May 21, 2024
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Orthodox Community Sees High Court Ruling as ‘Ominous Sign’

While many American Jewish organizations are falling all over themselves in public support of the June 26th Supreme Court decision to recognize the legality of same sex marriage in all 50 states, the ruling has left the Orthodox community concerned about what this approval will mean in the future.

The Orthodox Union stated that “the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages. Our religion is emphatic in defining marriage as relationship between a man and a woman. Our beliefs in this regard are unalterable. At the same time we note that Judaism teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals.”

The OU statement went on to ask whether the laws protecting the civil rights of LGBT Americans contained accommodations and exemptions for “institutions and individuals who abide by religious teachings that limit their ability to support same-sex relationships?”

Could, for example, a Jewish institution lose its tax exempt status if it declines to recognize same-sex marriages? Could a Jewish day school or yeshiva lose such exemptions if it refused to accept a child of same sex parents? Or could exemptions be lost by synagogues not accepting families with married gay heads of household? Could these same Jewish organizations lose opportunities to receive government grants?

Abba Cohen, director of the Washington office for Agudath Israel of America, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the high court’s ruling was an “ominous sign.”

“We are deeply concerned that as a result of today’s ruling, and as the dissenting justices have pointed out, members and institutions of traditional communities like the Orthodox Jewish community we represent may incur moral opprobrium and risk tangible negative consequence if they refuse to transgress their beliefs, and even if they simply teach and express their religious views publicly,” said an Agudah statement.

The Rabbinical Council of America rejected the Court’s “redefinition of marriage. Marriage is an institution defined by the Bible and subsequent religious codes and it is upon the foundation of traditional family life that our society has been built for millennia. We are sobered by the response of Chief Justice John Roberts that “people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.”

RCA President Rabbi Leonard Matansky said, “We remind all Americans of faith, Jewish and non-Jewish, that no court can change God’s immutable law. We will redouble our efforts to use persuasion to make the case for God’s eternal truths about the nuclear family and the bond between husband and wife. We stand committed not to lose faith in faith itself, and hope that others who cherish God’s teachings will join us.”

There was, however, great support by many Jewish organizations. Thirteen of them, representing Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist denominations were part of an amicus brief filed by the ADL in Obergefell v. Hodges, the very case that started the movement toward a High Court Decision.

“Jewish tradition reminds us that we were all created equally, b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and also shows us that marriage is a sacred responsibility, not only between the partners, but also between the couple and the larger community,” stated the Conservative movement.

It’s the next question and step in this recent process that the OU’s statement addresses.

“We now turn to the next critical question for our community, and other traditional faith communities – will American law continue to uphold and embody principles of religious liberty and diversity?

And that could be the most important question of all.

By Phil Jacobs

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