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October 23, 2014 | 29th Tishrei 5775

Engaging The Religious Right: Understanding Our Disagreements, Exploring Areas Of Agreement

SUBMITTED BY THE PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE COMMITTEE HOUSTON, 2005

BACKGROUND

Issues of religion and politics, and of religious approaches to public policy, have always demanded our attention, but today those demands feel more urgent than ever. The need for ground rules is clear. No matter how profoundly religion influences anyone, when they make a public argument we believe that they must ground their statements in reason and in a language of morality that is accessible to everyone—to people of different religions or no religion at all. In our diverse democracy Americans need a common political discourse not dominated by exclusivist theology.

Today, too many do not understand what it means to be a liberal religious believer.

Too many talk about God and yet ignore justice; they cloak themselves in religion and forget mercy. There are, however, alternative ways for deeply religious people to understand the important issues of the day. Such a conversation is long overdue.

Religious liberals must bear in mind that there are things they can learn from the Religious Right as well. The Religious Right’s focus on the coarsening of popular culture, for example, has much to commend it. While there is also the danger of moving toward government censorship in these matters it should be possible to arrive at voluntary standards to which the media and, importantly, advertisers would adhere. Similarly, the Religious Right has provided important leadership on issues such as battling religious persecution and fighting sex trafficking abroad.


THEREFORE, THE UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM RESOLVES TO:

  1. Launch an expanded campaign to educate the American public, including our elected officials about our approach to public policy, and to make clear to all that the opposite of “Religious Right” is neither the voice of atheism nor secularism, by:

    1. Convening, through our Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, a new forum in which those who share our progressive religious values—humility, concern for the needy among us and respect for the individual—can join together to advance mutual concerns;

    2. Continuing to be a strong voice on the national, state and local levels on critical issues—including reproductive rights, funding for stem cell research, and civil rights for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals—where the public debate is too often seen as being between people who care about religion on the one hand and those who do not on the other;

    3. Encouraging Reform congregations, both locally and at the regional level, to build on their powerful record of engagement on these issues by, where appropriate:

      1. Creating “Church/State” Task Forces to educate and mobilize congregants;

      2. Participating in existing coalitions; and

      3. Advocating on the state and local levels where many decision in this area are being made; and
    4. Recommitting ourselves to playing a leadership role in defending the wall of separation between church and state, and, especially, by insisting that government not fund religious activities or houses of worship; and

  2. Call on the Commission on Social Action to provide guidance to the Reform Movement in building on the common concerns we do share with those on Religious Right, such as international human rights, foreign aid and the environment, by expanding our national and local dialogue with them on a wider array of issues.

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