April 18, 2014


JSPAN Newsletter - April 18, 2014

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue: JSPAN Speaks Out
Newsletter: April 18, 2014
JSPAN Wants You!
As a reader of the JSPAN Newsletter you likely already know a lot about the Jewish Social Policy Action Network-the programs we sponsor, the amicus briefs we file, the positions we take on important domestic social policy issues-and, hopefully, in this Newsletter, you are finding articles of interest on topics that you care about.

But what you may not know is how we function and – more importantly – how JSPAN can help you satisfy your desire to contribute to tikun olam, to advance social justice and to support progressive public policy.

From our beginnings over ten years ago, we have attracted people who care about a variety of domestic social policy issues. Among these are aging, separation of church and state, economic justice, education, elections and voting, energy and the environment, ethnic and religious conflict, gun control, healthcare and bioethics, hunger and food security, immigration, LGBT equality, mass incarceration and the death penalty and reproductive freedom. As part of its pursuit of social justice-a central tenet of Judaism-for each of these areas, JSPAN has established a "policy center" to keep us alerted to important developments on these issues and to develop solid positions on social policies upon which to base the organization's educational and advocacy efforts.

We invite you to get involved in these policy centers and otherwise to contribute to the work of the organization. If you share our passion for progress and commitment to Jewish principles of justice, then JSPAN needs you. If you would like to work on issues of concern to you, please be in touch with our Executive Director, Rabbi George Stern (georgestern.jspan@gmail.com). If you have relevant professional or personal background on these issues, please let us know. We hope to hear from you!


JSPAN Urges Perelman School To Reconsider Decision
On March 24, 2014, the Perelman Jewish Day School announced that its Board of Directors "voted to transition the management" of its faculty "from a union model governed by a collective bargaining agreement to an independent model guided by our school administrators under a new Faculty Handbook."

Although the Perelman Board assured school parents that the reason was that non-union schools are better able to manage their faculty, JSPAN along with many others was concerned and disappointed that the school had unilaterally decided to cease recognizing the union that has represented its teachers for decades. U.S. Supreme Court decisions interpreting the National Labor Relations Act may not apply to collective bargaining rights of employees in religious institutions. JSPAN nevertheless supports employees' right to organize and the tradition of worker protections grounded in Jewish precepts.

On behalf of the JSPAN Board of Directors, JSPAN's Interim President Deborah Weinstein, wrote the Perelman Board requesting an explanation and urging them to reconsider the decision to withdraw recognition of the union that had represented the Perelman teachers since 1976. While expressing JSPAN's support for quality education, Ms. Weinstein's letter pressed the Perelman Board to "take your goals and specific plans to the bargaining table and to make every good faith effort to reach the desired outcome, treating your faculty with the respect they deserve."

Soon after receiving the letter, JSPAN received a response providing JSPAN with background on the decision from the Board's perspective and attaching an op-ed column that appeared in the Jewish Exponent at http://www.jewishexponent.com/opinion/2014/04/students-come-first-at-perelman-jewish-day-school. According to the column, the Perelman Board determined "to put the children first." It considered all factors and decided that "our administrators need to have all the tools necessary to assure that, in managing our faculty, we always place excellence first and foremost. Tenure, in our particular case, directly conflicts with our commitment to place the needs of our children first . . . . Although union representatives disagreed with the decision to end tenure, the board's decision is not meant to be disrespectful to our teachers." Further, it was reported in the column that all Perelman teachers have now accepted non-union contracts to continue teaching at the school.



Update on JSPAN's U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Filings
Over our brief (ten year) history JSPAN has prepared and filed in many courts a number of amicus curiae or "friend of the court" briefs, either on behalf of JSPAN alone or on behalf of a coalition of organizations.

Earlier this year, JSPAN filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act's mandate that private, for-profit corporations provide employees with coverage that includes all FDA-approved contraceptive methods. The key issue in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, now before the Court, is whether for-profit corporations have a right to deny contraceptive coverage to women workers based on religious objections of the corporation's owners. JSPAN argues that it would not be proper to treat the religious views of the corporation's shareholders as an exercise of religion by the corporation.

In the fall of 2013, JSPAN filed an amicus brief in Town of Greece v. Galloway also now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. JSPAN therein urges the Court to reverse its prior opinion and ban government sanctioned legislative prayer. Additionally, earlier this year JSPAN has joined with the Anti-Defamation League and other groups in briefs to federal courts of appeals in challenges to state same sex marriage bans in Utah, Virginia, and most recently, Oklahoma.

Note: Many of these briefs have been prepared by participants in JSPAN's Church and State Policy Center include practicing (as well as retired) lawyers, former clerks for Supreme Court Justices and Courts of Appeal Judges, and Constitutional law professors. If you have an interest in making a pro bono contribution to such efforts in the future, please contact Jeffrey Pasek at jpasek@cozen.com or Deborah Weinstein at dweinstein@weinsteinfirm.com.-Ed.


