Re: “Religious law dictates medical decisions – Legislature dismantled abortion rights in the name of the Bible, but whose Bible is it?” by Hara Person and Nancy Kasten, review of November 5.
Many thanks to these two rabbis for calling on the religious right to overrule reproductive choice and health care decisions, noting that the Bible is subject to interpretation as well as the Establishment Clause.
I would have added more explicitly that our Constitution is deeply rooted in the secularism of the Enlightenment, and particularly in the thought of John Locke. Locke formulated a “freedom of conscience” that must be protected from governmental authority. This concept—expressed by Thomas Jefferson as a wall of separation between church and state—is the foundation of both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.
Perhaps the religious right and its defenders in the Texas Legislature should spend less time studying the Bible and invest more effort in understanding the roots of American democracy.
Harold Gross, Irving
The rabbi challenges the rabbis
Reading the Person and Kasten editorial, I, also a rabbi, would dispute many of the authors’ statements and their inferences.
Among them: 1. Although Person and Kasten have every right to their opinions, they have no right to distort what Judaism teaches. They write as activists with a political agenda. However, to suggest that this program is fully validated by Jewish religious teachings is disingenuous.
Judaism’s approach to abortion and other social issues is rarely absolute, but rather nuanced. It allows, even requires, an abortion to save a mother’s life. But saying “it’s allowed” without context is misleading.
2. Jewish scriptures never focus on ‘rights’, only on ‘responsibilities’.
3. If we come to interpret Scripture through our lived experiences, can we assume that “Messianic Jews” are welcome in the writers’ synagogues?
4. The authors are of the opinion that the Bible can be read as “history, poetry and metaphor”. It’s curious that as rabbis they don’t mention how it was/is meant to be read – as divine revelation.
Rabbi Cary Kozberg, Columbus, Ohio
Medical care comes first
The opinion piece by Rabbis Person and Kasten shows how the religious right, aided by Texas lawmakers, is restricting the rights of women and doctors to make decisions about reproductive choices. The rabbis point out that these restrictions are based on the interpretation of the Bible of a single religious group and not that of the larger religious community which also regards the Bible as their holy text. I found the essay very informative and a positive addition to the abortion debate.
I would like to point out that besides the religious right, there is another powerful religious group that does not need any legislation to restrict women’s reproductive rights. This group is made up of Catholic hospitals. These hospitals account for approximately 1 in 7 hospital beds in the United States
Catholic hospitals have religiously based policies that restrict reproductive services, including abortions, birth control, and sterilizations (vasectomies and tubal ligations). Policies can also limit treatment care options for miscarriages.
Women should know the policies of the hospital where they are receiving treatment so that their medical options are not limited by religious considerations. Of course, in an emergency, one may not have a choice.
Religious dogma should never limit or replace sound medical care or interfere with medical decisions that should only be made between patients and their doctors.
Richard Bach, Garland
The Bible Surely Guides Us
It was a well-written opinion on the impact of the Bible on abortion decisions. Written by two clergymen, their arguments exploded when, in the last paragraph, they state (paraphrased) that he should never be a guide to influence or impact modern law. What? I lost it.
I use my Bible (Old Testament) to help me make decisions where ethics and morality are salient when creating modern law. Other resources will also guide me in creating the law when working with my elected legislators.
One final note: it was good enough for our founding fathers and good enough for me today.
David Stephen TobackDallas
The scriptures say that life is precious
It is always disappointing and disturbing to me that women are outraged by abortion rights. This column is especially so because they also identify as women of faith. And I’m not saying that women of faith can’t have different opinions, but it’s very hard for me to understand that people who really study the scriptures can argue on this point.
The authors emphatically point out that the same sacred scripture that “some use to limit people’s personal reproductive decisions is the same text that teaches us that abortion is permitted.” But they fail to mention these Scriptures.
There are several scriptures that teach us that life is precious from the womb: Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 127:3-4, Job 31:15, Psalm 119:73, Psalm 139:13-16.
It is also of great concern that the available options/choices are never reported. Choosing not to have sex is considered a conundrum these days. Adoption is a precious gift that many couples cherish. An unwanted pregnancy does not have to destroy your life. That’s nine months in a life that can mean someone else’s life.
Ginger Jordan, North Dallas
Bible as a guide, yes
This column says: “But what is it? [the Bible] should never be is a guide that reaches the public sphere to influence or impact modern laws. Isn’t the basis of the laws our sense of fairness applied equally? If so, where are we going to develop this if not from our religious traditions? Philosophy alone? But isn’t philosophy a secular outgrowth of religious beliefs?
A pluralistic society like ours must draw on all areas of human thought when deciding what justice looks like for all of its citizens. The Bible as an instruction manual, no. It is too full of ambiguous episodes ripe for contradictory and self-serving interpretations. But as a guide, yes.
It should take its place with all other works that help illuminate our sense of what justice should mean to all who are touched by its laws.
Greg Hawk, Denton
Free not to believe
Subject: “Thou shalt not kill””, by Willard Zimmerer, Letters of November 3.
Zimmerer points out that the debate over early abortion is largely religious. If you believe there is a God and he has commanded “thou shalt not kill” and that command includes fetuses from the moment of conception, then don’t abort.
Our religious freedom gives you that right. However, if you don’t believe in the God of Zimmerer, or if you believe in one or more gods but don’t believe that they issued the command not to abort premature fetuses, then that is your right too, and c is also guaranteed by our religious freedoms.
The United States is still a nation where one person’s religious beliefs do not trump another’s religious rights and freedoms.
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