Monday August 1 multiple Jewish Rabbis filed suit against the State of Florida claiming legislation signed into law on July 1 by Gov. DeSantis, criminalizing the participation in abortion, violates their religious liberty. According the plaintiffs, the law can be construed as anyone who counsels a woman for an abortion is aiding and abetting a crime and this is a violation of a Rabbi’s religious liberty.
In defense of the Florida law, expert in medical ethics and the CEO of the recently firebombed pro-life medical office, Rev. Jim Harden encourages the Florida Attorney General to consider the following:
When other claims of the violation of religious liberty have arisen in other contexts such as mandatory vaccinations as condition of employment in health care facilities, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) established legal precedent in supporting religious liberty defining religion as that which “typically concerns ‘ultimate ideas’ about ‘life, purpose and death,’” excluding “social, political, or economic philosophies, as well as mere personal preferences.”
Here the Rabbis lead off their legal claim declaring that a core belief of Judaism is the unequivocal sacredness of all human life. This immediately invalidates their claim on the face. Then they oddly assert that counseling women for abortion is key to expressing their religion. What they appear to be saying is that violating their religious tenant is their religious expression. They go on to insist the new Florida law represents a “pernicious elevation of the legal rights of fetuses….” But if the sacredness of all human life is a core tenant of Judaism then all human life is equally valuable, invalidating the concept of differing levels of legal rights. Further, given their assertions about the sacred nature of humanity, by their definition counseling a woman for abortion is at best the manifestation of a political or personal preference in violation of their core religious tenants.
To further undermine their own religious argument to counsel women to end the life of their child they use two scriptures from the Old Testament; Exodus 21:22-25 and Deuteronomy 30:19. Exodus states that if two men are fighting and they accidentally hit a pregnant woman and she miscarries then the law requires life for life, eye for eye, etc. This text is saying that the most severe punishment enacted against anyone according to Jewish law is when a person’s actions, even if accidental, cause harm to a preborn baby. What the plaintiffs fail to appreciate is that the scriptural context is consistent with the Florida law rather than the plaintiff’s assertion. Similarly, the second scripture admonishes the people to obey God to ‘choose life in order that you may live…you and your descendants.” Abortion and counseling for abortion represents the exact opposite of life—by definition.
Rev. Jim Harden says, “This lawsuit ought to be dismissed as frivolous and the plaintiffs fined for tying up the judicial system by this conniving attempt to conflate Judaism with their personal opinions about abortion.”
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