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Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Welcomes Defeat of House Resolution on National Day of Prayer and Fasting

"The fact that it garnered a majority deeply troubling. Our First Freedom...deserves greater respect than this House has shown it."


Contact: Jeff Mandell, 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, June 30, 1999 -- In response to yesterday's vote on House Concurrent Resolution 94 - "Recognizing the public need for reconciliation and healing, urging the United States to unite in seeking God, and recommending that the Nation's leaders call for days of prayer" - Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Last night, the House of Representatives finally said "Enough." From vouchers to school prayer, from the Ten Commandments to "Charitable Choice," we have, in this legislative session, witnessed an unprecedented attack on the fundamental notion of religious freedom in America. Yesterday, Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) joined by much of the House leadership, put forth a resolution that sought to advise religious leaders and to privilege one religious tradition with the House's imprimatur. By turning back this misguided "Sense of the House" resolution, our Representatives, at last, drew a clear line between legislating and evangelizing.

While the resolution was only advisory in nature, in its own way it was one of the most offensive measures we have seen from this House. The Chenoweth resolution amounted to an attempt to make the House go on record pushing religious leaders to make specific pronouncements. What's more, those "recommendations" reflected a very narrow spectrum of the religious beliefs held by Americans. The "fasting and humiliation before God" that the resolution called for are a part of only a few of the faith traditions reflected in America, and are largely foreign to those Americans who choose not to adhere to any religion. The dawn of the millennium that the resolution recognized as a unique opportunity for people "to reconcile themselves with God and with one another" also represents the belief of one particular religion, Christianity. And so on.

The fact that it garnered a majority vote - but fell short of the two-thirds necessary to pass an item from the Suspension Calendar - is deeply troublesome. Our First Freedom, the guarantee of religious liberty so ingeniously arrived at by our nation's Founders, deserves greater respect than this House has shown it. We commend the leadership of Representative Chet Edwards (D-TX) and the others who spoke against the resolution on the House floor. By standing for the First Amendment, they stood for the values which truly make our nation great.


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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