RFRA Redux Part 2

My Remarks (more or less) at the Georgia State Capitol on February 22, 2023 – Rosh Hodesh Adar 5783:

I have stood here before, with colleagues and friends; it is a privilege to stand here again and teach a central principle of my faith, a core Jewish value, rooted in the Hebrew Bible and known in over fifty world religions as the Golden Rule: 

וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ

Love your neighbor as yourself.

In the Hebrew Bible, in the book of Leviticus, this appears as a summary statement at the end of three verses outlining the ethical and moral behavior we owe toward each other. And the reason given for why we must do unto others is:

 ‘אֲנִ֖י ה

I am God.

God expects us to treat all human beings with respect, because every human being, each one of us contains a spark of the divine within us. 

My teenage students know this is an ideal, the gold standard, for how to treat each other. And it can be challenging, we sometimes fail, because we’re human, mere mortals. So we look to the beginning of these three verses to find another compelling commandment: 

לֹ֥א תַעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ

Do not stand idly by on your neighbor’s blood, that is, when another person is in danger, if you see another person in harm’s way, or suffering, don’t be a bystander. This is the minimum, the least we can do, for our fellow human beings.

Why am I standing here today teaching these verses in Leviticus?

Because SB 180, the so-called and erroneously named Religious Freedom Restoration Act, will not protect our religious freedom and poses potential harm to our neighbors, to religious minorities, to LGBTQ people and other folks who are vulnerable to discrimination. We have said we don’t want this law, many times in the past nine years. 

As a Jew, a mother, a teacher of other people’s children, and a person of faith, who cares deeply for the well being of my neighbors, I stand here today to urge our state legislators to do the same.