Jews Should Stand With Catholics in Contraception Battle

February 15, 2012 11:50 am 5 comments

Pope Benedict XVI. Photo: Kancelaria Prezydenta RP.

“You shall neither wrong a stranger, nor oppress him: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 22:21

Through the ages, the above verse has served as a guiding Jewish principle. This call for enhanced sensitivity to oppressed minorities placed Jews at the forefront of a variety of noble struggles, particularly in the United States. As noted by author Charles Silberman, “American Jews are committed to cultural tolerance because of their belief-one firmly rooted in history-that Jews are safe only in a society acceptant of a wide range of attitudes and behaviors, as well as a diversity of religious and ethnic groups.”

It is precisely for this reason that all Jews should link arms in battle together with this country’s Catholics over President Obama’s mandate to provide cover for contraception in health care plans provided by the Church.

Of course the contraception issue is a contentious one, from a Jewish perspective; it is certainly not a black and white issue. According to a Public Religion Research Institute Poll even 52% of Catholics are of the opinion that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to provide contraception coverage. What is clearly at stake here however, is far beyond the popularity of, or one’s beliefs regarding, one’s life choices. It is our collective tolerance for governmental forays into the realm of religious practice.

Without doubt each individual has the right to decide on the path best suited for them. Likewise each religious institution has the right to define its moral positions. The State has no business compelling the Church to compromise on its standards.

It is true that the President tweaked the policy “to require religious employers such as universities and charities to cover contraception in employee health plans, but shifted the responsibility for paying for it away from the employer and on to its health-insurance provider,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

However, quite rightly, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decided to oppose the compromise, saying they still had “serious moral concerns.” Namely that the President’s plan still obligates them to provide cover for a health care practice that is against their religious principles.

As Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said, “A legislative remedy to this overreaching and unprecedented incursion of state power into the domain of religious freedom and the rights of conscience is still necessary.”

In recent months Jews were reminded of just how historically unique the American freedoms we enjoy are, when California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill in October preventing the ban on the practice of male circumcision. The effort was first “struck down in late July by a California judge who said it would infringe on religious freedom,” according to Reuters.

Around the world, efforts that would curtail the Jewish practice of shechitah (humane slaughter of animals for consumption) have also gathered momentum.

The famous statement commonly attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller comes to mind, “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

As ‘strangers in the land of Egypt’ Jews know well the pitfalls posed in opening the door of this legislation. Few have benefited so wholesomely through basking in the saving grace of the First Amendment. It is thus our duty to fight for the preservation of its purist principles as we have done for so many of history’s most just causes.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com.

5 Comments

  • Jessica Sacher

    We should side and support the Catholic church on this issue regardless of its past policies and failures. This is an area of religious freedom and government over-reach. I dont want the federal government being able to dictate policies that conflict with religious beliefs and practices. Jews should be wary and concerned. What’s next? No circumcision? No Jewish day school?

  • Let me get this straight. First, the Catholic church is outraged that they have to provide contraceptive healthcare coverage for women. This is the same church who condoned and covered up child sexual abuse and still believes they did nothing wrong. Then, the Protestants align with the Catholic church on the evils of contraception. Before aligning on contraception, most Protestants, especially evangelicals, would take an oath that Catholics are a cult, therefore not true Christans, therefore their final destination is down, not up. And now, the author is recommending that Jews align with Catholics because of rules of hospitality in scripture? What’s next??? What other males from other religions are getting on board this war on women train because of religion and how they interpret their sacred texts. Do you have any idea how ridiculous this all is, especially to most women? While all you men praise one another for your sacred and superior wisdom and knowledge and all in the name of religious freedom, you’re kicking women back to the Middle Ages. I don’t know which is the most hypocritical in all this. Christians or Jews. I could understand all this if we lived in a Muslim nation or the U.S. was a theocracy.

  • Infant circumcision is a violation of the religious freedom of the person most directly concerned – in fact the only person directly concerned. My religious freedom ends where your body begins, even if I have the stewardship of you till you reach adulthood and can decide what parts of your own body you want cut off.

  • The issue here isn’t religious. These aren’t religious jobs or religious institutions, these are businesses that are owned by the Catholic church. Those who work in them are not ordained, most are not even Catholic, many are not even Christian. The Catholic church is attempting to enforce a religious mandate on people by virtue of having an ownership stake in the companies they work for. The issue before us is whether we will allow these groups to enforce their dogma in the public sector by their economic influence. Those who don’t want to use birth control are certainly not forced to, so the only people affected are those who don’t agree with their teachings. If the Catholic church choses to operate business ventures so be it. If they wish to call these ventures a ministry, and avoid public regulations, let them ordain those who work in these businesses. They are either ministers, or they aren’t.

  • David H. Leach

    There are issues for which Jews should stand with Catholics but this is not one of them. It is a political wedge issue being exploited by the Conservative Republicans to use to overturn Obamacare.
    A church is one thing but a hospital or university cannot now discriminate in hiring or in student selection. They except massive amounts of federal funds from Medicare, Medicaid, research funds and scholarships, among other things and they are tax exempt. They employ thousands of people who are not Catholic. Either don’t take the federal money or accept the workaround for the benefit of all your employees. Also, you don’t want to be in between an issue that pits women’s health against old men in robes, do you?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.