Reform Jewish Leader Commends Congressional Victory for Bill of Rights and Religious Liberties in America
"Today members of Congress voted to preserve America's status as a nation unique among the nations for its wealth of religious diversity, expression, and tolerance."
WASHINGTON, JUNE 4, 1998 -- Rabbi David Saperstein, co-chair of the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, the main coalition opposing the Istook constitutional amendment (H.J.Res. 78) comprised of over 60 national religious, civil liberties, and educational groups, and Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, commended members of the House of Representatives for choosing "Madison and Jefferson over Istook and Gingrich," and for their bipartisan vote to preserve "America's status as a nation unique among the nations for its wealth of religious diversity, expression, and tolerance."
The full text of the statement follows:
"Today, the House of Representatives has chosen Madison and Jefferson over Istook and Gingrich. It has voted, resoundingly, to reject the latter's attempt to amend the Bill of Rights for the first time in our nation's history. We welcome this bipartisan defeat of those who would strip the First Amendment of its protection of religious liberty, and commend those courageous members of the House who stood with America's mainstream religious denominations in opposition to Rep. Istook's so-called "Religious Freedom Amendment" and in opposition to the Christian Coalition political pressures and manipulation.
"We live in the most religiously diverse nation in the history of the world, where more than 2,000 religions, denominations, and sects thrive and co-exist in harmony. As Jews, we rejoice that America -- the golden land of inalienable liberties -- is the nation where all religions, including minority religions, enjoy the most freedoms, the most rights, and the most opportunities in the world. A defining concept of America is its constitutional guarantee, through the Establishment Clause, that our status as citizens will never depend on our religious beliefs and practices.
"The Istook Amendment threatened to tear down the structure of religious tolerance which we as a nation, and minority religions in particular, cherish. Imagine those 2,000 religious groups competing for who will next lead school children in their sectarian prayer; whose sectarian symbol will be placed on which government building, flag, or stationery; and, particularly, which religions will get how much of the taxpayers' monies for their religious activities. Tragically, in the name of religion, the Istook Amendment would have visited on America the kind of sectarian competition, divisiveness, and strife that has torn apart so many nations but which we, because we have kept government out of religion, have been spared.
"We commend members of Congress for preserving America's status as a nation unique among the nations for its wealth of religious diversity, expression, and tolerance."
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.