January 30, 1997
Responding to today's release of the Christian Coalition's legislative agenda for the 105thCongress, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism,issued the following statement:
"We welcome the concern for the poor and the desire to combat poverty articulated today by theChristian Coalition. It is time, and then some, that Americans of all faiths join in the effort toeradicate poverty and the indignity that goes along with it; and if the Christian Coalition'scommitment to these issues is a serious one, it can be an important participant in that effort.
There is, however, good reason to question their commitment. The "Samaritan Project" agendaitself fails to match lofty word with sensible deed. Its dominant theme is channeling governmentfunds to sectarian institutions. The rhetoric rings with calls for urgent action, but the agendathey propose would diminish fundamental constitutional liberties, weaken our public schoolsthrough vouchers and parochiaid, and further restrict a woman's right to choose. We agree, asmust all people of conscience, that poverty is the predominant moral challenge of our day, butundermining the Constitution and abandoning our public schools bring us no closer to ananswer.
Finally, we note with interest that the "crown jewel" of the "Contract with the AmericanFamily," the so-called "Religious Freedom Amendment" is now relegated to the last pages of theiragenda. As the consequences of that proposal became clear to the public, and to members ofCongress, support for its radical reworking of the First Amendment faded. Much of the agendaunveiled today attempts to accomplish by legislation what such a Constitutional amendment woulddo—permit far greater government funding of sectarian institutions and activities,diminishing true religious liberty by lowering the wall of separation between church and state. Just as the Amendment failed to gain popular support during the 104th Congress, we are confidentthat the same approach—however gussied up—will be unsuccessful in the 105th.
We stand ready to work with all those who are serious about solving the problems of poverty,about assuming our responsibility as God's partners in the holy work of repairing the world. Butwe will vigorously resist those who would threaten religious liberty by blurring—orerasing—the precious separation of church and state."
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis .