Reform Jewish Leader Applauds High Court Decision to Uphold Rights of People with Disabilities
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Wishner: With this ruling the Supreme Court has affirmed that states do not have the power to disregard with impunity the dignity of disabled individuals.
WASHINGTON, May 18, 2004 - In response to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision yesterday in Tennessee v. Lane, upholding the right under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of people with disabilities to sue for damages when states are not in compliance with the Act's accessibility requirements, Jane Wishner, Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
The Reform Jewish Movement envisions a society in which the inherent dignity of every individual is valued - not merely in rhetoric, but in the laws and practices of our institutions of government. As we pledged in a 1981 resolution supporting the rights of the disabled, we have and will continue to "work actively for equal rights and accessibility for disabled persons." Accordingly, we have strived to make our synagogues and office buildings, as well as our prayer services, accessible to all; and we have worked with like-minded organizations to urge the government to ensure handicap accessibility.
When states do not comply with all the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, lawsuits are one of the only tools available to those who suffer as a result of inaccessibility. Though opponents of the decision paint it as a violation of states' rights, it is in fact a matter of ensuring equal protection and equal accessibility to places of government for all Americans. For disabled people who otherwise could not afford the legal fees associated with defending their rights, the Court's ruling to allow damages empowers them to fight for equality and fair treatment.
With this ruling the Supreme Court has affirmed that states may not disregard with impunity the dignity of disabled individuals. We hope and pray that every state will assume its responsibility for the needs of all of its citizens, and that discrimination against people with disabilities will soon be a thing of the past.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis .