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May 23, 2005

Alan Dershowitz on American Jews and the Supreme Court

Listed in: Israel, Reproductive Rights, Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Opinions

A letter from Professor Alan Dershowitz to NJDC supporters:

Jews have been defined as a people by their veneration of laws -- and the process of grappling with those laws to reach a better and deeper understanding. We therefore take laws very seriously.

Additionally, as American Jews, we have benefited from a system of law that has protected us as a religious minority. Nowhere else in the world has religion flourished so much or so diversely.

It is with that background in mind that American Jews approach the strong likelihood that President Bush will have an opportunity to nominate multiple Justices to the Supreme Court in the next months and years. These will be the first such lifetime appointment, or appointments, since President Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer to the Court in 1993 and 1994, respectively.

It is clear that we as Jews have much at stake in this battle, and it is important that we make our point of view heard as Americans -- as members of a religious minority, and as members of a law-loving faith.

I believe that we ought to make sure that President Bush appreciates fully the shared American values and principles that we as Jews tend to hold particularly dear. As the president of all Americans, he should ensure that his nominees embrace these ecumenical principles:

** That the religious liberty protected by the First Amendment includes strong protections for the practices of even unpopular minorities, and absolute protections for the beliefs, or disbeliefs, of all citizens.

** That such religious liberty is undermined if the government uses its coercive power and resources to compel people to support, in a substantial or meaningful way, religious belief and practice to which they do not adhere.

** That an overwhelming majority of American Jews understand that a woman's reproductive decisions are personal ones between her, her mate, and her chosen spiritual and medical advisers, with only the most limited intervention by civic authorities.

** That our Constitution reflects the principle that the federal government has the power, and even the obligation, to intervene in various aspects of economic life on behalf of the weak and the destitute, with private charity supplementing but not replacing official efforts.

In the coming days, NJDC will ask that you raise your voice to make your beliefs known; please join them in doing so. This is a critical time for the federal judiciary, and all of the freedoms it guarantees. When we stand up, and stand together, our voices can and will be heard.

Professor Alan Dershowitz
Harvard Law School