Religion & Beliefs

You choose: Freedom or Tyranny?

The United States officially separates church and state, something for which everyone, from Jewish storeowners opening shop on Sunday to kids not saying other religions’ prayers in school, is grateful.  But a recent court case in Nashville, TN makes me … Read More

By / May 10, 2007

The United States officially separates church and state, something for which everyone, from Jewish storeowners opening shop on Sunday to kids not saying other religions’ prayers in school, is grateful. 

But a recent court case in Nashville, TN makes me wonder if people are forgetting the importance of these separations.

Some background, as explained by the Nashville Jewish Observer:

Metro Nashville’s Charter requires that runoff citywide elections (necessary if any one Mayoral candidate does not receive greater than 50% of the electoral vote) be held on the second Thursday in September, which this year falls on Rosh Hashanah.

Enter Elinor Gregor, who files a federal law suit challenging the actions of the government. She claims that

The scheduling of the election deprives observant Jews of their rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment right to Equal Protection of the Laws.

Her lawyer, George Barrett, explains:

“Ms. Gregor will be required to vote, if she can vote at all, on a date earlier than election day. So election day will be available to all other, non-Jewish voters, but not to Jewish voters. That deprives her—and all other Jewish voters—of the equal protection of our voting laws. It takes away from Jewish voters an opportunity to vote that everyone else has.”

Am I missing something here? Didn’t he just say that Jewish voters will still have the right to vote early? Has he never heard of absentee ballots? Should all the soldiers currently overseas file similar suits because they don’t have the same chance to vote as other Nashville residents, thus violating their First Amendment rights? Nonetheless, despite what seem to be obvious flaws in this case, there’s been public support from both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities on this.

But here’s the thing—of the greater than 1.4 million Metro Nashville residents, fewer than 15,000 are Jewish.  While it’s tempting to challenge such perceived affronts to our community, it’s a slippery slope we’re standing on here. 

In the Diaspora, Jews are a minority. If we expect our faith to be given pre-eminence in government decisions, it’s only a matter of time before we see other religious groups imposing spiritual demands on the public. Do we want to see a return of the blue laws, or worse yet, blue, green, red and yellow laws, a different set to please each religious group in the country? Now, I’m all for people going to shul on Rosh Hashanah, but come on guys, figure out a way to get everything done without a government injunction. Keep your religious beliefs in the private realm, if you want to maintain the freedom to worship as you alone choose.

Just as a closing note, the government completely disagrees with me….