Torture, while cruel and inhumane, is not something that we often hear about from mainstream media, nor is it something we have written about very recently at the Religious Action Center. The Reform Jewish position on this issue is clear: in a post-9/11 world we understand the need for enhanced national security, and yet we believe that security must be balanced with the importance of civil liberties and bodily autonomy. Experts agree that torturing prisoners or holding them in extended solitary confinement go beyond the practical needs of national security (since torture is found to be an ineffective way to obtain information) and abandon the constitutional right to due process as well as fundamental Jewish values. Nearly six years after President Obama came into office and promised to close Guantanamo Bay, the detention center stays open and the 149 individuals held there remain.
Today is the one-year anniversary of Shelby v. Holder, the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
Renewed by bipartisan majorities on several occasions, most recently in 2006, the Voting Rights Act long protected Americans from discrimination at the ballot box. The Shelby decision struck down Section 4(b), a provision of the bill that required states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to pre-clear potentially discriminatory voting changes with the federal Department of Justice. While some parts of the Voting Rights Act do remain in place, in the year since the Court’s decision a number of states and jurisdictions have engaged in discriminatory behaviors. Read more…
It’s been an exciting few weeks for marriage equality—here’s the latest on where we’ve come from, where we are today and where we’re heading!
While 2013 may have seen more victories for the LGBT community than any previous year, all the accomplishments of the last few weeks makes 2014 already look like a very promising year for gay and lesbian individuals, allies and advocates who work tirelessly for equal rights.
It’s been a long and uphill battle for gay and lesbian Americans. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which had two major provisions: the first declared that no state, territory or possession of the United States nor Indian tribe is required to give any sort of recognition to the marriage of a gay and lesbian couple as recognized or performed in any other state. The second defined marriage for federal regulatory purposes as the union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. Yet in the last 18 years, our country has come a long way. Not only was the second provision of DOMA struck down over the summer, but the number of states recognizing same-sex marriages through legislative action and judicial rulings is increasing at such a rapid rate, it’s becoming hard to keep up with blog posts! Read more…
In the final hours of 2013, Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction for Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged and the Christian Brothers Service, deciding that until further notice, these organizations do not have to comply with rules for religiously-affiliated non-profits under the contraception mandate implemented on January 1, 2014.
In her order for the injunction last Tuesday, Justice Sotomayor gave the government until 10 a.m. Friday, January 3rd, to respond. In the memorandum filed on Friday morning, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that since the insurer, Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust, has a “church plan” under ERISA (and is therefore fully exempt), neither the insurer, Christian Brothers, nor the religious non-profit employer, Little Sisters of the Poor, would have to provide contraception care. This is similar to the argument the government used when this case was heard in the 10th Circuit. Little Sisters qualifies as a religious non-profit and therefore would have to self-certify to be accommodated.
You might be familiar with this song. You might be familiar with the name Edward Snowden, and you might know about information leaked this summer suggesting that the NSA is collecting an immense amount of data on American citizens by tracking phones and data-mining, amongst other surveillance techniques.
On Monday, the outrage that met the discovery of this NSA activity was somewhat vindicated when a federal judge ruled that the metadata program is likely unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment which guarantees “the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Judge Richard Leon issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the NSA from collecting metadata from the Verizon accounts of the plaintiff Larry Klayman and one of his clients, calling the program “almost Orwellian.” However, the injunction is delayed awaiting appeal.
For every step forward in the fight for reproductive choice, there seems to be a step back. This is one of those weeks – a success coupled with a serious challenge lying ahead.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear oral argument in Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, in which Terry Cline, the Oklahoma Commissioner of Health, sought to reinstate a law that would restrict doctors’ use of drugs in place of surgery to perform an abortion. The decision came after a decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which ruled that the 2011 law was unconstitutional. The 2011 law in question would prohibit use of the medication RU-486 and others in abortion procedures, significantly limiting access.. In deciding that review of the case was “improvidently granted,” the U.S. Supreme Court granted an important success to women and families in the state of Oklahoma.
On October 29, we wrote about a decision that came out of the Texas District Court, striking down parts of a highly restrictive state anti-choice law. On Thursday, the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans overruled that decision, meaning the law can take effect as arguments continue to move through the courts in the coming months.
The right to vote is fundamental to our constitutional democracy. While the right to vote was initially restricted to white, property-owning males, the hard work of brave civil rights activists has allowed this inalienable right to extend to (almost) all Americans. These rights have been achieved, in part, through legislative means, particularly through the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has been renewed four times (most recently in 2006).
On June 25, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby v. Holder to invalidate parts of the Voting Rights Act. Parts of the Act were drafted in our conference room here at the RAC, and we strongly opposed the Court’s decision in Shelby. The Court struck down Section 4(b), which contained a “formula” requiring certain jurisdictions with a history of disenfranchisement problems to seek approval, or “preclearance,” from the Department of Justice when making any changes to election procedures. Read more…