This morning, I joined other board members from CJJ in hand-delivering copies of an open letter to all state legislators. Signed by more than 200 members of North Carolina’s Jewish community, including dozens of rabbis and cantors, business leaders, and communal professionals, the letter states our firm opposition to the so-called “religious freedom” bills currently being considered in the house and senate, as well as in states nationwide. CJJ joins the wider Jewish community in urging all legislators to oppose these sham bills, and we will be paying close attention to which lawmakers, in the final accounting, vote for bigotry and discrimination.
The letter delivery follows a major win for CJJ last week, when Rep. Gary Pendleton, of Wake County, formerly a cosponsor of one of the bad bills, agreed to drop his support after meeting with a CJJ delegation. We can’t quite say “dayenu” yet, but we are getting very close to a complete victory.
Quite a few legislative aides thanked us for taking the time to engage, and, regardless of their offices’ positions, lawmakers are understandably very interested in what a minority religious group has to say about bills that purport to protect religious freedom. That’s why our engagement in this debate as Jews is so important. Identifying ourselves as a faith community, one with a rich cultural heritage and deeply resonant historical experience, helps us build power and influence with the individuals whose decisions–like it or not!–impact our lives each day.
When visiting legislators’ offices, I tried to share some specific comments from our supporters whenever possible. You can read a few of them below.
“I hope North Carolina will not follow the lead of Indiana, and trail it in the news.”
“This Bill does nothing to advance human rights and respect for the people of North Carolina. It is discriminatory in design and effect. No G-d would subscribe to this attempt to discriminate against our fellow sisters and brothers.”
“Religious freedoms are a cornerstone of our nation, not an excuse to alienate others.”
“As a woman, a Jew, and a person concerned with the equal rights of all people, I strongly support voting against this religious freedom bill which opens the door to legalized discrimination.”
“Religious freedom is guaranteed by our constitution. The purpose of RFRA is to permit discrimination. I urge our legislature to reject this unnecessary and dangerous law.”