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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘freedom of religion’

Dallas Rabbi Sued for Running Home-Based Synagogue

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

A Dallas-area rabbi who uses his home as a synagogue is being sued by a neighbor who says it has lowered his property values.

Rabbi Yaakov Rich told the local Fox affiliate Fox4 in a video posted Wednesday that his 3,700-square-foot home is a synagogue with about 25 members. A website identifies his synagogue as Congregation Toras Chaim, with the tag line, “An intimate space … Grow at your pace.”

The website also announces that the Liberty Institute, a conservative Christian advocacy and legal defense organization, has agreed to represent the congregation in the current lawsuit.

“We just want to have our religious freedom to be able to pray and to study in this house,” Rich told Fox.

David Schneider, who lives across the street from the home-based synagogue, is seeking $50,000 in compensatory damages from Rich, saying that the synagogue has caused a decline in the value of his home.

Rich asserts that property values rise around Orthodox synagogues because adherents have to be able to walk to their places of worship and will pay more to buy a home in the area.

Rich recently filed with the city for a certificate stating that he runs a congregation in the home at the request of the city, which can then ask him to adhere to city and state building codes.

Congressman Aims at Jew’s Crusade against Army Religious Coercion

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Mikey Weinstein couldn’t be happier to have an amendment in his honor approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, even if it is one aimed at keeping  his Military Religious Freedom Foundation as far away from the Pentagon as possible. He couldn’t be happier because Weinstein is the kind of guy who revels in the dislike of his adversaries.

“How terrified are these little pu***es in Congress that they have to pass an amendment about me?” he shouted in a phone interview from the foundation’s headquarters in Albuquerque, N.M.

Weinstein wants troops free from coercive evangelizing by their superiors, but a number of conservative lawmakers and activists see Weinstein as the threat to religious freedom.

Inspired by a report that Weinstein had met with Pentagon brass, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) introduced the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act in a statement that called Weinstein a “notorious anti-Christian zealot.”

In his House speech the same day, Huelskamp complained, “It seems that secretive meetings continue with individuals actually opposed to religious liberties.”

Weinstein welcomed the amendment, which requires the Pentagon to notify Congress of any meeting it holds with civilians to discuss military policy with respect to religious liberty. The language of the amendment, he notes, also would cover meetings between the Pentagon and Christian conservatives.

The amendment reflects growing concern in certain quarters that Weinstein is an anti-Christian crusader in disguise of a fighter for freedom from religion coercion in the military.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) in May asked the Pentagon for further information about a meeting between its officials and “anti-Christian extremist Mikey Weinstein,” and Rep. Michele Bachmann said the meeting was with “left-wing, anti-Christian activists.”

The core of Weinstein’s threat, as depicted by his conservative opponents, is that he is at the vanguard of a bid to squelch religious expression in the military but Weinstein does not target Christian expression as long as there is no evidence of coercion. His problem is with commanders who intimidate subordinates by permitting proselytizing — or engaging in it themselves.

“The military is indescribably tribal, adversarial, communal, ritualistic,” Weinstein said. “If you are being even gently evangelized by your military superior, ‘Get the f*** out of my face, sir’ is not an option.”

Weinstein has been lobbing bombs at the religious establishment since the mid-2000s, when two of his sons told him of coercive efforts by their superiors at his alma mater, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He established his foundation in late 2005.

His younger son Curtis ,said he was exposed to anti-Semitic language and was asked “how it felt to kill Jesus.” His older son Casey, a 2004 Academy graduate, alleged that “senior cadets would sit down and say, ‘How do you feel about the fact that your family is going to burn in hell?’”

“I’m under no illusions that what happened to my Jewish sons and my Christian daughter-in-law could not have happened to the son of a patriotic American Muslim or Buddhist or agnostic or atheist,” Weinstein has written.

 

Weinstein says he does not target any particular faith, to the point that one of his recent victories involved getting a commander to remove atheist bumper stickers from his car.

