Board of Deputies provide many reasons to vote “No”

September 24, 2017 by David Singer
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The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has significantly qualified its resolution supporting a “Yes” vote in the same-sex marriage survey – providing many reasons why people should vote “No”.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has summed up one of the survey’s major shortcomings:

“… voters are being asked to sign a blank cheque here, support same sex marriage and we’ll work out the details afterwards.’’

The Board’s own Resolution acknowledges Abbott’s concern when stating that the Board:

“STRONGLY ASSERTS that Rabbis must continue to be able to conduct marriage ceremonies in accordance with Jewish Law as they see fit

REJECTS any attempt to impose a belief or value system on the Rabbinate or observant Jews or prescribe to them requirements that are in conflict with Jewish Law

OBJECTS to any attempt to silence or stifle legitimate and fair-minded debate on the issue of marriage equality regardless of the position taken.

REAFFIRMS its commitment to freedom of religious practice and religious education in Australia.

ACKNOWLEDGES that that as a matter of Orthodox Jewish law (halacha), same sex marriage is not permitted”

The Board is relying on future legislation – whose details are as yet unknown – to meet these criteria.

What happens if any legislation to be ultimately passed does not meet these criteria or if the protections offered are inadequate?

The Trojan Horse represented by a majority YES vote could produce a legislative outcome that leaves the Board and the Jewish community reeling and lamenting.

The future is further complicated by Prime Minister Turnbull’s declaration that:

“ … if there is a ‘yes’ vote, then we’ll facilitate a private member’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage”

The Government is apparently prepared to abdicate its responsibility for drafting legislation and procuring its passage through the Parliament – favouring a private member’s bill instead.

Will the Government allow a conscience vote by its members in those circumstances or demand party unity?

The Board’s resolution has fallen into error in claiming:

  • The question before Australia at the upcoming postal plebiscite is one relating to civil, not religious, marriage.

Two comments:

  1. The question makes no such claim or representation.

The Board’s own concerns make this assertion ludicrous.

  1. A survey is not a plebiscite.

The Board’s reference to a plebiscite is very puzzling.

Michael Kirby – a former judge of the High Court – has described the postal survey as “unacceptable” and “irregular”.

“This isn’t a plebiscite now. It’s a completely novel, voluntary, non-binding, non-compulsory vote of a few citizens and it’s just something we’ve never done in our constitutional arrangements of Australia,”

Voting in a plebiscite is compulsory and would have been accompanied by the legislation that would be introduced if successfully carried.

The survey is an open ended vote guaranteeing none of the Board’s concerns and sought after protections will be preserved.

Gambling on the goodwill of politicians is a dangerous path to follow.

The Sydney Beth Din has already expressed its disapproval of the Board’s decision.

The Board’s resolution finally resolves:

“To call on the Federal Government to ensure protections for practice of religious freedom and religious education;”

What if the Board’s call is ignored and Jewish Day Schools in Sydney find themselves in the invidious position suffered by the Vishnitz Girls School in London?

Recommending the Jewish community vote blindly in favour of same-sex marriage without seeing the proposed legislation is a naïve and irresponsible decision by the Board.

The Board’s trust in Government to meet the Board’s reservations represents a huge leap in faith that can easily be ignored or unsatisfactorily implemented.

A majority “No” vote would prevent these potential problems.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network

Comments

25 Responses to “Board of Deputies provide many reasons to vote “No””
  1. Roy Sims says:

    A “YES” vote on the postal questionnaire will open an enormous ‘can of discrimination worms’.
    John Howard is right. Andrew Bolt is right. Mark Latham is right. Let us see exactly what we are voting for in terms of changes in expression of religious freedom (especially the right to not participate in SSM arrangement).
    For major organisations and corporations to “unequivocally support” either side of this issue on behalf of ALL their adherents is just plain foolhardy.
    The “YES” champions promised that the campaign would be divisive. Now they are doing everything they can to make sure it is.

