By David P. Goldman
Redacted from an article in Pajama Media, Feb. 19, 2012
Today it is contraception and the morning-after pill. Tomorrow it will be kosher slaughter, or matrilineal descent, or circumcision, or other matters of existential importance to Jewish observance. If the Obama administration gets away with forcing Catholic institutions to step across lines of life and death in the name of “health,” the federal government will have a precedent to legislate Judaism out of existence — as several other countries have already tried to do.
Now the Obama administration has told Catholic institutions that they don’t have to dispense pills that kill babies. Instead, they can pay the insurance company, and the insurance company will dispense the pill for them. It is an accounting trick (as Paul Ryan called it) that the White House misrepresents as a compromise. The Catholic bishops, of course, reject it. And only one Jewish organization, the haredi organization Agudath Israel, offered a sharp response. Its Washington director Abba Cohen stated:
Whether or not the White House’s new “compromise” proposal adequately addresses the religious freedom concerns raised by the Catholic Church is for the Catholic Church to say, not us – and, frankly, not the White House, either. The important points here are that no religiously sponsored entity, and no religiously motivated individual, should be forced by government to violate its or his sincerely held religious principles; and that the determination of religious propriety must be left to the religious entity or individual, not to the government.
Contraception is not the issue. The issue is whether science has the right to decide the ultimate matters of life and death, or whether this is reserved to faith. We can argue the practical consequences all day and not get anywhere. It’s not as if contraception has ushered in a glorious era of human reproduction in which every child is planned and wanted. More than half of births to American women under 30 now occur outside of marriage, the New York Times reported Feb. 18, and overwhelmingly to working-class women who are economically unprepared for single motherhood. And 71% of total African-American and 53% of Hispanic births are out of wedlock as well. The cultural shift from the nuptial mystery of religion to the blandishments of recreational sex has left us with a catastrophic rate of illegitimacy and the prospect of a self-perpetuating underclass.
England’s Supreme Court, though, ruled in 2009 that it was “racist” to determine Jewish status by maternal descent, as opposed to such criteria as belief, observance, and so forth. The ruling responded to a lawsuit by an intermarried couple who sought admission for their child at the Orthodox-led Jewish Free School. The application was rejected because the child was not Jewish by Orthodox criteria, but Britain’s highest court overruled the religious authorities. Britain’s chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, declared, “An English court has declared [the religious definition of Jewish status] racist, and since this is an essential element of Jewish law, it is in effect declaring Judaism racist.”
Britain’s Catholic leaders supported Jewish leaders strongly and without qualification. Oona Stannard, director of the Catholic Education Services of England and Wales, announced, “We support our Jewish colleagues and feel that it is important that the right to determine who is a member of any religion ought to lie with the religious.” The Church of England refused to comment (as an editor at First Things magazine at the time, I tried and failed to obtain a comment).
Think it can’t happen here? Wait. Some insidious liberal will devise a way to label Judaism “racist” through the courts. It is not much of a leap from “Zionism is racism” to “Judaism is racism.” If it can happen in America’s mother country, the cradle of Anglo-Saxon liberty, it can happen in America.
Open the door to “scientific” determination of matters of life and death, and America’s Orthodox Jews — a minority within a minority — will be vulnerable to a new Inquisition. On this issue, there can be no compromise. Agudath Israel is right: Jews should stand by the right of the Catholic Church to determine what is acceptable by its standards, just as we one day will ask the Catholic Church to stand by our right to determine what is acceptable by our standards. To its credit, Britain’s Catholic Church stood by us in 2009 when the English courts shamefully and wrongly ruled that our most basic religious criteria were “racist.” Shamefully and wrongfully, some Jews have failed to stand by the Church under the Obama administration’s persecution. I appeal to these Jews: Don’t be naive. We’re next.
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