July 23, 2014 · 25 Tamuz

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Jewish Values and the Separation of Church and State
Neither biblical mandates nor rabbinic rulings completely explain the Jewish community's strong commitment to religious freedom and the separation of church and state. It is, rather, historical experience which demonstrates that the Jewish people have suffered religious persecution when the state was controlled by a particular religion.

Church/State Issues and the Reform Jewish Movement

Through its various resolutions and past actions, the Union for Reform Judaism has made the protection of religion from government and the protection of government from religion a priority. In 1965, the URJ passed a resolution on the Separation of Church and State that said:

"While as citizens, of course, we accept and respect the laws of the land, including those laws which include provisions as to which we were and are apprehensive, we re-affirm our long-established position that the principle of separation of church and state is best for both church and state and is indispensable for the preservation of that spirit of religious liberty which is a unique blessing of American democracy. This principle is shared by forward-looking elements of all faiths."

The URJ later passed resolutions that opposed federal aid to private schools, prayer in school and tax-credits for religious private schools. In 1991, the URJ passed a resolution supporting the 1991 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. At the 2005 Biennial, the URJ passed a resolution specifically on Engaging the Religious Right.

American Jewish Values and Church/State Issues

There are many students of American Jewish life who believe that the struggle to expand separation of church and state in America is one of the greatest contributions Jews have rendered to the enlargement of American freedom.

Only in America have Jews been free to pursue our faith and to organize our communal lives, equal under law and in practice, without government interference. Thus America — through its Constitution — created a system of religious liberty that has proved to be generally fair and effective, one that Jews wish to preserve. Jews have learned, through history that both religion and the state flourish best when they are separate.


Other Resolutions

WRJ

Resolution on Public Education and Separation of Church and State (1981)



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