress in Congress, as cosponsors of both parties continue to sign on in support of the bill. Advocates are hopeful that the bill’s provisions can be implemented before the midterm Congressional election in November of this year, a decisive deadline.

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Religious Liberty or Segregation?

When Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning gay “propaganda” last June, LGBT activists and allies around the world were rightfully outraged. The law includes bans on gay pride parades, fines for gay rights groups and a number of abhorrent discriminatory measures. When the Winter Olympic in Sochi rolled around, visitors to Sochi were subjected to the laws that forbid public demonstrations and dissemination of materials related to gay rights.

In looking at the anti-gay laws in other countries, we can be thankful that the United States is widely accepting of the LGBT community. And while we know we still have a long way to go in ensuring the rights and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, we also know that historically, every time our country has expanded protection and banned the discrimination of different groups of Americans, we have never looked back.  Read more…

Felon disenfranchisement

Attorney General Spotlights Felon Disenfranchisement

Attorney General Eric Holder has made an effort in recent months to elevate key civil rights issues, especially those issues affecting our nation’s broken criminal justice system. One unexpected issue the Attorney General has chosen to highlight is the crucial problem of felon disenfranchisement. Amidst a backdrop of increasing bipartisan support for sentencing reform on Capitol Hill, increased knowledge about the racial disparities of mandatory minimum sentences, new questions about capital punishment and other significant developments in the areas of criminal justice and civil rights, the issue of felon disenfranchisement is another moral challenge of our time—and one gaining bipartisan momentum.

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