Religious Freedom Tables Turned As Synagogue Sues Over Florida’s Abortion Ban

Oh, sweet justice, what have you in store for us tomorrow? Anything good for once? Why, yes, maybe.

Republicans are being challenged on their “religious freedom” justification for imposing their very extremist version of their religion on everyone else in the United States. A South Florida Synagogue has sued over Gov. DeSantis’ new 15 week abortion ban, “contending the measure violates privacy and religious-freedom rights,” the Miami Herald reported.

They seek to keep the law from being instituted. While they cite the abuse of the right to privacy, they also cite most interestingly that it violates their religious freedom:

But the lawsuit filed Friday by the Boynton Beach congregation also contends that the law violates religious-freedom rights. “For Jews, all life is precious and thus the decision to bring new life into the world is not taken lightly or determined by state fiat,” the lawsuit said. “In Jewish law, abortion is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman, or for many other reasons not permitted under the act [the new law]. As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and thus violates their privacy rights and religious freedom.”

If it made you feel a little weepy to read that under Jewish law, “abortion is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman, or for many other reasons not permitted under the act” you’re not alone. How sad that care for the life of women is so rare.

They mention that people who don’t share the religious views of the soon to be law will suffer “irreparable harm by having their religious freedom under the Florida Constitution violated.”

They say it “threatens the Jewish family, and thus also threatens the Jewish people by imposing the laws of other religions upon Jews.

Of course it does harm anyone who isn’t a radical extremist right wing Christian. And there is absolutely no justification for people imposing their religious beliefs on others in this country. The obvious choice is they have the right and freedom to not get an abortion if it bothers them so much (this, of course, rarely turns out to be the way these things work out as these beliefs regularly melt away when it becomes a personal problem). But they insist upon imposing this belief upon the rest of the country. And that creates a highly dangerous threat to this primary right.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of religion. It prohibits laws establishing a national religion, and so it follows that using religion to create laws is prohibited doubly. There is no national religion in the U.S.

But Republicans often boldly assert that it is a “Christian nation.” The framers would disagree, to the extent that they prohibited religious tests for federal office holding.

We have understood and taken for granted perhaps the constitutional commitment to religious liberty. The Constitution Center explains, “…Article VI specifies that ‘no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.’ This prohibition, commonly known as the No Religious Test Clause, banned a longstanding form of religious discrimination practiced both in England and in the United States. In doing so, it provided a limited but enduring textual constitutional commitment to religious liberty and equality that has influenced the way Americans have understood the relationship between government and religion over the last two centuries.”

They add in their excellent discussion of this issue (highly recommended reading for the twists and turns on this topic), “the Framers of the federal Constitution prohibited religious tests for federal office-holding. It is not clear why they did so.”

But do so they did. In fact, the issue being raised by this Jewish congregation was addressed: “Supporters of the Constitution defended the prohibition against test oaths as advancing religious freedom and protecting less politically powerful faiths against discrimination.”

It is certainly a form of discrimination to have one extremist version of Christianity dictate law to other religions whose beliefs differ. We need only ask if these folks would be happy if Muslims used their religion to make laws imposed upon right-wing Christians to get our answer. The answer is no one wants other people’s personal beliefs or lack thereof dictating their medical rights.

This conflict and lawsuit was inevitable. Conservative Republicans have been hard at work imposing their religious beliefs on the rest of us through banning abortions, books, things we can talk about- you name it, they’re trying to ban it.

The installed-by-Republicans Christian nationalists who are running this country from the Supreme Court have veered far off the Constitutional path and made a hard right into judicial activism in their efforts to impose their religion on the rest of the country with the expected upcoming overturning of Roe.

The radical Republican idea of the United States is a country devoid of freedom, a country divided and violent, a country in service of anti-democracy dictators like President Putin, a country closed in on itself and a shell of the promise of liberty. A country that would not sustain as a dominant international power.

There will be more lawsuits like this one in the days ahead. The best response for those of us watching is to activate everyone we know to get out and vote in the upcoming midterms and in every single local election.

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