Educating the Voter: A Forum on Public Education


JSPAN Calls on Court to Support Philly Teachers' Right to Collectively Bargain
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) has moved to make broad changes, including bypassing seniority for Philadelphia School District teacher assignments, transfers, layoffs and recalls. It has asked the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to declare definitively that the 2001 law that created the SRC gives it the power to make those changes. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has opposed the SRC's position, arguing that every change sought by the SRC has traditionally been subject to collective bargaining.

On behalf of the JSPAN Board of Directors, the organization's Executive Committee issued the following statement calling upon the Court to affirm the right of teachers in the School District of Philadelphia to collectively bargain:

"The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has opposed the School Reform Commission's attempt to gain court approval to unilaterally impose work rules on teachers. While the SRC's motivations remain unclear, the effect would be to remove the PFT's right to bargain collectively, maximizing the power of management by diminishing the rights of workers, in this case professionals who already work under extremely challenging conditions.

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) is dedicated to progressive policies including full funding of quality public schools and fair wages. We support the right of public employees to form labor organizations and, except under very limited circumstances not present here, to engage in collective bargaining through their chosen union representatives. We call upon the Court to affirm the teachers' right to collectively bargain, upon both sides to bargain in good faith, and upon the Commonwealth to support public school children with adequate and sustainable resources."



Circling Back to Hobby Lobby: Does Doing Business With Same Sex Couple Violate Studio's Religious Rights?
By Jeri Clausing
The Philadelphia Inquirer
April 8, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The U. S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from a studio that refused to photograph a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony, letting stand a New Mexico high court ruling that helped spur a national debate over gay rights and religious freedom.

The justices left in place a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling last year that said Elane Photography violated New Mexico's Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph the same-sex ceremony "in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races."

Elane Photography coowner Elaine Huguenin said taking the photos for Vanessa Willock and her partner would violate her religious beliefs. She said she also has a right of artistic expression under the First Amendment that allows her to choose what pictures to take or refrain from taking.

Tobias Barrington Wolff, a University of Pennsylvania law professor representing the couple, said "no court in the United States has ever found that a business selling commercial services to the general public has a First Amendment right to turn away customers on a discriminatory basis."


[read more]


High Court Drama on Stage in Play on Landmark Nudity Case: Playwright Inspired by Oral Arguments on Free Speech
By Tony Mauro
The National Law Journal
April 7, 2014

It's a U.S. Supreme Court argument like none you've ever seen: justices scooting around on their chairs like whirling dervishes, advocates pushing their lecterns back and forth, one lawyer even orating and dancing - briefly - without benefit of clothing. At one point, two justices hold a side conference that looks a lot like making out.

That is how the play "Arguendo," which opened April 1 and runs through the end of the month at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, holds its audience through the inevitably dull stretches of a high court argument. The play's script, after all, is drawn verbatim from the 1991 argument in Barnes v. Glen Theatre, a dispute over nude dancing.

Talk about transparency: Director John Collins is not waiting for cameras to be permitted in the court chamber to bring an oral argument to the masses. Unlike some justices and lawyers who have suggested the public is not savvy enough to understand an oral argument, Collins is convinced ordinary people can get it.


[read more]


Your Opinion Counts

The editors of the JSPAN newsletter welcome reader's comments regarding the content and format of the newsletter. We want to know what you like and dislike. Are we providing a perspective and service that you find informative and worth reading? Do you have comments on specific articles or items? Let us know what you think! Send all comments to newsletter@jspan.org




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JSPAN Officers
Deborah Weinstein

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Richard I. Malkin
M.D., Vice President

Kenneth R. Myers
Vice President

Burt Siegel
Vice President

Jay Meadway

David Gutin
Assistant Treasurer

Joanna Klein

Jeffrey Pasek
Policy Center Chair

Stewart Weintraub
General Counsel

Rabbi George Stern
Executive Director

Irwin Aronson
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
Hon. Ruth Damsker
William Epstein
Brian Gralnick
Margot Horwitz
Adrienne Jacoby Ph.D.
Hon. Babette Josephs
Nathan Kleinman
Marlena Kleit
Ruth Laibson
Theodore Mann
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz M.D.
Dan Segal
Marc Stier Ph.D.
Rabbi David Straus
Ilene Wasserman Ph.D.
Lynn G. Zeitlin
Jill Katz Zipin
Gail Zukerman

Judah Labovitz
Ken Myers
Deborah Weinstein

Ira Goldberg




The newsletter contains articles and links to articles that we think will be of interest to JSPAN members. They are included for informational purposes, but unless otherwise stated, they do not necessarily reflect official JSPAN policy.

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