Jews, Muslims and others say Roe v. Wade reversal threatens their religious freedom

Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act essentially said that if a law places a substantial burden on a religious practice, the government must prove there is not a less restrictive alternative. For example: providing a religious exemption to Indigenous people who take peyote as part of a ritual.

"In enacting (the religious freedom law), Congress recognized that all religious practitioners merit the respect called for by the free exercise clause," said Rebecca Tsosie, who teaches federal Indian law and constitutional law at the University of Arizona. "It was one of those moments when people felt that all religions have to be protected."

Whether Florida's Religious Freedom Restoration Act will help Silver's case is still to be determined, but Helfand says he believes the lawsuit it is too garbled to be successful.

"It tries to take a little religious liberty and a little separation of church and state and mash them up," he said. "It's not the best way to advance in court."

Silver says he is working with lawyers on refiling the suit and has received commitments from other religious organizations to sign on. Other groups say they need more time to formulate a strategic argument.

"Americans United is looking at all the options, but I think there is a really powerful argument to be made under the establishment clause that says a government can't play favorites when it comes to religion," Laser said. "I think that's a very intuitive argument to make, and very powerful."


The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance is in preliminary talks about taking legal action as well, Lazar Price said.

"There's nothing I can share publicly, but suffice it to say there are faith groups across the religious spectrum in this country who are alarmed by developments of the past couple of weeks and where they are going," she said.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says his organization is discussing how and whether to weigh in on the Dobbs decision.

"I think many Muslim organizations are reevaluating the issue of abortion in the wake of Roe v. Wade and considering if they need to get involved in this discussion and how — including us," he said.


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