Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Migrated fb note part 3: On equal marriage.

An Open Letter to Baron Sacks of Aldgate in the City of London

31 May 2013 at 01:42
Calling all those who believe in either religious freedom (+ freedom from religion) or LGBTQ rights, or both. Today, one of my heroines, Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner shared a letter from a leading Quaker which he had sent to a member of the house of Lords, urging them to support the passing of law which would allow same sex marriage in "religious" venues by "religious" leaders. This is the letter I sent to Lord Sacks. Why don't you write one too?

כ"א סיון תשע"ג
30th of May 2013 according to the counting of the Christian Kingdom of Great Britain

Dear Lord Sacks,

I write to you, not in your esteemed position as Chief Rabbi of the Jews of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, but as Baron Sacks of Aldgate of the City of London, a Lord of her majesty’s government, and a protector of the rights of Britons in that government. I write to you about an issue dear to your heart, and to the heart of all Jews – namely religious freedom. You have written so eloquently in your book, “The Dignity of Difference” and elsewhere about the need for societies to recognise the search for truth within all religious traditions. You have been a constant voice for the promotion of a society in which each individual will be able to simultaneously draw inspiration and energy from their own tradition while being able to see the value and importance of others’ religious beliefs and join together with others to create a more just and equal society. Your criticism of the “I” culture resonated beyond sectarian boundaries as a clarion call for a more collective view of societal responsibility. You have been a leader in showing this country that all humans are created בצלם אלקים as equals, and that we all have a responsibility to defend the religious rights of others.

As such I beseech you to defend my religious rights. As a Progressive Jew, and a Reform Rabbi, I am moved by my belief in Torah, which for me is an עץ חיים – a tree oflife – a source of never ending, continuous revelation, to see, as you do, that all of us are created, בדמות אלקים. It is clear to me that the divine image in all of us demands from each of us that we be treated equally before the law. As such, I am divinely obligated  (מצווה) to respect the needs and wishes of my members – whether they be straight or gay, lesbian or bisexual. As you well know, our tradition teaches that humans are createdwith the need to seek עזר כנגדו – a help-mate in life. While my human cynicism may question the romanticism of this single-partnership vision, and while the Jewish tradition has historically allowed for multiple partners, in the society in which we live, monogamy and monoandry have become part of our societal and religious fabric.

As such, though I speak for myself, and not my community, as a religious leader, I understand myself to be morally, ethically and religiously bound  (מצווה) to perform ceremonies which celebrate the love and commitment of two people to each other. I view these ceremonies as a ברית אהבה – a sacred covenant of love. Moreover, given the nature of the establishment of religion in this country and the failure of the country to divorce religion from the state, as a religious leader, my role is also a legal one. And as such, if I am disbarred from marrying two people of the same gender, the state is actively squashing my religious freedom. I urge you, in your position as a member of the House of Lords to support my religious rights and freedoms and to join with other defenders of Jewish rights, such as Baroness Neuberger, in seeking a change in the law which will allow these religious marriages between two partners of the same gender to take place in my synagogue. As you know – this will in no way affect your own religious rights, nor those of anyone who does not wish to have them affected, but you will be a champion for those of us, whose religious beliefs are currently unrepresented in law.

Yours sincerely,

Rabbi Haim Shalom

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