June 30, 2023
In response to the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform Movement institutions:
“We condemn the Supreme Court’s decision allowing business owners to use personal beliefs as a justification for discriminating against LGBTQ+ people when selling custom goods or services. Although this ruling does not authorize discrimination in all public accommodations, the creation of a broad new free speech exemption for such businesses opens the door to further discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, as well as religious minorities and other marginalized groups. As Reform Jews, we know that deep faith and a commitment to LGBTQ+ equality are not mutually exclusive – and, as we argued in an amicus brief alongside 30+ religious, civil rights, and grassroots organizations, nondiscrimination laws must carefully balance civil rights and religious freedom. Today’s ruling undermines this critical balance.
The Reform Jewish Movement has long supported LGBTQ+ equality, beginning in 1965 when the Women of Reform Judaism called for the decriminalization of homosexuality. We have been proud to support major advancements in LGBTQ+ rights including the Supreme Court decisions in Obergefell v. Hodges and Bostock v. Clayton County and passage of the Respect for Marriage Act last year. In recent years, the Union for Reform Judaism and Central Conference of American Rabbis passed historic resolutions affirming the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people. Our support for LGBTQ+ equality is guided by values embedded in our Jewish text and tradition, including the belief that all people are created b’tzelem Elohim – in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27). The Mishnah builds on this core teaching: ‘when humans stamp coins with one seal they are all identical but the Holy One stamps every human being uniquely so that none is like another’ (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). From this, we learn that all people, even in their diversity, deserve dignity and respect.
Our Reform Jewish Movement includes many beloved LGBTQ+ people: they are our clergy, congregants, children and young people, staff members and neighbors. Yet far too many in our community will be terrified and heartbroken by this decision, which comes as LGBTQ+ people are under unprecedented attack across the United States. At this critical moment, we reaffirm our support for all those who seek to live without fear of harassment or discrimination, and our clergy and institutions are committed to caring for and supporting all those affected by this decision. We will continue to fight for full LGBTQ+ equality.”