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Menorahs and abortions

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Rabbi Joshua Hammerman’s recent blog, “How a menorah may bring about a ‘Christian nation,’” purports to offer a “reminder of how vulnerable we are to losing the constitutional right” provided by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: the right to freely practice any religion, including Judaism, in a state or nation that has no official religion established by a Christian majority.

Rabbi Hammerman’s fears and forebodings are entirely misplaced; the “vulnerability” he perceives is generated by his own profound misunderstanding of American constitutional law. It’s important to set the record straight.

The logic of Rabbi Hammerman’s post is not obvious, but it seems to run somewhat along these lines. In 1989, the US Supreme Court decided, in a case named Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU, that a Pennsylvania county did not violate the Establishment Clause when it erected a menorah, alongside a Christmas tree, on government-owned property.

This decision, which was (according to Rabbi Hammerman) applauded by the more Orthodox spectrum of the Jewish community, but not welcomed by “the Jewish establishment,” supposedly amounted to a crack in the “Wall of Separation” between church and state, which Wall has always served to protect minority religions in the US.

The argument is that that crack might soon cause the Wall to collapse, because the Establishment Clause now is........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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