Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – welcomed a legal guidance memorandum issued Friday by the attorney general of the United States for the purpose of instructing all federal agencies on how to respect and support the religious liberty of Americans in a host of circumstances. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the memorandum to implement an executive order issued by President Trump at a Rose Garden ceremony on May 4, 2017.
The memorandum covers a broad range of issues. Importantly, it sets forth a set of principles including the recognition that the constitutional protection of religious liberty is not only a guarantee that all Americans may believe as they choose, but that they also have the right to act upon those beliefs and must not confine their faith to their private homes and houses of worship. The memorandum reviews the important – and expansive – parameters of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, affirms the special protections given religious institutions by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, reaffirms the legal obligation for private sector employers to reasonably accommodate the religious needs of their employees in the workplace and reaffirms the application of the Clinton Guidelines on Religious Exercise in the Federal Workplace, and much more.
Mark (Moshe) Bane, president of the Orthodox Union, stated:
“As a minority faith community, the Orthodox Jewish community’s ability to live and flourish in the United States is heavily reliant upon the legal protection of religious liberty. We appreciate the action taken by President Trump and Attorney General Sessions to bolster these fundamental rights for our community — and citizens of all faith communities.”
Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s executive director for public policy, stated:
“The memorandum issued by the Justice Department is incredibly important for Americans of all faiths. It reaffirms crucial legal protections for our ‘first freedom’ and it lays out clear guidance for federal cabinet agencies in their work. While some may be quick to criticize this document, they would do well to review it carefully first, as it clearly states legal principles based upon current statutes and Supreme Court opinions.”