First Circuit Agrees with JSPAN – DOMA is Unconstitutional

JSPAN Newsletter - June 1, 2012
Jewish Social Policy Action Network

In this Issue:
Newsletter: June 1, 2012
Inside Healthcare Reform this Wednesday at The Pyramid Club!




PA Eases Birth Certificate Requirement – for Some Voters
Bob Warner
Philadelphia Inquirer, May 28, 2012

Amid the complexities of Pennsylvania's new voter identification law, the news release sent out from Harrisburg on Wednesday promised to make things simpler.

The Corbett administration was announcing it had worked out a way for PennDot to check with the state Health Department to verify state birth records - a "simplified method to obtain photo ID for Pennsylvania-born voters," said the headline on the Department of State release.

It may be simplified, but it still isn't simple.


[read more]

Note: Act 18 of 2012, the law imposing new voter identification requirements, states that identity can be established by a document that shows the name of the individual and substantially conforms to the name in the voting register, includes a photograph of the individual, has an expiration date, and is not expired (or a Department of Transportation license expired for less than a year).

Alternatives under Act 18 include an identification document from the U.S. Armed Forces, the United States Government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a Pennsylvania municipality, an accredited Pennsylvania institution of higher learning, or a Pennsylvania care facility (this may be a long term care nursing facility, assisted living residence or a personal care home).

Act 18 directs PennDOT to issue a voter identification card at no cost to a voter who signs a statement under oath that he or she does not possess proof of identification, and requires proof of identification for voting purposes.

JSPAN is seeking ways to help to register those who may otherwise be disenfranchised by this regrettable, politically inspired law. JSPAN acknowledges and supports the litigation headed by the ACLU to bring an immediate end to this problem. – Ed.


First Circuit Agrees with JSPAN – DOMA is Unconstitutional
A unanimous three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that there is no justification for the Defense of Marriage Act to disallow recognition to a same-sex couple legally married under Massachusetts law. The court’s reasoning follows the arguments advanced in JSPAN’s amicus curiae brief. Primary credit for the content of our brief goes to Prof. Perry Dane of Rutgers Law School, an active member of our Church-State Policy Center. Our strongest congratulations to Perry!

The court applied “intensified scrutiny” to DOMA’s treatment of minorities that are subject to discrepant treatment generally. Finding no federal interest that adequately justifies the statute, the court ruled that DOMA denies equal protection to gays and must be struck down.

To read the court's opinion, click here.

To read analysis by JSPAN Board member Adam Bonin, click here

To read the JSPAN amicus curiae brief, click here.


Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools
Stephanie Saul
New York Times, May 21, 2012

When the Georgia legislature passed a private school scholarship program in 2008, lawmakers promoted it as a way to give poor children the same education choices as the wealthy. ...

The intent was that money otherwise due to the Georgia treasury — about $50 million a year — would be used instead to help needy students escape struggling public schools.

That was the idea, at least. But parents meeting at Gwinnett Christian Academy got a completely different story last year. “A very small percentage of that money will be set aside for a needs-based scholarship fund,” Wyatt Bozeman, an administrator at the school near Atlanta, said during an informational session. “The rest of the money will be channeled to the family that raised it.”


[read more]

JSPAN opposes public funding of religious schools, regardless of the trappings and disguises that may be conceived to avoid the clear constitutional infirmity of the government paying for religious education. – Ed.



The Battle Among Catholic Bishops
By E.J. Dionne Jr.
The Washington Post, May 23, 2012

There is a healthy struggle brewing among the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops. A previously silent group, upset over conservative colleagues defining the church’s public posture and eagerly picking fights with President Obama, has had enough.

The headlines this week were about lawsuits brought by 43 Catholic organizations, including 13 dioceses, to overturn regulations issued by the Obama administration that require insurance plans to cover contraception under the new health-care law. But the other side of this news was also significant: The vast majority of the nation’s 195 dioceses did not go to court.


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NY Stop And Frisk Lawsuit Granted Class Action Status
Larry Neumeister
Huffington Post, May 16, 2012

NEW YORK — Finding the city's attitude "deeply troubling," a judge granted class action status Wednesday to a 2008 lawsuit accusing the New York Police Department of discriminating against blacks and Hispanics with its stop-and-frisk policies aimed at reducing crime.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said in a written ruling that there was "overwhelming evidence" that a centralized stop-and-frisk program has led to thousands of unlawful stops. She noted that the vast majority of New Yorkers who are unlawfully stopped will never file a lawsuit in response, and she said class- action status was created for just these kinds of court cases.


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Judge Rules for School District in Suicide Death of Teen Featured in ‘Bully’ Documentary
Debra Cassens Weiss
ABA Journal, May 22, 2012


A federal judge in Georgia has granted summary judgment to a school district accused of deliberate indifference to the plight of a bullied student who committed suicide.

U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy ruled (PDF) for the Murray County school system in a case filed by the parents of 17-year-old Tyler Long, according to the Daily Report blog ATLaw. The case had attracted nationwide attention. ABC News covered the the youth's problems in a report on school bullying, while Tyler’s parents appeared on Ellen and in a documentary called Bully, WRCB reports.

