Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Defining Religious Liberty Down
Ross Douthat JULY 28, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/douthat-defining-religious-liberty-down.html
THE words “freedom of belief” do not appear in the First Amendment. Nor do the words “freedom of worship.” Instead, the Bill of Rights guarantees Americans something that its authors called “the free exercise” of religion.
It’s a significant choice of words, because it suggests a recognition that religious faith cannot be reduced to a purely private or individual affair. Most religious communities conceive of themselves as peoples or families, and the requirements of most faiths extend well beyond attendance at a sabbath service — encompassing charity and activism, education and missionary efforts, and other “exercises” that any guarantee of religious freedom must protect.
I cannot improve upon the way the first lady of the United States explained this issue, speaking recently to a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday,” Michelle Obama said. “It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well ... Jesus didn’t limit his ministry to the four walls of the church. He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day.”
But Mrs. Obama’s words notwithstanding, there seems to be a great deal of confusion about this point in the Western leadership class today.
You can see this confusion at work in the Obama White House’s own Department of Health and Human Services, which created a religious exemption to its mandate requiring employers to pay for contraception, sterilization and the days-after pill that covers only churches, and treats religious hospitals, schools and charities as purely secular operations. The defenders of the H.H.S. mandate note that it protects freedom of worship, which indeed it does. But a genuine free exercise of religion, not so much.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
To the editors: Faisal Chaudhry writes of the American and Israeli desire to “reconstruct the ideological framework” of the Middle East situation, while creatively framing the same article with a conversion into a “white” vs. “brown” struggle (Op-Ed, “An Ideology of Oppression,” April 11). At one point, Chaudhry even compares the situation to apartheid. This is a distortion of the fact that most Israelis and Palestinians are indistinguishable physically.
The Israeli government itself is comprised of a great number Sephardic Jews, many of whom originate from Arab countries. The chief of staff of the army, the minister of defense (who is the new leader of the labor party), the minister of finance and the president of Israel are all “brown.” One might have an idea of the physical likeness between Arabs and Israelis by examining this week’s Newsweek cover on which an 18-year-old female Palestinian suicide bomber and her 17-year-old female Israeli victim could pass for twins.
Israelis and Arabs are historically cousins. Until we accept the fact that we are constituents of the same family, we will blunder in believing that a loss for one “side”—or, as Chaudhry names it, a “color”—is not a loss for all human kind.
Outrageous and untrue finger-pointing is a childish tactic that disregards the responsibility of all parties involved, including Europe, the Arab nations and the United States, along with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
We must be ashamed of every act of violence and mourn every child as if they were our own. I pray for the safety of all those in the region and hope that we may someday use our unique human assets of language and empathy rather than military technology or propaganda to resolve this conflict.
Natalie Portman ’03
April 12, 2002