On Erev Yom Kippur, hours before most sacred day in the Jewish calendar (when the U.N. has slated Iran's Ahmadinejad to speak), Pres. Obama used his podium address at the United Nations to declare: "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam." Would this "slander" apply to condemning Islamic dogma (scriptural or interpretive) inspiring Muslim political imperialism against the West? Or against Israel?
To what extent should rabbis and cantors address these threats to Jews and to Israel? And to what extent ought they be raised in sermons or presentations within the synagogue? Should the clergy be advocating an Israeli political policy of Israel ceding Jewish land & communities in Judea & Samaria to create an Islamist State of Palestine?
Israeli-American Cantor Yaakov Motzen of New Jersey and South Florida discussed this with me on a visit to L.A. this spring.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has sent a letter to churches and synagogues warning that the I.R.S. does enforce the "no politicking" rule by revoking its tax-exempt status. Will the Obama administration's I.R.S. hassle synagogues for discussions of "blasphemous" Islamic anti-Zionism? How about for discussing a presidential candidate's record (or future) regarding Israel or the Jewish condition?
The A.U.S.C.S.'s website states that Tax law prohibits 501(c)3 groups from supporting or opposing candidates. Houses of worship may:
- Discuss public policy issues
- Sponsor non-partisan voter registration and encourage voting as good civic behavior,
- Sponsor candidate forums, as long as all leading candidates are invited and a broad range of issues is discussed.
- Urge congregants to communicate with candidates and make their concerns known to them.
Houses of worship may not:
- Issue statements endorsing or opposing candidates.
- Donate money to a candidate.
- Offer sanctuary space to one candidate and refuse it to another.
- Sponsor rallies for candidates in church.