Largest Jewish Organization Opposes Anti-Terrorism Legislation Citing Need To Protect Habeas Corpus
WASHINGTON, April 16, 1996 -- The Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), the national Reform Jewish movment, today called on the members of the U.S. Senate to reject the conference report on the anti-terrorism legislation which is expected to reach the Senate floor tomorrow. In a letter from Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the UAHC declared "We cannot stand by while this important legislation is hijacked, and used as a vehicle to diminish the fundamental protections of individual rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, as traditionally protected by the writ of habeas corpus."
The full text of Rabbi Saperstein's letter follows:
The need for strong and comprehensive legislation to counter the threat of terrorism here at home and abroad is urgent. We strongly support the passage of such legislation, and regret that until now it has been delayed by those who have sought to attach extraneous amendments to it.
Notwithstanding the unarguable need to address with the threat of terrorism, we cannot stand by while this important legislation is hijacked, and used as a vehicle to diminish the fundamental protections of individual rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, as traditionally protected by the writ of habeas corpus. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (CSA) have long been committed to upholding these basic liberties. Most recently on May 2, 1995, the CSA "resolved to oppose congressional reforms of habeas corpus proceedings that would make it more difficult for federal courts to reach and review the substantive merits of federal constitutional claims of habeas corpus petitioners who were convicted in state courts."
We are disheartened that the conference report that the Senate is scheduled to consider tomorrow includes a provision to all but eliminate the historic and indispensable writ of habeas corpus. We therefore, reluctantly, urge you to vote against the conference report. We stand ready to work with our elected representatives in both houses of Congress and on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to produce legislation which will combat the scourge of terrorism without compromising fundamental American values.
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 .