Tyler Long had Asperger Syndrome and was fixated on following the rules, a trait that made him unpopular with classmates at his school in Chatsworth, Ga., according to ABC. Murphy’s opinion included a suicide note Tyler wrote to his family.


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Program: The Continued Judicial Vacancy Crisis
The Continued Judicial Vacancy Crisis

With Senior United States District Judge Norma L. Shapiro and Professor Mary Frances Berry

Moderated by Penn Law Professor Anita L. Allen

Wednesday, June 13, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

3400 Chestnut Street, Room T145

Admission free. RSVP to or call (412) 391-2005.


Israel Recognizes Reform and Conservative Rabbis
Yair Ettinger
Haaretz, May 29, 2012

In an unprecedented move, Israel has announced that it is prepared to recognize Reform and Conservative community leaders as rabbis and fund their salaries. Rabbis belonging to either stream will be classified as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities.” The attorney general advised the High Court that the state will begin equally financing non-Orthodox rabbis in regional councils and farming communities that are interested in doing so.

The state’s answer comes in response to a petition that was made in 2005 by the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, in the name of the Reform community at Kibbutz Gezer and Rabbi Miri Gold, who demanded equal financing of non-Orthodox religious services to those of the Orthodox via the municipal authority. The petitioners demanded the regional council be allowed to finance the salary of the community leader in the same way that hundreds of regional councils, neighborhoods and communities across the country do so for male Orthodox rabbis they employ.


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Is the Israeli Rabbinate Reconciling Itself to Non-Orthodox Judaism?
Mati Wagner
JTA, May 22, 2012

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- After a Jerusalem-area’s religious council allowed a female Reform rabbi to participate in its proceedings, some advocates of liberal Judaism in the country are hailing their inroads into the Orthodox-dominated religious infrastructure.

At the beginning of May, the Orthodox members of the religious council in Mevasseret Zion, a town west of Jerusalem, agreed to convene a meeting with the participation of Rabbi Alona Lisitsa. The 41-year-old rabbi is an immigrant from Kiev and received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem.


But Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi, a member of the haredi Orthodox Shas party, rejected the notion that Lisitsa's participation constituted a sea change. "All members of the religious council sign off on an affidavit that states that everyone is subordinate to the directives of the [Orthodox] Chief Rabbinate," Margi said in a written statement responding to questions provided to JTA. His ministry, he added, would continue to provide budgets "in an egalitarian and accessible manner" to all.

[read more]


German Doctors Apologize for Holocaust Horrors
Art Caplan, Ph.D., May 24, 2012

The German Medical Association has issued a remarkably blunt and straightforward apology, more than six decades after the end of World War II, for the role it played during the Holocaust in the mass murder, sterilization and barbaric medical experiments done on Jews and many other groups.

The apology, made Wednesday at the Bundesärztekammer (German Medical Association) meeting in Nuremberg, makes no excuses.

Unanimously adopted by the delegates of the Physician's Congress, the declaration says that contrary to popular belief doctors were not forced by political authorities to kill and experiment on prisoners but rather engaged in the Holocaust as leaders and enthusiastic Nazi supporters.

The apology notes that “outstanding representatives of renowned academic medical and research institutions were involved” in organizing and carrying out the mass extermination of millions


[read more]


20 Years Later, it Turns out Dan Quayle was Right about Murphy Brown and Unmarried Moms
Isabel Sawhill
The Washington Post, May 25, 2012

On May 19, 1992, as the presidential campaign season was heating up, Vice President Dan Quayle delivered a family-values speech that came to define him nearly as much as his spelling talents. Speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California, he chided Murphy Brown — the fictional 40-something, divorced news anchor played by Candice Bergen on a CBS sitcom — for her decision to have a child outside of marriage.

“Bearing babies irresponsibly is simply wrong,” the vice president said. “Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong. We must be unequivocal about this. It doesn’t help matters when prime-time TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.”


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Death of Tamara Brooks, 70, Robs Theodore Bikel of Treasured Companion
Appreciation by Leonard Fein
The Forward, May 22, 2012

Sunrise, sunset.

On May 2, Turner Classic Movies celebrated Theodore (Theo) Bikel’s 88th birthday by airing six of his films – by and large, as it happens, not the most memorable among them.

Not counting television roles, Bikel – or Theo, since I write as his friend – has appeared in more than 40 films, performed on stage and in concert, at conventions and in more intimate settings and, of course, in what has become his signature role, as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (more than 2000 times). For decades, he has been a unique performer, interpreter, creator of Jewish culture; the giant shadow he has there cast is utterly unique.

Theo’s Tevye, engaging as it surely is, takes on a rare seriousness in the actor’s articulation of one line of dialogue: With regard to his daughters Tzeitel and Hodel, both of whose marriages are in his eyes problematic, Tevye goes back and forth – “on the one hand,” and then “on the other hand” – until finally, true love is the winner. But with regard to Chava, who announces her intention to marry Fyedke, a Russian, not a Jew, Tevye’s back and forth goes this way: “How can I accept them? Can I deny everything I believe in? On the other hand, can I deny my own daughter? On the other hand, how can I turn my back on my faith, on my people? If I try and bend that far, I’ll break. On the other hand … No. There is no other hand.”

Bikel knows that the entire gravitas of the play is contained in those last five words, and the great skill he brings their articulation is a perfect match for their importance.


[read more]



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