Weinstein has attacked what he calls “Dominionist” Christians seeking to advance the United States toward theocracy. And he has referred to fundamentalist Christians as “monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.”

The Anti-Defamation League, the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), all of whom publicly supported Weinstein in the past, will say little about him now.

The RAC and Israel both declined multiple requests for comment, while the ADL’s civil rights director, Deborah Lauter, would only say, “We don’t like the lack of civility on either side. ADL’s approach has always been if we see a problem, find a constructive way to fix it.”

Former Jewish community associates of Weinstein would not speak on the record but delivered tortured accounts of their relationships with him, which essentially boil down to this: Weinstein is wacky and impolitic — and right.

“It’s not that he’s not correct’ it’s that he’s not political” is how one put it.

Who’s Calling the Shots at the Temple Mount?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

“This area is under Muslim sovereignty,” the senior officer on the Temple Mount said to me.

“I thought that we were in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” I answered, as I set out on a series of letter-writing campaigns and meetings with the chief of Israel police, the attorney general and the minister for internal security.

What the officer on the Temple Mount told me was ultimately endorsed by the police chief. For the first time, he admitted that the prohibitions on the Jews who visit the Temple Mount are not due to security considerations. Rather, they exist simply because sovereignty over the Temple Mount was transferred to the Muslims and they are the ones making the rules there.

In the dark, totally against the law, without any Knesset decision or public debate – the Temple Mount, the heart of our nation, was transferred to foreign rule.

When all the public officials to whom I turned were painted into an indefensible legal corner, the prime minister shouldered the responsibility and two weeks ago issued a direct order prohibiting me from visiting the Temple Mount. This completely contradicts the Jerusalem Basic Law, the Knesset Basic Law and the Honor and Liberty Basic Law. It revokes Israeli sovereignty in the heart of Jerusalem and tramples the Knesset’s authority. It crosses a clear, thick red line and rewrites the rules in a way that does not allow me to continue my political activities – as if nothing has happened. I still remember well how, before the Expulsion from Gush Katif, I begged Likud ministers to resign their government positions in protest. “If we resign,” they answered, “the government will not fall. But we will not be able to influence its decisions or help.”

We all know what happened in the end. When a public figure does not know how to identify the red line and plays by the old rules in the new reality, all is lost. Always.

Throughout the years that we have ascended the Temple Mount, we have gotten used to the disgraceful reality whereby a member of the Muslim wakf, accompanied by an Israeli police officer, follows us and spies on our lips – to ensure that no Jew, heaven forbid, moves his lips in prayer at the site of his holy Temple. If a Jew dares pray, the wakf representative will demand the Jew’s arrest – and the Israeli officer will quickly comply. This is an abominable prohibition, more severe than the prohibition that the Muslims imposed on Jewish prayer at the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron. There, in pre-state Hebron, the Muslims allowed the Jews to approach the seventh step leading to the Cave and to pray there. But at the Temple Mount, under Israeli rule, so to speak, the prohibition is all encompassing and strictly enforced.

But we, the visitors to the Mount, got used to it. And habit erases every abomination. In the days of the Hasmoneans, we got used to the fact that before her wedding, every Jewish girl would first have to spend the night with the Greek ruler. Later in history, we got used to the initial decrees of the German conquerors. Today, we get used to the loss of our legitimacy, to the hypocritical Turkish demands that we apologize, and to the Chinese spitting in our faces during Prime Minister Netanyahu’s official visit there. We get used to it and, in the end, pay a very high price.

The same is true for us, the visitors to the Temple Mount. We were so anxious to serenely return the Jews to the Mount. We bit our lips, acquiesced to the abominable prohibition against prayer and, over the years, got used to the humiliating guard at our side.

Now we see that this abomination is not localized to the wakf representative facing the simple Jew visiting the Temple Mount. The abomination is an expression of the situation on the highest levels: the conduct of the Muslim leadership against the Israeli leadership.

