This Florida synagogue is using religious freedom to challenge abortion restrictions
Faith groups that support abortion rights are looking to religious freedom law after the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling
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Two weeks before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, an effort to use religious freedom law to challenge abortion restrictions was already underway. On June 10, a Florida synagogue filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s 15-week abortion ban, arguing that the policy interferes with the Jewish community’s ability to practice its faith.
“We’d have to choose between practicing Judaism and this law,” said Rabbi Barry Silver of Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor to McClatchy. Jewish teachings say that abortion is permitted in many cases and even required in some.
The lawsuit is filed in state court and cites the Florida Constitution’s religious freedom protections rather than federal ones. The synagogue argues that Florida’s abortion policy enshrines conservative Christian teachings about when life begins into the law.
“It’s trying to impose a religious view of when life begins, and we’re not fooled,” Rabbi Silver told McClatchy.
Legal experts quoted in the article said the synagogue faces an uphill battle. I received similar reactions in May when I asked several scholars how a hypothetical faith-based challenge to abortion restrictions would fare in the courts.
However, some Jewish leaders believe the Florida lawsuit will be valuable even if it fails. It will help other religious organizations prepare their own cases, said Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, to McClatchy.
“We’re following this Florida lawsuit with anticipation,” she said. “We do want to see what works or doesn’t work with it. And we’ll be learning from it.”
Several groups referenced the possibility for future religious freedom lawsuits in their statements on the Supreme Court’s decision. Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, described the decision as a “direct attack on the separation of church and state,” adding that her organization is “readying religious freedom litigation.”
“Abortion bans undermine religious freedom by attempting to impose one religious viewpoint on all of us,” she said.
Fresh off the press
Term of the week: Vatican Athletics
Vatican Athletics is a track team composed entirely of runners connected to the Holy See, which refers to the Catholic Church’s governing body. Participants include members of the Swiss Guard, priests and nuns, according to The Associated Press.
On Friday, a Vatican Athletics runner competed on the biggest stage the team has yet seen. Sara Carnicelli, who is the daughter of a Vatican employee, ran in the half marathon at the Mediterranean Games.
What I’m reading ...
The FBI raided churches in Georgia, Washington, North Carolina and Texas last month following accusations that church leaders were financially manipulating worshippers, many of whom serve in the military. A deeper dive into the situation from The Augusta Chronicle features comments from former church members and information on the churches’ founder. “The church required military members to tithe their reenlistment bonuses,” and some members also signed over their life insurance plan, the article noted.
Churches seeking to build tiny homes on their property to ease the homelessness crisis can run into unexpected challenges, including lawsuits from neighbors. But those that persevere rarely regret it, The Associated Press reports. Some churches with tiny homes have been able to use them in the wake of natural disasters to shelter congregation members awaiting home repairs.
Odds and ends
The Supreme Court has decided not to hear the vaccine mandate case I wrote about last month. A group of New York health care workers had asked the justices to weigh in on whether the state’s vaccine policy violated the First Amendment since it granted the possibility of medical exemptions, but not religious ones. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch wrote that they would have agreed to hear the case.
Here are two words I never expected to see together in a headline: Christian nudists.