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Farmington Hills, MI, March 25, 2014 — The Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ) has joined other secular and religious organizations in supporting women’s right to contraceptive care under the Affordable Care Act.
The SHJ joined the Anti-Defamation League and a broad spectrum of religious organizations in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of the government in the cases of Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby and Sebelius vs. Conestoga Wood Specialties. The plaintiffs (Hobby Lobby et al.) are arguing that RFRA (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) should be interpreted to exempt them from the requirement that for-profit employers who choose to offer health insurance include coverage for contraception. The amicus brief opposes such an interpretation by arguing that it would actually violate RFRA, because it would allow employers to impose their own religious beliefs on employees, thereby undermining the employees’ free exercise of religion. A ruling for the plaintiffs would limit an employee’s right to make many personal decisions with which their employer disagrees, including the decision to have an abortion, to use in-vitro fertilization, to marry a person of the same sex, to have a child as a single woman, to have a blood transfusion, or to donate to stem-cell research.
The SHJ also joined more than 40 fellow member organizations of the Coalition for Liberty & Justice in a statement denouncing discrimination and supporting real religious liberty for all. “We represent a diverse cross-section of communities, including faith-based and secular groups as well as those dedicated to LGBT rights, women’s rights, separation of church and state, civil rights, and sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice,” the groups wrote. “We are united in our belief that public policies should both respect religious liberty and protect against the use of religious beliefs to discriminate or undermine equality.” The statement, with a full list of signatories, can be found here.
As Humanistic Jews, we in the SHJ recognize that all people have the fundamental right to determine the course of their own lives. Contraceptive choice is only one of the many components of this personal freedom. “A woman’s ability to access contraception shouldn’t depend on where she works or on the beliefs of her boss or of the company’s owners,” said the Society’s Executive Director, Bonnie Cousens. She continued: “We ask the Supreme Court to recognize the danger inherent in bowing to particular religious beliefs as the basis for legislation or for public policies regarding reproductive health care. No individual or company should be able to use their personal religious views or beliefs as justification for curtailing others’ access to necessary and legal health care.”
The Society for Humanistic Judaism is the national umbrella organization for Humanistic Jewish congregations in North America. These congregations embrace a human-centered philosophy that celebrates Jewish culture without supernatural underpinnings. Humanistic Jews value their Jewish identity and the aspects of Jewish culture that offer a genuine expression of their contemporary way of life. Humanistic Judaism embraces the belief in the human capacity to create a better world rather than in reliance on a deity.
There are currently more than 30 congregations and communities in the United States and Canada that are affiliated with this growing movement. Forty-nine percent of the United States’ 5.5 million Jews say that their outlook is secular, and forty-eight percent do not belong to a synagogue or other Jewish organization, according to the American Jewish Identification Survey undertaken by professional statisticians under the auspices of the Center for Jewish Studies at the City University of New York. The Society for Humanistic Judaism helps to organize local congregations and havurot, creates and disseminates celebrational and educational materials, provides national programs, including programs for teens and young adults, and serves the needs of individual members who do not live near an existing Humanistic congregation.