Dear Chief Rabbi, Please keep your mouth shut
Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks attacked over gay marriage opposition
By Simon Rocker, Jewish Chronicle
July 5, 2012
A group of prominent community figures have admonished Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks for opposing plans to allow civil marriage for gays and lesbians.
In a letter to the JC, the Jewish human rights organisation Réné Cassin and 22 lawyers, academics and other individuals, including actor Stephen Fry, declared that it was “a matter of great regret that Lord Sacks has chosen to make a statement in his official capacity opposing the right of gay and lesbian men and women to marry”.
Other signatories included author Lisa Appignanesi, communications expert Julia Hobsbawm, Times executive editor Daniel Finkelstein, lawyer Anthony Julius, who is chairman of the JC, and Dinah Rose QC, the barrister who successfully challenged JFS’s exclusion of the children of non-Orthodox converts.
They wrote: “Even if same-sex marriage is contrary to Jewish law, it does not compromise the position of Orthodox Jews to let others marry as they wish.”
Jewish law, they said, should “play no part in a modern secular society in restricting the lives of non-Jews – and Jews – who do not accept its restraints”.
Arguing that the Chief Rabbi should have refrained from public comment, they said: “Speaking when silence is required is no virtue.”
Both the Reform and Liberal movements have backed the proposal for equal marriage, arguing that it does not go far enough in allowing only civil, but not religious, marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.
But the Chief Rabbi, in a joint response from his rabbinical court, the London Beth Din and the United Synagogue rabbinate to a government consultation, contended that marriage was a sacred union between a man and a woman and any redefinition would undermine it.
The Chief Rabbi had been urged for several months by other Orthodox rabbis to take a stand on the issue, especially after the Catholic Church strongly condemned the proposals.
He declined to comment on this week’s letter.
Some of those who signed it, while doing so in a personal capacity, hold senior communal roles.Clive Sheldon QC is co-chairman of the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues – which has taken no public position on the question of same-sex marriage – while solicitor James Libson sits on the Jewish Leadership Council as chairman of World Jewish Relief.
Mr Sheldon said that the Chief Rabbi had been “ill-judged” to speak “when he didn’t need to give a response. If it were something that directly affected his [own Orthodox] community, that would be different.”
Mr Sheldon, who is a member of a liaison committee for Orthodox and non-Orthodox synagogue movements, said that there had been “no cross-communal discussion about this as far as I am aware”.
Simone Abel, director of Réné Cassin, said that since the government was planning no change to religious marriage, “we think it was entirely unnecessary for the Beth Din to weigh in on the proposed reforms, which will have no impact on Jewish marriage.
“Quite apart from the fact that the position stated by the Beth Din is not universally accepted amongst religious Jews, it is hard to see how the consequence of stating this position will be anything other than to alienate sections of the Jewish community.”
Offering same-sex couples civil marriage was, she said, “a step towards ending discrimination” .
But the Federation Beth Din head, Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein, came to Lord Sacks’s defence.
“The Chief Rabbi is someone who speaks on moral issues and ethical values,” he said.
“By virtue of his position, he represents the Torah point of view. There is an obligation on Jewish people, as we consider ourselves as a beacon of morality to the world, to teach what is right and what is wrong.”
’Speaking when silence is required is no virtue.’
Letter, Jewish Chronicle
July 5, 2012
It is a matter of great regret that Lord Sacks has chosen to make a statement in his official capacity opposing the right of gay and lesbian men and women to marry. Even if same-sex marriage is contrary to Jewish law, it does not compromise the position of Orthodox Jews to let others marry as they wish. Lord Sacks has sought to influence how the generality of the population leads its life.
Further, and contrary to the submissions of the Beth Din, the change in the law will not force religious officers to officiate same-sex marriages against their wish. The law will apply only to secular ceremonies of marriage over which, by necessary definition, religious officers do not preside.
Jewish law may prohibit same-sex relations and among those Jews who consider themselves bound by Jewish law it operates as a restraint on how they may otherwise live their lives. But Jewish law can play no part in a modern secular society in restricting the lives of non-Jews – and Jews – who do not accept its restraints. The proper response to the consultation should have been: it is not our proper business to comment. Speaking when silence is required is no virtue.
Professor Josh Cohen
Professor Norman Geras
Professor Simon Goldhill
Richard Hermer QC
Dr David Hirsh
Lord Parry Mitchell
The René Cassin Organisation
Dr Felix Posen
Dinah Rose QC
Clive Sheldon QC
Chief Rabbi opposes redefining marriage
By The Christian Institute
June 20 2012
The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has broken his silence and made known his opposition to Government plans to change the meaning of marriage.
It follows a strong response to the proposals by the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and Muslim groups.
A carefully worded submission to the Home Office consultation states that same-sex unions are “against Jewish law”.
The submission was made in the name of the London Beth Din (the Chief Rabbi’s court) and the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue.
The Chief Rabbi’s Office confirmed with the Jewish Chronicle that Lord Sacks supports the submission.
The submission states: “Marriage, by definition in Jewish (biblical) law is the union of a male and a female.
“While Judaism teaches respect for others and condemns all types of discrimination, we oppose a change to the definition of marriage that includes same-sex relationships. Jewish (biblical) law prohibits the practice of homosexuality.”
Civil marriage for same-sex couples should be rejected because, they said, “any attempt to redefine this sacred institution would be to undermine the concept of marriage”.
They also voiced concern that the European Court of Human Rights could be used to challenge “any attempt to exclude the possibility of a religious ceremony” for same-sex couples.
And they made clear that Orthodox Judaism “prohibits same-sex civil partnerships”.
Last week, the Church of England warned that the plans to redefine marriage would alter the meaning of marriage for everyone.
It also warned that the plans would plunge churches into legal chaos, and undermine the links between church and state – sparking a potential constitutional crisis.
The Coalition for Marriage has been leading the campaign to keep marriage between one man and one woman.
The group has collected nearly 600,000 names on a petition. The first half-million names were handed in to Downing Street last week.
The issue has also caused deep unease within the Tory party, and the Prime Minister has been forced to allow a free vote to stave off a rebellion.
Four Government ministers have voiced concerns about the policy, believing it is unpopular with voters who would rather see the Government doing something to revive the economy.
June 12, 2012
We are quite sure that, whatever the Government’s worthy declaration that it proposes no change to the duties of the Church in relation to the estate of marriage, there will,very soon after the introduction of gay civil marriage, be a challenge in first the domestic courts of England and Wales and then in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the exclusion of gay people from the right to have a religious ceremony of marriage is unlawful discrimination against them on the grounds of their sexual orientation.
We believe that, given the current nature of the European Court of Human Rights’ attitude to such matters, there is a very strong likelihood that the Court at Strasbourg will agree that it is an unlawful discrimination on those grounds and order the United Kingdom to introduce laws which will force Churches to marry gay people according to their rites, rituals and customs.
We are also sure that, if that were to take place, the Government would swiftly bend the knee to such a ruling and introduce such legislation.