By Eleanor Levie
We are in a battle for religious freedom.
In nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the president puts forward an individual hand-picked by organizations in league with the religious right.
The Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation — the powers behind most of President Donald Trump’s appointments — have long wished to bring down the protective wall of separation between religion and state. According to their agenda, religious freedom stands not for the right of Americans to practice whatever faith they wish (or no religion at all). Instead, the interests behind the administration seek to impose their Christian beliefs on all of us, rolling back our hard-won constitutional rights.
As we Jews can attest, religious freedom has been the goal of immigrants coming to this country of their own free will throughout our history. Religious freedom is the hallmark of our democracy.
Religious freedom underpins the right of any woman faced with an unwanted or untenable pregnancy to make a deeply personal, deeply private decision according to her own articles of faith. Yet the president and his backers want a Supreme Court that will undo Roe v. Wade.
Our Jewish teachings are based on the concept of b’tzelem Elohim — that we are all created in God’s image, equally deserving of respect and dignity. Yet Trump and his ilk recognize only one narrowly defined way of living.
Our Jewish culture honors education. We progressives recognize that public taxes should fund public schools and not private or parochial schools. Brown v. Board of Education is the 1954 decision that guarantees equal access to a quality public education for all children, no matter the color of their skin.
In fact, Trump has already come out against affirmative action in higher education. He cares not a whit for the lively exchanges of opinion that diversity brings to academia.
Our Jewish values inspire us to love our neighbor, to love justice and mercy, to welcome the stranger. Yet the religious right that empowers Trump and informs his choices for judges demands more exclusionary immigration policies.
We Jews honor the responsibility of caring for the sick. The administration, the majority party in Congress and soon, unfortunately, the highest court in the land want to decimate the Affordable Care Act, despite the Supreme Court decision of 2012 under Chief Justice John Roberts that upheld it.
As God’s partners doing the work of tikkun olam, we Jews take seriously our responsibilities as stewards of God’s creation. Yet this administration and its minions seem to relish opportunities to dismantle environmental protections.
The president’s nominee for the highest court in the land adds yet another skewed view of religious freedom, of democratic values and of morality.
We in the progressive Jewish community must join other well-informed thinkers and doers to stop the religious right from commandeering the Supreme Court. It’s up to us to call on our senators to protect our rights, to safeguard the checks and balances of our government and to ensure a federal judiciary that will protect all our fundamental freedoms.
Don’t hesitate to contact a senator like Pat Toomey because he doesn’t share your points of view and articles of faith. Tell him how your religion informs your opinions as a constituent.
Don’t hesitate to contact a senator like Bob Casey, because he already shares your values.
Don’t hesitate to tell friends, family and neighbors why this Supreme Court pick is important. Urge them to call and send emails to their senators.
There is power in numbers. And the power of numbers could well make the difference in fostering a strong democracy. Our actions today can preserve our rights and freedoms for generations. Our silence may relegate religious freedom to the history books. The stakes are high. This is a battle that we can’t afford to lose.
Eleanor Levie is a volunteer advocate and chair of BenchMark: the National Council of Jewish Women’s federal judiciary campaign.