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Knowing our Neighbors, Ensuring Religious Freedom

Knowing our Neighbors, Ensuring Religious Freedom

Last month, the Obama administration announced new measures to combat discrimination on the basis of religion and to ensure protections for religious freedom.

The impetus for these new measures came from the Know Your Neighbor coalition, of which the Religious Action Center is part, whose work was celebrated at the White House last year. Know Your Neighbor’s goal is to encourage and facilitate conversations across religious groups and beliefs.

Following this event last year, the Justice Department (DOJ) convened roundtables around the country and in Washington, D.C. to discuss these issues, “protecting people and places of worship from religion-based hate crimes; addressing religious discrimination in employment; combating religious discrimination, including bullying, in education; and addressing unlawful barriers that interfere with the construction of houses of worship.” DOJ released a report on these roundtables, alongside other measures to fight against religious discrimination.

In addition to announcements from DOJ, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Education also released changes they are making to ensure religious freedom. The details of the policy changes across the agencies can be found here.

The work of Know Your Neighbor, and these important new measures from the Obama administration indicate that ensuring even our “First Freedoms” require attention, care and consistent attention. By better “knowing our neighbors,” we can take important steps to build even greater understanding across lines of difference.

Jewish tradition teaches us to accept all people, without prejudice or bias. The Torah states "You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the Eternal" (Leviticus 19:17-18).

As we work together to repair our broken world, we know that ensuring robust religious freedom for all people is key.

Sarah Greenberg is the Assistant Legislative Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she was an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant in 2013-2014. Sarah graduated in 2013 from Cornell University, and is originally from New York City.

Sarah Greenberg