Court ruling and the church-state divide
Every argument before the Supreme Court — winning and losing alike — defines a potential slippery slope.
Perhaps we can draw some comfort regarding the worrisome playground decision by considering the slippery slope of the losing argument.
The Missouri law at issue forbids the state from providing any funding to religious bodies for any purpose. A church in Columbia had been denied a grant to build a children’s playground because of its status as a religious institution. Some courts have allowed exceptions for such things as roads, sewers and the like. Perhaps a Supreme Court ruling upholding the law would have forced the withdrawal of those exceptions.
Perhaps, too, the state incurs some costs providing security and traffic control for high-attendance religious occasions. Such costs are direct financial support for the practice of religion by religious bodies. Perhaps religious bodies would have been required to fully reimburse the state for such help or even to hire private contractors.
At first, the prevention of bodily harm and destruction of property may seem different from the issues in the playground. But it is not so very different. Every parent knows that playground safety is not just about skinned knees. It is also about broken wrists and arms and dislocated shoulders.
If the playground has equipment — seesaws, climbing structures, swings, merry-go-rounds and the like — lost teeth, broken jaws, concussions, spinal injuries and the occasional skull fracture become more likely. So, having forbidden the state to help protect the health and safety of children during nonreligious activities while in the facility of a religious body, it would not be too farfetched to forbid the state to protect the health and safety of congregants during religious practice. It would be argued, I think.
I am not happy at all with the Supreme Court decision. But here we are. At least, as it worked out, we are not asking the children of the poor to bear the cost of our principles.
Reader objects to assertions in Netanyahu review
I do not know enough about Benjamin Netanyahu to comment upon the content of “The Netanyahu Years.” However, the July 19 book review makes several assertions that need correction.
First, “Netanyahu has done little to resolve the conflict over the West Bank.” This totally ignores Palestinian incitement, terrorism and rejectionism, which are the most important reasons for the continued war. Every peace plan advanced by Israel has been met with no response from the Palestinians. Second, “Obama never reduced aid.” However, he stopped ammunition for Israel during the Gaza war, negotiated an aid package that forces Israel to spend all their money in the U.S., and abstained when the U.N. voted that Israel has no right to any of the West Bank. Third, the reviewer repeats the lie that Israel expanded the settlements under Netanyahu. Actually, growth was the lowest it had been in years during the current Israeli administration, but the former U.S. president and his acolytes have repeated the myth of “dangerous settlement expansion” so many times that it echoes throughout the media. Finally, the Iran nuclear deal is still disliked by most of Israel, including Netanyahu. It gave Iran a huge cash flow to support Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups. It defers Iran’s nuclear breakout, but does not stop it. It failed to stop the development of ballistic missiles, the sole purpose of these are to attack the United States and Israel.
Netanyahu’s character is a separate issue from the facts of the Arab-Israeli conflict. American Jews need to understand the risks that we are asking Israelis to take. Suggesting that Israel and a kleptocratic, anti-Semitic Palestinian regime bear equal responsibility for the conflict will not bring peace. It is guaranteed to bring further war.
Laura Hulbert Goldmeier