Recently on our sister-site, Sheepshead Bites, we covered Congress’s passage of a bill that would provide financial aid to religious institutions wrecked by Superstorm Sandy and the ensuing flack from Jewish groups that Congressman Jerrold Nadler took for voting against it. In response to the heat, Nadler took it upon himself to write an editorial for the Jewish Press to defend his vote and make his view more clearly known.
In his editorial, Nadler argues that by voting against the bill, his fundamental intent was to protect the religious rights of the Jewish community and other religious minorities.
Nadler believes that voting for the bill brings up serious constitutional issues that might challenge the First Amendment, the very amendment that protects the right to worship freely.
While I was, of course, tempted to support grants that might provide some relief to a number of shuls, I decided that I simply was not willing to trade that potential short-term benefit for the likelihood of real long-term harm to the religious freedom protections upon which the Jewish community depends. And I certainly wasn’t willing to risk such harm without a single hearing to examine the serious constitutional questions the bill raised.
Nadler also argues that the Supreme Court has sharply drawn the line when it comes to using taxpayer money to fund religious institutions.
The record is clear: the Supreme Court has rejected every single case brought before it that attempted to provide the type of funding made available in this bill. So, while the bill may be a nice political gesture, it is highly unlikely that any shuls will ever see any actual funds from it.
And the Supreme Court has ruled this way for good reason. Experience shows that once government starts funding religion, it starts demanding a say in how its money is spent. That has been true of every governmental expenditure.
Nadler closes his editorial by defending his record supporting the Jewish community and boosting religious liberty. He also reiterates his belief that by voting against the bill, he was actually increasing religious liberty.
I will continue to fight to ensure that our community – including our vital religious institutions – receives all the assistance government can provide. But I will do so in a manner that is consistent with our Constitution and the preservation of our most precious liberties. I understand that some will not always agree – nor will everyone like some of my decisions – but our religious liberty is too important to sacrifice for apparent short-term advantage or political popularity.