Central Conference of American Rabbis Expresses Concern About “Religious Liberty Task Force”

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Central Conference of American Rabbis views with concern U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s establishment of a “Religious Liberty Task Force.” “As Jews, we know intimately the importance of religious freedom protections, which have allowed us and many other communities of faith to live freely according to our religious beliefs, practices, and observances.”[i] Because we hold the First Amendment’s promise of religious liberty sacred, we must oppose attempts to twist it into an excuse for discrimination.

We take exception to the false and troubling assertions made by the Attorney General when he initiated the Task Force on Monday. Saying, “We’ve seen nuns forced to buy contraceptives,”[ii] is a contemptible misrepresentation of the truth, indicating the Attorney General’s intention to misuse religious liberty as a means for public and private employers to withhold reproductive liberty from those who seek to exercise it. By holding out discriminatory Colorado baker Jack Phillips as a hero,[iii] the Attorney General signals that the Task Force will be willing to use the concept of  religious freedom as a justification for discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.

“Coming from our Jewish history as victims of discrimination and oppression, [Reform rabbis have a] duty to speak out and fight for the rights and protections of all vulnerable communities when they are put at risk.”[iv]

We call upon President Trump, Attorney General Sessions, and members of Congress to assure that the Religious Liberty Task force protect the sacred religious trust of religious liberty which should never be used to justify discrimination.

Rabbi David E. Stern                                                                                                        Rabbi Steven A. Fox
President                                                                                                                            Chief Executive
Central Conference of American Rabbis

[i] CCAR Resolution on State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, May 6, 2015.
[ii] “Sessions announces ‘religious liberty task force,’” The Hill, July 30, 2018.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] CCAR Resolution on State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, May 6, 2015.