21 Democratic Jewish House members call on Trump to observe religious freedom


(JTA) — More than 20 Democratic Jewish members of the House of Representatives called on President Donald Trump not to sign an executive order that would exempt religious organizations from adhering to nondiscrimination protection.

The letter sent Thursday was in reaction to news reports that Trump would sign the order allowing federally funded, faith-based organizations to discriminate against people they believe act in a manner inconsistent with their religious beliefs and values.

“The use of religious faith as a tool to discriminate contradicts a core American value, and the principles of social justice and equality so central to our Jewish faith,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a signer of the letter, in a statement issued from her office. “The ability to worship and believe in accordance with one’s faith is a cherished freedom, but it does not override the rights of other Americans to live their truth, to receive necessary health care services, or seek employment. There should be no policy, carve-out, or exemption that would enable federally funded religious organizations to discriminate against others.”

Among the lifestyles objected to by the faith-based organizations, which could include some Orthodox Jewish organizations, are same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion and transgender identity.

“Just as our nation’s foundational texts call on us to preserve and promote equal justice under the law, the ancient Jewish command of “tzedek, tzedek tirdoff,” or “justice, justice shall you seek!” compels us to speak out against bigotry, discrimination, injustice. This guiding tenet informs our ardent opposition to any rules, orders, or policies that would allow discrimination against our constituents based on their identity or beliefs,” the letter said.

“Make no mistake – we celebrate the right of all people to worship and believe in accordance with their faith. However, this right does not override the rights of other Americans to live their truth, receive necessary health care services or seek employment,” the letter also said.

The letter is endorsed by several religious and civil and human rights groups, including the American Jewish World Service, Anti-Defamation League, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, the Human Rights Campaign, Keshet, National Council of Jewish Women, and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

Among the Jewish congressmen who signed the letter are Reps. Susan Davis, Brad Sherman, Adam Schiff and Alan Lowenthal of California; Jerrold Nadler, Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel of New York; Bradley Schneider and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel of Florida; David Cicilline of Rhode Island; Jacky Rosen of Nevada; Steve Cohen of Tennessee;  Sander Levin of Michigan; Jamie Raskin of Maryland; Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey; John Yarmuth of Kentucky; Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, and Jared Polis of Colorado.

According to the Forward, Bonamici was raised Episcopalian but now attends synagogue with her Jewish husband and children.

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