Thursday, May 23, 2013
Today, I was attacked in an ad-hominem way on the popular "Charedi" news website matzav.com. You can read the article here. I have submitted the following letter in response to the editor, and assume they will publish it. After all, it's a general rule in journalism that one who is attacked is given a right of response. I publish my letter publicly because I was attacked in a public forum.
Dear Concerned Yid,
A few points in response to your letter published today on Matzav.com:
1) First, I'd like to address the substance of your claims. Throughout your article, you made many false assumptions. If you're truly as concerned as you claim to be (I have no way of knowing, but you do), you might take the time to verify assumptions before publishing them on the internet. You could have contacted me, if you're truly concerned, and seen whether your assumptions were correct. After all, the seal of Hashem is emes, and Jews should strive to be honest and accurate in what they say. This is prudent and religious all in one.
You posit that my support for civil same-sex marriage is a remnant of my "liberal beliefs" and "background" left over from the days before I was observant.
Truth is, while I used to be far more liberal politically than I am today, I've opposed same-sex marriage publicly and privately for as long as I've been old enough to have an opinion on the subject. In recent months, however, I've changed my mind, specifically because of my religious observance and affiliation. As an observant Jew, I appreciate more than ever the protections of the First Amendment. In the United States, our small minority religion is afforded tremendous protection. Thousands of our Jewish brothers now refuse to work on Shabbat and holidays, knowing full well that their government will support their religious convictions and penalize anyone who tries to discriminate against them by firing them or refusing to hire them. Our rituals (brit milah, kosher slaughter, etc.) are protected by the government, and our institutions receive support, honor, recognition, and even funds from states and the federal government. Jews in public schools are no longer coerced into Christian prayer, and a general spirit of tolerance and understanding has allowed our people a golden age like none other in the diaspora. This is true on both a governmental and social level, and has become an important part of the fabric of our country.
Therefore, it is our obligation to argue for the protection of minorities, be they religious, ideological, etc., and to advocate to prevent the use of religious doctrine in legislation at all levels. If the state has the power to legislate marriage based on Judeo-Christian religious principles, then there's nothing to stop the state from regulating other areas of life based on religious principles, Judeo-Christian, Christian, or otherwise. That's only a stone's throw away from the days of "the lord's prayer" and all the rest. It's bad jurisprudence, bad for the Jews, and coerces people against their will, which is not helpful religiously either.
One more thing. From a purely political perspective, it's not necessarily a "liberal" argument to argue for same-sex marriage. I'll note that there was unanimous support for same-sex marriage among conservative republicans in RI's State Senate, based on a mixture of conservative and libertarian principles. Conservative - If gay men and women are involved in relationships (which is a given), isn't it better for them to form committed monogamous relationships with stable family structures? Libertarian - the state ought to stay out of defining, encouraging, or manipulating people's sexual or social preferences, especially if they're doing so based on religious convictions in possible violation of the First Amendment (the Court will tell us about that shortly). I argued as I did largely because of my libertarian political leanings, not that it should matter, not liberal ones.
2) A few pieces of advice. If you want to engage in an ad-hominem attack against someone, sign your name to it and face the consequences, positive and negative. Doing so anonymously is cowardly and characteristic of the culture of fear that pervades our community lately. Let's be mature enough to have important conversations with each other using our real names please. This is true both locally in the current argument and generally in broader Jewish scene.
Also, if you want to critique and argument or position, fine. In that case, you should state what you think I advocated, explain why you think it's wrong, and support your position with reasons and sources. For a more complete argument, you might even offer self-critique, explaining the weaknesses of your own position. All of the personal attacks, prejudicial comments, guilt-by-association character assasination mumbo jumbo (IRF Liberal Left Wing Loving Call His Rabbis Revoke His Degree Public Consequences Chillul Hashem etc.) distract from the content of the actual debate, and are not befitting of reasoned and enlightened discussion. Orthodox Jews should be interested in serious discussion on the merits of the issues rather than vague and uninformed generalizations. Erev Shabbat Shalom.
Barry Dolinger, another concerned Jew