Supreme Court Hears Legislative Prayer Case

JSPAN Newsletter - November 15, 2013

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
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Newsletter: November 15, 2013
It's Not Too Late - JSPAN Social Justice Award Ceremony
It is not too late to show your support for JSPAN by participating in this year's Social Justice Award event on November 25 at the Independence Visitor Center. This year JSPAN is proud to confer its 9th Annual Social Justice Award to attorney Mark A. Aronchick in recognition of his distinguished contributions to social justice and equality for all people. The Social Justice Award is JSPAN's annual celebration of a worthy contribution to our community, and your participation also provides major support to maintain the work of the organization. For additional information or to become a sponsor please call Shelley Rappaport at 215-292-9575 or email:


Supreme Court Hears Legislative Prayer Case
Huffington Post
Mark Sherman

The [U.S.] Supreme Court is wrestling with the appropriate role for religion in government in a case involving prayers at the start of a New York town's council meetings.

The justices engaged in a lively give-and-take Wednesday [November 6] that highlighted the sensitive nature of offering religious invocations in public proceedings that don't appeal to everyone and of governments' efforts to police the practice.

The court is weighing a federal appeals court ruling that said the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., violated the Constitution because nearly every prayer in an 11-year span was overtly Christian.

The tenor of the argument indicated the justices would not agree with the appellate ruling. But it was not clear what decision they might come to instead.

[read more]

In an amicus brief, JSPAN made the argument that at a minimum, the Court should distinguish between legislative prayer at the federal and state level and prayer before municipal governmental agencies because: "Individual citizens who object to legislative prayer are more likely to face subtle forms of retaliation if they do so at the local level because they have personal claims or interests [e.g. zoning, land use, permitting] being voted on by those whose prayers they oppose." The Town of Greece was sufficiently concerned about this argument that it found it necessary to argue against it before the Court:

"And finally, with respect to the fact that this is a municipality rather than a state or local -- Federal government. That can't possibly make a difference as an Establishment Clause matter. It makes no sense to suggest that a prayer at the local level is more dangerous for Establishment Clause purposes than what Congress is doing. Only Congress could establish a religion for the entire nation, which is the core preventive purpose of the Establishment Clause. To suggest that there greater restrictions on municipalities makes no sense at all." (Ed.)


Senate Passes ENDA in Bipartisan Vote
Ten Republicans cross the aisle to support civil rights legislation to protect LGBT Americans

U.S. News and World Report
Lauren Fox
(November 7, 2013)

The Senate passed major civil rights legislation Thursday - the Employment Non-Discrimination Act - a bill that protects lesbian, gay, bixesual, and for the first time ever, transgender Americans from discrimination in the workplace.

"Let the bells of freedom ring," Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the bill's lead sponsor, said ahead of the bill's final passage. "This is a terrific day for fairness and freedom."

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay member of the Senate, said the vote was a moment she would never forget.

[read more]

JSPAN, represented by its President, Rabbi George Stern, participated in a lobbying effort that helped convince Senator Toomey to cast what became the 61st vote to end the filibuster and then to vote in favor of the bill itself. All of the other Senators in the tri-state area supported the passage of ENDA. However, there is no guarantee that ENDA will come up in the House, where Majority Leader Boehner could block it because it lacks enough Republican support to pass without Democratic votes. JSPAN urges you to write to Rep. Boehner that you want the full House to have a chance to vote the bill up or down. You can reach his D.C. office at (202) 225-6205. It would also be helpful if you would be in touch with your local Representative to indicate your support. (Ed.)

Over the course of the next several months, JSPAN will present a series of programs on economic inequality in the United States. Look for further details as they are available. (Ed.)


Worry Over Inequality Occupies Wall Street
Gulf Between Haves and Have-Nots May Hurt Economy

Wall Street Journal
Justin Lahart
(Nov. 10, 2013)

Even if they have found the widening gulf between America's haves and have-nots troubling, inequality isn't something fund managers have worried about professionally. That may be changing.

Over the years, the only way inequality has really mattered to investors has been as a factor when considering stocks. If the rich are getting richer, companies that cater to them have better prospects. Goldman Sachs Group, for example, recently conducted a survey that showed optimism among high-income consumers relative to low-income ones at a high and pointed investors toward companies like department-store operator Nordstrom

Lately, though, some big investors have worried increasing income and wealth gaps threaten the economy's ability to expand. They also fret that public anger over it, which Democrat Bill de Blasio tapped in his successful run for New York City mayor, is creating dangerous political tensions.


[read more]


The Grim Economics of Food Stamps
Trimming benefits for millions of poor Americans is not just callous, it's bad for the recovery.

Los Angeles Times
(November 3, 2013)

The day after Halloween, the federal government rolled back food stamp benefits for all 47.6 million people who receive them, officially ending one of the last remaining stimulus efforts left over from President Obama's first months in office - while also making it harder for millions of Americans to get enough to eat. The callousness displayed in cutting vital safety net benefits at a time when millions lack the resources to feed their families adequately has been much discussed. What has gotten less attention is that the cut in food stamps is not good economic policy either


[read more]

It is JSPAN's belief that "federal food programs, especially food stamps, are our nation's frontline defense against hunger, with the ability and capability to reach far more hungry and at-risk families than do charitable food programs," and therefore opposes cuts to the funding of SNAP.(Ed.)



High Court's Refusal to Hear Oklahoma Appeal is Blow to Abortion Foes
Los Angeles Times
David G. Savage and Molly Hennessy-Fiske
(Novembeer 4, 2013)

WASHINGTON - The legal push in some Republican-controlled states to restrict abortion rights suffered a setback Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Oklahoma's appeal seeking to reinstate a law that effectively banned the use of abortion-inducing drugs.

The court's decision delivered a surprise victory for abortion rights groups and was seen as a sign that while conservative justices may be open to giving states new powers to restrict abortion, they are not ready to impose sweeping new limits that would significantly interfere with women's constitutionally protected rights.


[

Justices Leave in Place Ruling Against Abortion Ultrasound Requirement
New York Times
Adam Liptak
(November 12, 2013)

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a state court's decision striking down an Oklahoma law that required women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound image placed in front of them and to listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure.


[read more]

JSPN oppose legislation that seeks to circumscribe a woman's right to choose (Ed.)  

BOOK REVIEW: Hitler's Willing Hollywood Collaborators
The Forward
Gavriel D. Rosenfeld
(November 08, 2013).

Since its publication this past summer, Ben Urwand's book, The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact with Hitler, has sparked intense debate. Its claim that Hollywood's major (Jewish-run) film studios colluded with the government of Nazi Germany to protect their economic interests has elicited angry responses from critics who have objected that the book's thesis is deceptively sensationalistic and unsupported by its evidence.

In fact, Urwand's book uncovers important material about the relationship between the American film industry and the Nazi regime. But in seeking to judge the past, "The Collaboration" falls short of fully explaining it.


[read more]


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