    • Michael Barnett says:

      >> The “YES” champions promised that the campaign would be divisive. <<

      Predicted, not promised. Trust me, I don't want anything to be divisive, but the government forced this upon the population and the lobbies are doing their best to win their respective campaigns, using a variety of tactics.

      You seem to be against removing discrimination in the Marriage Act. Correct me if I am mistaken. I want the discrimination removed, because there is no good reason for the government to not recognise my New Zealand marriage.

  2. Gary Luke says:

    The rabbi who conducts your marriage is registered as an agent of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages of the state. At what stage in the service under the chuppah will you request the rabbi to don one hat and rip off the other?

    • Michael Barnett says:

      Gary, if you look at the Marriage Act (1961) you will see that authorised religious marriage celebrants (such as rabbis, priests, imams, etc) are granted exemptions as to whom they can marry, without justification. There are no plans in any proposed legislation to change that, and I can assure you that no one wants to change that.

      • Gary Luke says:

        So an essential aspect of this equality is that it’s not available for Jewish families.

        • Michael Barnett says:

          Yes, and no. 🙂

          It depends on how you look at this. Let’s jump to the day that a gender-neutral Marriage Act is in place. From that day onwards, Jewish same-sex couples can get married under civil law. The law does not apply a religious test to marriage.

          If Jewish couples are seeking a religious marriage from Progressive or Masorti rabbis in Australia they will get one.

          If they are seeking a religious marriage from Orthodox rabbis, the wait will be longer. My guess is it will happen when synagogue boards put same-sex marriages in the job descriptions for their rabbis. It will happen.

          • Gary Luke says:

            A civil marriage of either same or opposite sex couples does not initiate a Jewish family.

            The other part of your answer is the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ that leaves a big hole on all your arguments. No, it won’t have any effect on Jewish religious marriages, said on one day, and the next day, yes it will.

            • Michael Barnett says:

              As I said, some synagogues will be performing religious marriages when the law allows them to. So to that end, yes, this equality is available to Jewish families attending those synagogues.

              • david singer says:

                Michael: That is not what you said on the 28th September:
                “If Jewish couples are seeking a religious marriage from Progressive or Masorti rabbis in Australia they will get one.

                If they are seeking a religious marriage from Orthodox rabbis, the wait will be longer. My guess is it will happen when synagogue boards put same-sex marriages in the job descriptions for their rabbis. It will happen.”

                “It will happen” is your prediction. How much pressure will you be putting on those synagogue boards to demand rabbis perform same-sex marriages?

                • Michael Barnett says:

                  I have no plans to lobby synagogue boards David.

                  It is my guess that communal pressure will determine how this plays out. When an increasing number of Jewish families want to celebrate their gay and lesbian children’s Jewish marriages in the same synagogues as their heterosexual children’s marriages it won’t take too long for the boards of these synagogues to work out that it’s better for business not to turn away these families.

  3. Maurice May says:

    As usual you try to muddy the waters.

    • david singer says:

      As usual that is all you ever say and when challenged to elucidate – you say nothing.

      I don’t know why you waste your time posting this meaningless comment.

      • Maurice May says:

        Addressing you is like arguing with Trump

        • david singer says:

          When did you last address me on any issue?

          Just point out what points I make in my article that you consider to be muddying the waters and then we can discuss them.

  4. Michael Barnett says:

    Red herrings. Slippery slopes. Fear mongering.

    You have no reason to argue against two men or two women getting married, so you desperately look for anything else to scare people into believing. How disgusting. Amazing you are able to get out of bed every day for fear that something nasty and unexpected might happen to you.

    Get on with your life. Deal with problems as they arise. Don’t manufacture problems that don’t exist. Stop interfering in other people’s lives and relationships.

    • David Singer says:

      Michael

      Attacking the messenger and not the message is the usual tactic of those who are unable to answer the arguments contained in the message.

