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Still a problem

The Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center has raised an interesting issue. Expressing disappointment over the fact that Dawn Johnsen – President Obama’s nominee to the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel – has withdrawn her nomination, the group deplored the “obstructionist tactics” used against her.

Most significant, they noted that the views for which she was targeted by those contesting her nomination – in particular, support for reproductive freedom and her opposition to torture – “are consonant with those of the Reform Movement and should not disqualify any willing public servant from a position in the Administration.”

“We hope,” said RAC’s Mark Pelavin, “that the extreme obstructionist tactics that we encountered will not become a pattern for future nominations.”

Indeed.

For one thing, the office for which she was a candidate has been leaderless for more than a year. For another, the “reasons” for which she was undermined – not merit-based but rather premised on what might be described as a religious litmus test – should raise a red flag for the Jewish community.

While the religious right seems to have taken a backseat to the Tea Party movement in recent days, its influence is still undeniably strong. Ironically, while the Tea Party bloc is the group most identified with opposition to the recently passed health-care bill, we should not lose sight of the fact that the bill itself could not have secured passage without passing the “abortion rights” test – i.e., guaranteeing that federal funds could not be used for abortion.

And we’re talking about both national parties here. In fact, an article on the NPR Website in March was tellingly entitled “Health Care Passage Hinged On Abortion Language.”

A cautionary tale is the case of Rep. Bart Stupak, the anti-abortion Democrat from Michigan who helped negotiate a compromise with the Obama administration to secure passage of the health-care bill and subsequently announced that he would not seek re-election. He had come under fire not only from those who opposed the health-care overhaul but from abortion opponents who said he betrayed their cause.

As the political arena becomes increasingly uncivil, even hostile, it is easy to overlook the fact that religious beliefs remain a key ingredient in this volatile mix. As Jews, we must be vigilant in distinguishing which battles are for the sake of heaven and which are waged just to ensure that a particular view of heaven is paramount.

L.G.

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