I would like to publicly thank Mr. Gelfond for his concern for religious freedom and kavod shamayim as shown in his letter “The Battle for Religious Freedom” (December 31, 2020) regarding the worrying group “Secular Democrats of America.”
I would also like to thank Mr. Gelfond for clarifying (in private conversation) one of the matters mentioned in his letter. In the letter, he mentioned that this group seeks the “appointing of non-religious individuals to religious organizations.” When I read this, I envisioned the appointment of those who do not share our beliefs and values to positions of power in our shuls and yeshivahs where they could do significant damage; even if they did not have significant power at first, they could (following the example both of political anti-Semites throughout history and of bureaucrats seeking more power and authority) lie to the government in order to achieve their goals. However, upon reading the blueprint to which he refers, I found nothing of the sort, so I contacted him via The Jewish Link, and he helpfully clarified that he was referring to the SDA’s goal of appointing non-religious individuals to interfaith organizations (a less dangerous prospect, as such organizations already contain those who do not share our beliefs and values). Thus, while such concerns (of individuals who do not share our beliefs having undue power in our organizations and causing harm thereby) is a very real issue in other contexts, it is not part of the SDA’s agenda, or at least is not a part that they feel bold enough to try to advocate. Mr. Gelfond furthermore had the wisdom to recognize, after my inquiry, how his phrasing may have been misleading, and the intellectual integrity to thank me for pointing it out, and I would like to commend him greatly for this as well (though this trait of welcoming correction has already been commended by those far greater than myself, namely Shlomo Hamelech and Chazal).
I would also like to add one point to the issues mentioned in the letter. While not as overt in the blueprint, the website of the Secular Democrats of America clearly states, as the first element of their “Key Issues” page, that they oppose vouchers and all voucher-like schemes; this presumably includes not only schemes that would allow federal funding to be used to teach religion (a matter on which they likely have a valid point), but also schemes designed to level the playing field and offset the cost of needing to pay taxes to support public schools and then pay again for tuition for schools that are suitable for our children. This issue, if nothing else, puts the lie to their supposed concern (as indicated in their blueprint) for religious minorities, as it is such minorities (including our own community) that have the most need for these sorts of vouchers.Yitzhak Kornbluth