There in the upper echelons, instead of the wakf, the Israeli police officer and the Jew who wants to pray on the Mount, we have the king of Jordan, the prime minister of Israel and a member of Knesset who wants to enter Judaism’s holiest site.

This column was translated from Hebrew; it originally appeared in Makor Rishon.

Liberal Hypocrisy on Religion and Speech

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Most Americans are absolutely committed to the ideas in the First Amendment, in particular to freedom of speech and religion. Although the Bill of Rights only deals with actions taken by government, these ideals permeate the culture.

But particularly in the case of the liberal elite — academics, media and entertainment people, intellectuals — there are limitations.

For example, “religion” has a special meaning for them: in the liberal view a “religion” ought to only be about “spiritual things” which by definition do not impinge on a believer’s public actions or politics, and “ritual,” which consists of silly behavior on Friday, Saturday or Sunday (depending on the religion).

They are extremely uncomfortable with religion when it crosses the line into actions that might affect others. So, for example, it is considered a damning (no pun intended) indictment of anti-abortion activists to accuse them of holding their position “for religious reasons.” Such reasons, they insist, can’t justify actions which might affect anyone other than the believer.

Unitarian Universalists, Reform Jews and liberal Protestants tend to be politically liberal, and while they might say that their politics are determined by their religion, it’s probably the other way around. Catholics, Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians are more likely to derive their politics from their beliefs, which bothers liberals.

And then there is Islam. Islam is the most political of religions, in theory at least, calling for the implementation of Sharia in any society where Muslims live. And Judging by the actions of many believers, this is not just theoretical. Since Sharia establishes a strict hierarchy of rights with male Muslims on top, it very definitely affects non-Muslims.

But while liberals, especially Jewish liberals, object strenuously to religion-based politics among Catholics and Evangelicals — take this, for example — there is total, deafening silence from this quarter about Islam. The inconsistency is striking.

Somehow it has become acceptable to dump on Christian Zionists for their political activities, but absolutely taboo to criticize Muslim groups, some of which support Hamas or Hizballah. Using language identical to that applied to neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan, organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) accuse anyone who is critical of political Islam, or who suggests that radical Muslims present a threat to democracy in the U.S., of “hate” and “bigotry.” Here is SPLC’s list of “active anti-Muslim groups” which even includes the blog “Sultan Knish“, and of course the provocative “Atlas Shrugs” of Pamela Geller.

Interestingly, the SPLC’s classification of “hate groups” by ideology doesn’t include a category for radical Islam!

The mention of Geller brings me back to the ideals of the First Amendment, in particular, freedom of speech. This Sunday, Geller was scheduled to speak at an Orthodox Synagogue in Great Neck, Long Island, on the subject “The Imposition of Sharia in America.” A great deal of pressure was applied to try to stop the event, from the extremist Jewish Voice for Peace group, to the liberal Rabbi Jerome Davidson, retired rabbi of a Reform congregation in Great Neck, and Habeeb Ahmed, an officer of the Islamic Center of Long Island and a member of the county’s Human Rights Commission, as well as the Interfaith Alliance — Long Island Chapter, etc.

The synagogue resisted the pressure until yesterday, when they threw in the towel in response to a threat to stage a march on the synagogue on Sunday morning (during Sunday school). Here is the statement by the synagogue’s board (obtained by Geller):

As the notoriety and media exposure of the planned program this Sunday have increased, so has the legal liability and potential security exposure of our institution and it’s [sic] member families. In an era of heightened security concerns it is irresponsible to jeopardize the safety of those who call Great Neck Synagogue home, especially our children, even at the risk of diverting attention from a potentially important voice in the ongoing debate. Accordingly, the Great Neck Synagogue Men’s Club will no longer be sponsoring the appearance of Pamela Geller this coming Sunday, and no event will be taking place in our facility.”

