WRJ takes pride in its history of advocacy for women’s equality in the rabbinate, in the workplace, and in our society, raising voices for women’s suffrage and reproductive rights and taken a stand to end violence against women.
New York, NY, March 25, 2014 – On the occasion of today's oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp. v. Sebelius, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism jointly released the following statement:
As rabbis deeply committed to religious liberty as well as to reproductive rights, we are proud that our organizations have joined an amicus brief in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp. v. Sebelius, defending both the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate and the right of all people to live according to the teachings of their faith. Alongside over 25 of our faith partners, we argued in that brief for a vigorous interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) - a law we played a key role in crafting the 1990s - that protects individuals' right to religious freedom. The United States has long modeled religious freedom, and maintaining the current framework of religious free exercise protections ensures a standard of liberty unparalleled in the world. It is due to this understanding of the separation of church and state and religious freedom that Jews and other members of religious minorities have been able to thrive in this country.
However, in that same brief we also cautioned against an overbroad application of RFRA, which would ascribe the same religious free exercise rights to for-profit corporations that are accorded to individuals. A corporation is simply not the same as an individual with religious beliefs, a spiritual connection to a higher power, and religious practices that require protection.
Our Reform Movement has long championed the advancement of women's equality within our own synagogues and in the broader society. We believe that all women must have the right to make their own health care choices according to their faith and conscience - including when it comes to reproductive health. Even if the Court decides corporations do have some free exercise rights (and resolves the complicated issue of who holds those rights, such as the owners, the board, the stockholders or the managers), we do not believe that the way the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandate functions poses a substantial burden on those Free Exercise rights. And even should the Court hold that there is a substantial burden, we believe that the compelling interest of ensuring all women have access to reproductive health care justifies the limitation on such Free Exercise claims. We believe the contraception mandate of the ACA wisely and delicately balances religious liberty and conscience claims whether they are made by the employer or the employees.
Inspired by our faith and our tradition of social justice we stand together in defense of universal, comprehensive health care, of women's rights, and of religious liberty, all of which the contraception mandate upholds. We look forward to the Court's decision and will continue to work to ensure that our nation remains both a beacon of religious liberty and protector of women's rights.