Nation’s Largest Jewish Organization Celebrates President Clinton’s Signing of Religious Liberty Bill
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Saperstein: "For people of faith in America, particularly for Jews and others of minority traditions, this is of monumental importance. It is their houses of worship that are most vulnerable to community prejudice. This bill ensures that houses of worship and therefore religious life in America will flourish without undue government interference."
WASHINGTON, September 22, 2000 - In response to President Clinton's signing of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (S. 2869/H.R. 4862), Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:
Today's signing ceremony is a cause for celebration by Americans of all faiths. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) renews our nation's founding promise to protect the rights of religious expression from undue state interference.
RLUIPA 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 the 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.
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 government 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 signing RLUIPA, President Clinton has reaffirmed the promise of America to every person of faith. We commend President Clinton and those who fought tirelessly to strengthen America's commitment to religious pluralism and religious freedom.
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.