      Deal with my claim – supported by two former Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard – that voters are being asked to sign a blank cheque.

      Can you confirm that you unconditionally support the Board’s 5 reservations set out in my article being fully protected by any future legislation?

      • Michael Barnett says:

        You are proposing all these unforeseen issues that might eventuate if the unnecessary discrimination in the Marriage Act is removed, which speaks to some fear you have of the unknown.

        Look at the world around you, like I have already said, over 16 years of intelligent, advanced countries with marriage equality, and you have barely a handful of mostly twisted, ill-reported stories that are not a consequence of a change in the law, but of bigotry.

        Your underlying premise is that homosexuality is wrong. This crusade you are on is built upon that. All you need to do is admit your opposition to homosexuality and then you have no reason to build these fancy stories to justify it.

        • David Singer says:

          Michael

          Again with the ad hominem attacks in an attempt to avoid acknowledging that voters are indeed being asked to sign a blank cheque.

          Will you please now address the following question:

          Do you agree that the following 5 reservations expressed by the Board of Deputies need to be protected in any future legislation should the YES vote succeed?

          “STRONGLY ASSERTS that Rabbis must continue to be able to conduct marriage ceremonies in accordance with Jewish Law as they see fit
          REJECTS any attempt to impose a belief or value system on the Rabbinate or observant Jews or prescribe to them requirements that are in conflict with Jewish Law
          OBJECTS to any attempt to silence or stifle legitimate and fair-minded debate on the issue of marriage equality regardless of the position taken.
          REAFFIRMS its commitment to freedom of religious practice and religious education in Australia.
          ACKNOWLEDGES that that as a matter of Orthodox Jewish law (halacha), same sex marriage is not permitted”

          A simple “YES” or NO” answer is all that is required.

          • Michael Barnett says:

            The government will never legistlate on matters of halacha. I have no idea why you think they would or should.

            The existing religious protections in the Marriage Act cover rabbis and I am happy with these protections as they are. No one is calling for them to be weakened.

            • david singer says:

              Michael

              You have answered that two of the Board’s reservations should be protected in any legislation.

              Just three more Board of Deputies reservations that you have not answered:
              “REJECTS any attempt to impose a belief or value system on the Rabbinate or observant Jews or prescribe to them requirements that are in conflict with Jewish Law
              OBJECTS to any attempt to silence or stifle legitimate and fair-minded debate on the issue of marriage equality regardless of the position taken.
              REAFFIRMS its commitment to freedom of religious practice and religious education in Australia.”

              Your response please.

              • Michael Barnett says:

                What is the underlying reason for you to be so oppositional to equality here? Are you fearful of same-sex and gender diverse relationships being validated as normal?

                • david singer says:

                  Your response makes it clear that you do not support the following three reservations made by the Board of Deputies:
                  “REJECTS any attempt to impose a belief or value system on the Rabbinate or observant Jews or prescribe to them requirements that are in conflict with Jewish Law
                  OBJECTS to any attempt to silence or stifle legitimate and fair-minded debate on the issue of marriage equality regardless of the position taken.
                  REAFFIRMS its commitment to freedom of religious practice and religious education in Australia.”
                  The Board of Deputies clearly has a battle on its hands in seeing its above stated reservations are preserved and protected if the YES vote gets up in the postal survey.

  5. michael Burd says:

    If the SSM legislation is introduced regardless of what exceptions are included for religious reasons I hear the NT Govt intends to ignore those and mandate no exceptions this is a worry and other states could follow this line. Also if these cases are ever taken to court or tribunal considering the majority of our Judges are left-leaning those fighting to be excluded from any SSM legislation would not have a chance.
    Is it really appropriate for a Jewish communal organization that purports to represent all Jews to come out in favor of either side of the argument, shouldn’t they remain neutral . This includes Rabbis who would alienate some of their congregation, AFL likewise. The attitude of the NSWJBD is highly divisive, insensitive and self-serving to others that may not share their alt -left worldly views.