Faith Rally, Freedom & the Hobby Lobby: Standing up for Access to Birth Control at the Supreme Court

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March 25, 2014

Sammie Moshenberg, NCJW

This morning, Rabbi Lori Koffman was one of many religious leaders speaking out in support of women’s access to birth control and real religious liberty as the Supreme Court hears arguments on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, At issue: whether a for-profit company must provide full contraception coverage for employees (thanks, Affordable Care Act)!

Remarks of Rabbi Lori Koffman, March 25th, 2014

Baruch Ata Adonai, Elohenu melech ha olam, s’asani bat churin. Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has made me free.

Good morning. I am Rabbi Lori Koffman, and that is one of the blessings that Jews recite every morning as we give thanks for our freedom from slavery, as we express our deep gratitude for the freedom we enjoy every single day to be master of our own decision-making, decision-making in which we are free to be guided by our own faith and moral conscience.

The memory that we were once slaves in Egypt — that we were workers with no rights or freedom — also undergirds Jewish ethics in business practices. Because we were once slaves we understand that employees sometimes need to be protected from the power their employer can wield. And it is because we were once slaves that Jewish values dictate that each and every worker must be treated with dignity, justice and equality; that each and every worker must be protected from any undue burden that might be put upon them.

Withholding an employee’s access to contraceptive coverage, as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods seek to do, would be just such a burden.

At a time when all other workers covered by private corporations are guaranteed access to affordable birth control coverage, denying that same coverage to other workers based on their bosses’ moral beliefs would be a form of oppression, an infringement on an employee’s freedom of religion.

In three weeks we will celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover, a holiday in which we are commanded to see ourselves as if each one of us was personally freed from Egypt. We do this in order to never forget that as Jews we have the obligation to stand up for freedom for everyone, everywhere. We do this to remember that with the blessing of freedom comes the commandment to create a world filled with justice for all.

I am here, together with members from the National Council of Jewish Women, to do just that. We are here because this is what Judaism demands of us: to demonstrate to the Court that faith should not be used as a tool of coercion, but that it should be an instrument of freedom to guide us along our own religious and moral path, to make our own faith-informed decisions about our bodies, our families and our health.

Today, and in the weeks and months to come, let us each be inspired to stand for religious and reproductive freedom.

Barukh ata Adonai, Elohenu melech ha’olam, she’natan lanu hizdamnut l’taken et ha’olam. Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the Universe, for giving us the opportunity to mend the world.

And please join me as we say together, Amen

Rabbi Lori Koffman is founder and director of Mamash, an organization that engages Jews in the intersection of daily life and Jewish thought and tradition, and a board member of the National Council of Jewish Women.

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