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Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Blasts Substance, Process, on Church-State Amendments to Juvenile Justice Bill

Saperstein: "Do not allow those who would rewrite the First Amendment to do so in the name of protecting our children. Our Constitution, our country, and our children deserve far better."

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, June 16, 1999--In a letter to the House leadership this afternoon, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, condemned a series of amendments to the Juvenile Justice bill and the process by which the House has undertaken considering those amendments.

In a letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Dick Armey, Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, and Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, .Saperstein said, "Do not allow those who would rewrite the First Amendment to do so in the name of protecting our children. Our Constitution, our country, and our children deserve far better." The complete text of the letter follows:

I write urgently to express our outrage over the proceedings of the House of Representatives as that body considers the Juvenile Justice bill. The bill itself is objectionable, going to great lengths to punish children who commit crimes but doing little to address the problems that lead children to commit crimes.

But if legislating an array of punitive new Juvenile Justice provisions was not enough, we now see that amendments are being allowed which would drastically change the landscape of church state relations in this country (we are particularly concerned about amendment numbers 9, 13, 59, 76, and 152). With no hearings, no committee consideration, and no advance warning (as you know, the Rule was not released until midnight last night!), you have allowed amendments to be considered which would irreparably damage the First Amendment to our Constitution, and would distort the careful balance between church and state so ingeniously arrived at by our nation's Founders. And the amendments, which would impact on our First Freedom, are allotted a cursory five or ten minutes of debate.

As American Jews, members of a religious minority, we are deeply concerned about the potential effects of these amendments. But moreover, as Jews, we are committed to the ideals of the democratic process, to the fundamental notions of justice and fairness that our faith proscribes and our government aspires toward. Sadly, the House of Representatives is falling short of those ideals in its frenzied rush to pass the Juvenile Justice bill.

On behalf of 870 congregations, 1800 rabbis, and 1.5 million Reform Jews across North America, I cannot say strongly enough that this bill is unwise, that the process you have established is unfair, and that the amendments on church-state issues are unacceptable. Do not allow those who would rewrite the First Amendment to do so in the name of protecting our children. Our Constitution, our country, and our children deserve far better.

Sincerely,

/s/
Rabbi David Saperstein

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.



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