September 01, 2014 · 6 Elul

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Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Celebrates House Passage of Religious Liberty Protection Act

Pelavin: "For people of faith in America, today's vote means a renewal of the promise that their faith, regardless of how many adherents it has, will not be subject to governmental whim."

Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, July 15 -- In response to today's House of Representatives bipartisan vote to pass the Religious Liberty Protection Act (H.R. 1691), Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, applauded the House's action. According to Pelavin, "RLPA is not simply feel-good legislation. It will make a real difference to Americans who take their religious beliefs seriously."

Pelavin, who also serves as Chair of the Legislative Taskforce of the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion, a broad-based coalition of religious and secular organizations dedicated to advocating for the passage of RLPA, also noted that "For people of faith in America, today's vote means a renewal of the promise that their faith, regardless of how many adherents it has, will not be subject to governmental whim."

The full text of Pelavin's statement follows:

Today's House vote is a cause for celebration by Americans of faith - of any faith - across this great nation. The Religious Liberty Protection Act renews our nation's founding promise to protect the adherents of any religion from state interference.

RLPA is not simply feel-good legislation. It will make a real difference to Americans who take their religious beliefs seriously and will protect all of America's religious communities. This legislation was necessitated by the Supreme Court's 1997 decision in City of Boerne v. Flores, which struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Boerne left religious groups in general, and religious minorities most particularly, without the Constitutional protections that have made religious experience in America so unique and remarkable.

As Jews, we have long shared in America's unparalleled tradition of religious freedom. After centuries of harassment and persecution in every corner of the globe, we understand and appreciate the tremendous gift that America's tradition of religious freedom has been to people of faith for more than two centuries. For much of American Jewry, the struggle to protect our religious liberty, to ensure that we, and our neighbors, are free to follow the dictates of our conscience, is a survival issue. Our history, so often marked by oppression at the hands of societies intolerant of minority religions, has taught us that governmental interference with religion must be checked. RLPA reinstates the need for any law or regulation that interferes with religious practice to do so only for the sake of serving a "compelling state interest" via the "least restrictive means" possible.

For people of faith in America, today's vote means a renewal of the promise that their faith, regardless of how many adherents it has, will not be subject to governmental whim. As Jews, we are reassured that our First Freedom, including the rights to study and pray together cannot and will not be abridged lightly. By passing RLPA, the House of Representatives has reiterated the promise of America to every person of faith. We commend the House for its actions today, and we urge the Senate and the President to follow suit in helping make real America's commitment to religious pluralism and religious freedom.

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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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