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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Jerrold Nadler’

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.

Nadler Pushes to Keep Families Seated Together on Commercial Flights

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced legislation to help keep families seated together on commercial flights. In response to ever-increasing fees and decreasing transparency among airline carriers, the Families Flying Together Act of 2012 would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to direct each carrier to “establish a policy to ensure, to the extent practicable, that a family that purchases tickets for a flight with that air carrier is seated together during that flight; and (2) make the policy…available to the public on an appropriate Internet Web site of the air carrier.” The legislation would help to ensure that children are not separated from their families and seated alone on flights.

“Air travel is complicated and expensive enough for families without adding new stresses,” said Nadler. “Families should not be stuck paying hidden fees, or buying ‘premium’ seats, simply because they wish to be seated together on crowded flights. It is positively absurd to expect a two or three-year-old to sit unattended, next to strangers, on an airplane. It is up to air carriers to make their seating policies clear and easily accessible to the public.”

As airlines change policies and increase fees for a variety of basic services, it is becoming more difficult for families to sit together on commercial flights. From airlines charging a fee to make advance seat assignments, to charging a premium for window or aisle seats, to eliminating advanced boarding for parents with small children, the obstacles for families are growing. There are increasing reports of people being separated from their children when they arrive to board the aircraft. When this happens, the only recourse is to rely on another passenger to willingly change seats. This is an inconvenience for everyone involved and not an efficient business practice. It is also potentially unsafe and traumatic for the families involved.

Dems Throw Stones From Glass Houses

Wednesday, June 26th, 2002
Democrats and their allies in the media who thought they could use those pre-Sept. 11 intelligence reports and FBI memos to diminish President Bush’s standing with the American people were in full retreat this week, as a slew of polls gave Bush continued high marks, both for his overall job performance and his handling of the war on terror.

What the Monitor found most abhorrent about the transparently political endeavor was that the president’s loudest critics tended to be the very Democrats who year after year had voted not just against any increase, but in many cases for significant cuts, in intelligence funding.

Political researcher Terry Cooper, who undertook an examination of Congressional voting patterns in the areas of intelligence and counter-terrorism, paints a damning picture of Democratic apathy and obstructionism.

“From 1993 through 1999,” writes Cooper, “there were ten recorded House floor votes on amendments to reduce authorized funding for intelligence.” Although the amendments were all defeated, a majority of House Democrats voted “yes” on five of them.

Dick Gephardt, the House Democratic leader, voted to cut intelligence funding on five of those occasions.Other senior Democrats followed suit: David Bonior, for example, who as party Whip was the House’s number-two Democrat, voted for each of the ten fund-cutting amendments.

“Many of the Democrats whose committee positions give them immense say over our national security,” Cooper notes, “likewise voted for most or all of the cut-funding amendments.” In stark contrast, “no member of the House Republican leadership ever voted for any of the cut-funding amendments and only one Republican in a key committee post ever did.”

The Monitor was particularly interested in the voting record of Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat whose district includes what used to be the World Trade Center and whose non-stop criticism of President Bush and Republicans runs the gamut from the silly to the shrill.

Cooper describes the 1994 House debate on the Fiscal 1995 Authorization Bill, during which an amendment was offered calling for deep cuts to the intelligence budget. Congress overwhelmingly rejected the proposed cuts, but one of the few representatives who did vote for them was none other than Jerrold Nadler.

“The fact is,” Nadler argued on the floor of the House, “that with the Soviet Union gone, and with the cold war over, if we cannot reduce our intelligence budget by 10 or 20 percent, then we are wasting a heck of a lot of money.”

As Cooper archly observes, “The World Trade Center had already been bombed once, and not by Soviet agents, but [Nadler] was proposing to shrink America’s intelligence capability even more.”

Sufficiently intrigued, the Monitor paid a visit to the invaluable website vote-smart.org and looked at some of Nadler’s other votes. Just a few of the many fascinating tidbits we found: Nadler voted “no” on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal years 2000 and 2001, which called for $288.8 billion for military matters, including a 4.8 percent pay raise for the nation’s armed forces and tightened security at U.S. nuclear labs. (The act was passed by the lopsided margin of 365 to 38.)

On Oct. 24, 2001, Nadler voted against legislation calling for expanded powers for law enforcement officials investigating suspected terrorists. (The bill passed, 357-66.)

On May 2, 2002, the House easily passed the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2003, which incorporated President Bush’s request for $7.3 billion for counter-terrorism programs and $7.8 billion for missile defense systems. Nadler was one of only 58 representatives to vote against it.

On May 7, 2002, the House voted on a border security bill that, among other measures, called for passenger ships and planes traveling from other countries to provide U.S. officials lists of crew members and passengers before their arrival. The important legislation passed by a margin of 411-0 (212 Republicans, 198 Democrats, 1 Independent). Jerrold Nadler? He didn’t vote.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/dems-throw-stones-from-glass-houses/2002/06/26/

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