Speaking of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, many of us are encouraged by his 12-year record as a judge on a federal appeals court. The record suggests that, as a justice of the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will support enhanced recognition of the right of members of religious minorities to practice their religion when they conflict with standard societal practices. Take, for example, an upcoming procedural vote in a case involving a dispute between Walgreen’s and a Seventh Day Adventist employee. The case revolves around whether the Court should revisit a 1977 opinion that imposed a trivially minor cap on a federal law requiring employers to accommodate employees’ religious needs. Surely, Kavanaugh’s vote should be revealing.
Further, since the 1977 ruling was based upon the Court’s expressed belief that requiring anything further by way of accommodation would raise constitutional issues in terms of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, what happens in the Walgreen’s case should have implications for the Draconian constitutional limitations on aid to parochial schools as well.
Frankly, in terms of true “Jewish” issues in America, we can think of nothing more significant than the viability of Jewish education and facilitating the ability of Jews to avoid having to choose between a livelihood and fealty to their religious beliefs.
So we were intrigued by the Front Page lead story in this week’s New York Jewish Week with the byline of veteran staff writer Stewart Ain: “Jewish Interests Seen In Peril As Kavanaugh Ascends To Court,” with a subheadline that begins, “ ‘Core principles’ at play in what could be ideologically altered Supreme Court…”
The story went on to explain:
Many in the Jewish community held their collective breath this week as Justice Brett Kavanaugh took his set on the U.S. Supreme Court, fearful that many of the liberal causes they have fought for over the years ay be swept away by the court, which now has a majority of conservative jurists.
Everything from immigration rights to abortion, and from sanctuary cities to affirmative action, may be challenged in common months and years. Many conservatives are reportedly eager to move ahead with cases – some of them touching on issues of religious liberty that are dear to the Orthodox community – that will allow the court to impose a conservative imprint on the country. [Italics added.]
A companion story by Hannah Dreyfus (“Kavanaugh On Hot-Button Issues / A look at some past rulings on issues central to the Jewish community,” [Italics added] followed. The article highlighted Kavanaugh’s recent opinion opposing the right of a 17-year-old, undocumented, pregnant immigrant in federal custody to an elective abortion, which was said to create concern among “…abortion activists” that it heralded greater limitations on the right to abortions.
His opposition to penalizing religious employers who don’t cover contraception and refuse to file certain papers with the Department of Health and Human Services or their insurance carrier was also noted as a matter of concern. Also noted was his suggestion in an article that he was in favor of greater public funding to parochial school education, as were his views in a 1999 friend of the court brief in opposition to race-based affirmative action in college admissions.
While we fully recognize and respect that Jews will have views on these and other social issues, and may sometimes argue that that they flow from or are inspired by “Jewish” values, we balk at describing them as “core” Jewish issues. Both articles are seriously misleading about what is a core issue and what is not.