Executive Board
Great Neck Synagogue

I think it is clear from this that the board has not accepted the arguments of the left/liberal/Muslim opposition that Ms. Geller is a dangerous hate speaker who should not be given a platform (Robert Nuxoll of the Interfaith Alliance said her talk was “the equivalent of a church in the 1930s inviting a representative of the Nazi Party to speak,” and Habeeb Ahmed called her “the personification of an Islamophobe”).

Nevertheless, they have been frightened by an implicit threat of violence into canceling the event. I have personally faced a mass demonstration of angry Muslims, and can tell you that it is scary.

The liberal attitude to free-speech-that-they-disagree-with is never nice. In fact, my motivation for writing this blog was originally that my attempts to publicly present Israel’s case — even to Jewish audiences — was frustrated by “liberal” objections.

As reported in the Jewish Press, Geller has been invited to speak on Sunday at a Chabad house in Great Neck and another synagogue in New Jersey, and intends to do so.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Protecting Religious Freedom

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Recently, I voted against legislation to allow the federal government to provide cash grants to rebuild houses of worship damaged by natural disasters. Many have asked me to explain why, given my long record of promoting religious liberty, I felt I had to vote “no.” Simply put, my objections went precisely to my determination to protect the rights of the Jewish community and other religious minorities.

The Constitution defends the rights of minority religious communities through the twin mandates of the First Amendment – the guarantee of the free exercise of religion and the prohibition of a government establishment of religion. While I was, of course, tempted to support grants that might provide some relief to a number of shuls, I decided that I simply was not willing to trade that potential short-term benefit for the likelihood of real long-term harm to the religious freedom protections upon which the Jewish community depends. And I certainly wasn’t willing to risk such harm without a single hearing to examine the serious constitutional questions the bill raised.

Some argue that denying these particular grants amounts to a form of religious discrimination. In fact, the Constitution treats religion differently precisely to protect religious minorities from government meddling. Government involvement with religion, while potentially conferring short-term benefits, has historically resulted in governmental interference and favoritism – and that has inevitably worked to disadvantage minority religious communities like ours. The people who wrote our Bill of Rights understood this because they had experienced it, and they, therefore, insisted on the separation of religion and government.

The Supreme Court has been very clear that the core principle of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is that government may not directly fund religion or religious objects. So, while the courts have permitted government funding for religious institutions’ buildings used for hot lunch programs and for math books used in yeshivas, the courts have consistently rejected using taxpayer money to pay for the types of things this bill would authorize – spaces reserved for religious worship and religious articles such as Bibles, Torahs, and Korans. The record is clear: the Supreme Court has rejected every single case brought before it that attempted to provide the type of funding made available in this bill. So, while the bill may be a nice political gesture, it is highly unlikely that any shuls will ever see any actual funds from it.

And the Supreme Court has ruled this way for good reason. Experience shows that once government starts funding religion, it starts demanding a say in how its money is spent. That has been true of every governmental expenditure. There have even been frequent attempts – which we have worked to beat back – to tell religious institutions how they must spend their own money and to impose governmental oversight of these institutions’ finances. For minority religious groups, including the observant Jewish community, that is a dangerous vulnerability that history has shown can – and will be – exploited by unfriendly outsiders.

The frum community knows government meddling all too well. It is no secret that there are those who are hostile to core Jewish religious practices. There have long been efforts to outlaw shechitah, ban or severely restrict bris milah, and prevent observant Jews from settling in communities where they haven’t previously lived. We have largely prevailed in these fights because of the twin guarantees of the First Amendment, which work together to preserve minority religious rights.

I have fought to preserve those protections because I believe in them, and because I know how the observant Jewish community can be abused without them.

One of my first acts in Congress was to fight for passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act(RFRA), which provides stronger safeguards for religious practices when they conflict with federal governmental requirements – like the right to have kosher food in federal prisons, or to be protected from autopsies.

When the frum community fights attempts by local governments to use zoning laws to block shuls, mikvehs, and shtibelach, or by local residents to block an eruv, it relies on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which I helped write and got passed into law. The mere threat of a RLUIPA lawsuit often makes local governments back down.

