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