Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Tammuz 5761 - June 27, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











NYS Rights Bill Opposed by Agudath Israel
by B. Isaac

The Orthodox Jewish mother and father are gratified to have received an offer to rent the vacant apartment in their three-family house.

When they realize, however, that their new tenants are living an openly immoral lifestyle, they call their Rav to ask if they should be concerned about the example their children will be exposed to.

They are told that it is forbidden for them to facilitate the display before their impressionable young of what the Torah considers immoral behavior and that they should politely turn down the prospective tenants.

If the New York State Senate passes a bill adding personal "orientation" to a list of categories protected by the state's anti-discrimination laws, such homeowners will face a deep quandary, a true Hobson's Choice: Adhere to their religion, or to the law? New York's Assembly has already passed a bill adding such language to the Executive Law barring discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin and several other factors.

The issue is now before the Senate.

Agudath Israel of America has informed members of the Senate of its opposition to the change.

In its letter to the Senate, Agudath Israel notes that promoting the "right" to such things as renting an apartment without regard to the renters' lifestyle, as the legislation being considered proposes to do, necessarily entails diminution of other fundamental rights, most notably religious rights.

"The change being considered by the State legislature will impose an impossible dilemma on people who seek simply to live their lives in accordance with their faith."

The Agudath Israel letter calls attention as well to the fact that established New York law clearly recognizes that principles of religious freedom outweigh the secular ideal of non-discrimination.

"A religious institution," it asserts, "is permitted to make employment or admission decisions in a manner designed 'to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained,' according to state law."

"Why," Agudath Israel asks, "should individuals be entitled to less protection under the law than organizations or schools?"

The organization also expressed a more subtle concern, that the legislation in question, if passed, will prove but a first step toward "endorsing" what is immoral as "morally acceptable."

"Laws," the Agudath Israel missive wavers, "have an educative function, establishing norms of conduct deemed acceptable to society. It is but a short step from a law like the one being considered to school curricula designed to teach children that [there are a host of] 'morally equivalent alternate lifestyle[s],' and from there to changing the definition of 'marriage'.

"It is, in short, a 'slippery slope' designed to confer society's imprimatur on a form of conduct that has long been regarded in many circles as morally inappropriate.

"At the bottom of that slope lies the total abandonment of the traditional conception of family and family values -- a prospect that should give lawmakers cause for pause before voting on this measure."


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