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Jewish groups encourage DOJ religious action

Three Jewish groups joined a letter urging U.S. senators to maintain Justice Department vigilance in pursuing religious liberty cases. The Senate’s judiciary committee was reviewing allegations Thursday that the Bush administration has gutted the department’s civil rights division, virtually ending its watchdog role in cases of racial and gender discrimination in favor of pursuing religious freedom cases. Jewish groups have favored some of its cases, for instance in protecting the right of groups to build houses of worship, and have opposed others allowing religious expression in schools. However, overall, said the letter signed by eight religious groups including three Jewish groups, the willingness to pursue religious freedom cases was welcome. “While each of our diverse organizations may not support the precise legal position taken by the division in every religious liberty matter it has undertaken – indeed some of us have been on the other side of several positions asserted by the division – we all agree and support the principle that religious liberty issues should be placed among the top priorities of the division’s work,” the letter said. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) cited the letter during the hearing. The Jewish groups signing the letter were the Orthodox Union, the American Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee.