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October 05, 1984 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-10-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



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Friday, October 5, 1 84

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PURELY milmisimmm
COMMENTARY

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

MEDDLING .. .

... An accusatory in the
new citizenship dic-
tionary, with chal-
lenges to the demo-
cratic ideology

A new term is in evidence in the citi-
zenship dictionary. Meddling has become
both an accusatory and a challenge.
It is in evidence in many ways, and
especially in two items now on the calendar
of human, social and politiCal events.
First comes the Genocide Convention.
Why was its adoption delayed, with con-
tinuing minimal obstacles which may
delay action upon it by the U.S. Senate for
another year?
Because there is an element on the
American scene with a penchant for
meddling.
The opposition to the genocide pact
really commenced with the Southern rac-
ists. Even after it had acquired the signa-
ture of President Harry S. Truman in 1948,
as the first endorser of the human docu-
ment that would outlaw mass murder of
peoples, there were Southerners — those
who at the time still pursued policies of
hatred for Negroes — who contended, out-
side forces, from abroad, would, under the
pact, be able to meddle in American affairs
and compel introduction of civil rights on
American soil.
We libertarians, in our struggle for
just civil rights for the blacks and for all
who are offended as citizens, said in reply:
Meddle, please meddle, so long as it is in
justice and in defense of American fair
play.
Now we have an enforcement of civil
liberties, hopefully unanimity in behalf of
our black fellow citizens, and only one
Southern Senator still holds on to prej-
udice. Even he, Senator Jesse Helms of
North Carolina, is commencing to yield, in
justice to human decencies, and he may be
soft in his opposition to the Genocide Con-
vention.
It is important that our black fellow
Americans should know this and under-
stand it in response to calls for their coop-
eration in defense of humanism with Jews
and others who are truly their friends and
compatriots in libertarianism.
However, Senator Helms sticks to an
old disillusionment in his approach to what
we would term honorable diplomatic
statesmanship and fair treatment of
human values. The report on the current
Senatorial discussions on the genocide is-
sue, by Martin Tolchin, in the Sept. 20New
York Times, concludes with the following:
Helms told a group of report-
ers after the committee meeting
that the Jewish people are very
enthusiastic about having this, but
Israel is likely to be the first victim
of this convention." He added:
"They have killed a lot of Arabs.
Who knows what a World Court
would do?"

In the first place, there is a bit of inex-
cusable arrogance in this statement. What
does the Senator mean by charging mass
murder of Arabs by Jews? There is a tragic
and unnecessary war, and people die —
Jews are killed, Arabs are killed.
But suppose the Southern Senator
were right. In that case he should be re-
minded that decent people do not object to
the meddling danger. Ifthere is injustice in
Israel, let it be exposed. Honorable people
do not fear criticism. American Southern-
ers have no right to fear, and Jews and
Israelis will not fear emphasis on justice.

MEDDLING .. .

. . . Continuing emphases

,,, ill ;fa

Property values vs. human needs

A step forward, in the direction of so,:ial welfare, commenced a decade ago, when some states, including Michigan, emphasized
the rights of the handicapped, with emphasis on the retarded, as a human policy for this nation. That's when the series of homes
were established to care for the retarded, to recognize their just rights as citizens. That's when the best relations in good
neighborliness included the many who had been denied their place in society.
That's how the dignity of homes for the retarded became a policy in the Jewish community, thanks to the services rendered by
the Jewish Association for Retarded Citizens.
The transfer of a group of such residents provided for by JARC from an abandoned residence into a newly-acquired one was
prevented by a group of citizens who maintain that their property values are affected when the handicapped are moved into their
area. That's the argument advanced in opposition to the principle advanced for the creation of homes for the handicapped.
It is a regrettable development and is, tragically, based on misjudgment. There was a very early experience in this community,
some four decades ago, when a pastor of a Christian church registered a protest against the construction of a synagogue which was
to be a neighbor to his church. He had one argument; fear by his parishioners lest it would lead to a drop in property values. The
synagogue was built, the two faiths established an admirable friendship, they soon shared their parking lots. Human values rose
high in that area from the association established on friendliest terms by Jews and Christians.
This has been and continues to be the experience in all the neighborhoods where JARC homes have been established. Knowing
each other, neighbors learn to live with the less fortunate. They have come to admire their sense of citizenship, their cleanliness.
That's the type of home that JARC and related movements pursued by non-Jews who have established such residential
safeguards for the handicapped have created in this community. It is a record to be proud of and to be respected.
Therefore, recognizing the injustice just perpetrated under the guise of property values, there is an obligation resting upon all
citizens. The efforts must continue to educate the citizens of all faiths that there are human values which supersede property
values, that property ownership becomes more respected and more dignified when the rights of all citizens are respected, when the
less fortunate are never again treated as a pariah. This is a call to action to this and other communities never to submit to
devaluation of human needs.

challenges to those
who would make reli-
gion an obstacle to the
freedom of conscience

Continuing the discussion on meddl-
ing and meddlesome people:
The word is introduced again in one of
the most challenging of the opinions ex-
pressed on President Ronald Reagan's in-
troduction of political fundamentalism
into the current Presidential campaign.
Henry Steele Commager, Emeritus Pro-
fessor of History at Amherst College and
author of The Empire of Reason as well as
scores of essays on politics and history,
wrote an essay on "Public Morality, Not
Religion," which appeared on the New
York Times Op-Ed Page on Sept. 16. Here
are excerpts from it which should be
engraved on the conscience of all Ameri-
cans:
We tend to forget that separa-
tion of church and state and rejec-
tion of religious establishments
were, in the 18th Century, the most
revolutionary experiment on
which the new United States em-
barked. It commanded more atten-
tion, applause and censure than
creation of the new nation or the
rejection of colonialism. No other
Western nation had ever tried so
reckless an experiment.
But the Founding Fathers
knew what they were about: they
wanted peace and harmony in a
society dangerously heterogene-
ous. They did not resort to subtle
arguments or to elaborate legal
provisions but contented them-
selves with the general principle —
one that is subject, as James Madi-
son observed, to a variety of in-
terpretations. But the principle it-
self was clear. John Adams put it
bluntly: "Congress shall never
meddle with religion other than to
say their own prayers and to give
thanks once a year:" Furthermore,
Madison asserted that "the Con-
stitution does not create a shadow
of right in the general government
to intermeddle with religion."
In the Constitutional Conven-
tion, Charles Pinckney, a staunch
Episcopalian, proposed the simple
provision that the legislature of
the United States shall pass no law
on the subject of religion." Clearly,
what the Framers had in mind was
more than separating church and
state: it was separating religion
from politics — religion, not moral-
ity, for the Framers were almost to

It is the matter of meddling and in-
termeddling that is at stake here, and
should be properly understood.
The reader should be fully apprised
about the authoritative and scholarly role
of the man just quoted. Prof. Commager is
the top-ranking American historian and
his views have been treated for more than
half a century with deepest. respect.
Therefore, his NYTimes essay merits
additional consideration. In his discussion
of the separation principle he stated:
We should not get bogged
down in constitutional or legal
controversies on this fundamental
issue, but strive to fulfill the ideal
of the Framers — to create and
maintain a political system that, so
far as possible, establishes justice
and insures domestic tranquility.
To do so, we should resort to ex-
perience.
What influence, Madison
asked, have "ecclesiastical estab-
lishments had in the past? They
have been seen to erect a spiritual
tyranny on the ruins of civil
authority; they have upheld the
thrones of political tyranny; in no
instances have they been the
guardians of the liberties of the
people. A just government, insti-
tuted to secure and perpettiate the
public liberty, needs them not."
We must be clear about our
own logic, which is pragmatic, not
speculative. We do not limit prayer
in public schools or forbid reli-
gious "tests" because the Constitu-
tion so provides; the Constitution
so provides because experience
taught its Framers that such ac-
tions would menace the peace and
harmony of our society.
The Founding Fathers were,
most of them, deeply versed in his-
tory. They were familiar with the
tragic century-long religious wars
that tore the peoples of Britain,
Germany and France apart. They
were descendants of Pilgrims and
Puritans who found refuge from
religious persecutions and of Scot-
tish dissenters. They were all
familiar with the Anglican Estab-
lishments in at least five of our
Colonies. They were determined
that neither religious privilege nor
bigotry should ever ruffle the sur-
face of American life.
What is almost miraculous is
that the measures they took to
avoid all this worked — the mighty
Edmund Burke had pronounced it
impossible. The new nation man-

peoples of every nation and fait
and somehow to maintain religiou
peace and harmony. Atherican
have never had a religious war, not
even persecution on the Old World
scale. There has been prejudice
harassment, ostracism
Catholics, Mormons, Jews and
Jehovah's Witnesses, but no on
has been sent to the stake or im-
prisoned or exiled or — since the
1830's — tried for blasphemy; nor
have any, except temporarily the
Mormons, been denied civil and"
political rights on religious_
grounds.
To our shame, we have in-
dulged more persistently than
most civilized nations in racial an
ethnic bigotries, and we have pai
and are still paying a bitter pric
for those sins. But we seem to hav
known, by an instinct rooted in our
colonial experience, that we can-
not afford a comparable religious
bigotry, and that we cannot afford.
the meddling of religion in politics.
Those who would interject religion
into politics today would do well to
remember.
Reason, experience and com-
mon sense counsel us to cultivate,
in this -arena, wisdom, patience
and magnanimity — and to. hark tc
Winston Churchill's admonition
that "the duty of governments is
first of all to be practical."
The issue has been raised, the prej-
udice has been injected in politics, men' --
dling is on the agenda. There is reason tt,
believe that the American voter in this era
will be as sound in judgment as those in t
days of deist Thomas Jefferson and the
libertarian James Madison and his associ-
ates.
Indeed, the issue will not be ignored.
This is a- time to meddle — by means 1._
sharing in the political discussions and let-
ting it be known that the Separation Prin-
ciple is not on the bargaining counters'.

George Will's pessimism:
back to genocide concerns:

George Will, the admired columnist /II
took up the genocide issue in a column t
Detroit News entitled, "Genocide Treaty. A I
Dead Letter."
In that suggested pessimism one may
as well recite a funeralistic "human rights 1
death oration."
Perhaps George Will is right. In an er--'
when McCarthyism seems to make a n(
appearance even on the democratic Ameri-'

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