Islam in the United States

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

John Walker Lindh is a citizen of the United States who was born in Washington, D.C. in the year 1981. Lindh was not born a MuslimHe converted when he was 16 years old and then traveled to Yemen in order to learn Arabic. In 2000, he traveled to Afghanistan and underwent an educational and training course in al-Farouq, an al-Qaeda training camp. He made contact with the organization of Mujahadeen in Pakistan, and was caught in 2001 in Afghanistan serving as a jihadist with the Taliban. He was convicted of fighting for an illegal organization and sentenced to twenty years in the Terre Haute prison in the state of Indiana.

In prison, Lindh continued to preach to his fellow prisoners and exhort them to be persistent in their jihad against the United States and the jihad to enforce Muslim Shari’a law on all of humanity. As a result, the prison authorities limited his participation in public prayer to only one time per week, on Friday. He appealed to the court, demanding to be allowed to participate in public prayer five times a day. The judge of the federal court, Jane Magnus-Stinson, found – contrary to the opinion of the prison authorities – that despite the fact that Lindh does not recognize the legality of the American court or the authority of her honor the judge, he nevertheless has the right to pray in public and to meet with his comrades five times every day, even if it means that the prison must beef up its security arrangements in order to accommodate his wishes.

This is not an isolated case. The United States has been driven for the past several years by “political correctness,” which censors any reference to a person’s faith, even if this faith instigates him to wage holy war against the United States. According to this approach, if someone claims that the United States is the “little Satan,”  Americans must accept this characterization as correct and legitimate, and if the American is uncomfortable with this, he should do some soul searching to ascertain the reason that caused the Other – who is clearly miserable, hungry and neglected because of the crimes of the United States – to regard him as Satan.

Political correctness is what dictates conduct in the highest echelons of leadership in the United States: most citizens of the country consider it to be unacceptable to say that President Obama comes from a Muslim family, and believe that it is not legitimate to refer  to Obama’s religion in any way. This is why the campaign against Obama that was based on this fact failed to prevent him from being re-elected.

The federal investigative bodies have also been seized by American political correctness; and two years ago, in keeping with instructions  from above, training programs for the FBI agents and other investigative agencies were changed, so that today, an interrogator is forbidden to relate to the religion or beliefs of someone under investigation, even if his faith or beliefs actually incite him  to murderous jihad against the state. Authorities of the state forbid the use of the expression “Islamic terror,” and laundered expressions such as “ideological violence” must be used instead.

The slaughter that  Major Nidal Malik Hasan perpetrated against his comrades at the Fort Hood base in Texas in order to prevent them from going to Afghanistan, is described by the authorities as “workplace violence.” For the adherents of political correctness, the fact that Hasan was in contact with Anwar Awlaki, the Yemeni-American terrorist who was subsequently eliminated, does not contradict the theory of political correctness that characterizes Islam as a religion of peace and love, hugs and kisses. “Islam” – so they believe – is based on the Arabic word “salam,” which means “peace,” because the superficiality that characterizes the American media discourages people from looking it up and discovering that the real meaning of the word “Islam” is “surrender” or “submission.”

Together with an American colleague, an attorney by the name of David Yerushalmi, I published an article about two years ago, “Shari’a and Violence in Mosques of the United States.”  This article is based on analysis of data and material that was collected in approximately one hundred mosques across the United States. Included in this material are two interesting pamphlets, in clear English. One is “40 Hadiths on Jihad” (a hadith is part of the Islamic oral tradition that relates to the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad). This and this booklet is a song of praise to jihad, to the jihadist and to his reward in the world to come. Jihad in this booklet is not against illness, poverty, neglect and corruption, and not even against the evil inclination, but against anyone who is not Muslim, and implicitly, every American who does not convert to Islam.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/dr-mordechai-kedar/islam-in-the-united-states/2013/02/13/

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