U.S. Group Criticizes Israel for Tolerating Religious Coercion

A statement sharply criticizing the Israel Government for alleged “constant appeasement and retreat” in the religious field, calling for full religious freedom in Israel, was issued here today by the American Friends of Religious Freedom in Israel. The organization’s board of directors includes a number of non-Orthodox rabbis and intellectuals, with Prof. Horace Kallen, a well-known American Jewish author and political scientist, as president.

Linking its protest to the recent “Eternal Light Vigil” conducted here by the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, protesting anti-Jewish discriminations in the USSR, the committee applauded that action but added: “At the same time, let no one forget that religious freedom is the natural birthright of every man, wherever he may live, even in Israel.”

Claiming that Israel faces “the growing threat of clerical political parties,” the committee stated that “religious coercion in Israel has already engendered widespread resentment against religion, and caused irreparable harm to the nation’s economic and cultural development.”

The group protested the fact that marriages performed under Conservative or Reform auspices are not recognized in Israel, declared that “children of such marriages are considered illegitimate and relegated to second-class citizenship,” and predicted that a new “Sabbath Law” scheduled to be enacted in Israel, “will make the operation of any enterprise on the Sabbath subject to criminal prosecution.” It held that in the international arena, the rule of Orthodoxy in Israel “is staining Israel’s image and flouting the struggle of Jewish leadership on behalf of religious freedom everywhere.”

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