David_Saperstein_World_Economic_Forum_2013
Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-by-SA 2.0)

President Barack Obama on Monday appointed Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department.

“I am grateful that Rabbi Saperstein has chosen to dedicate his talent to serving the American people at this important time for our country.  I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead,” President Obama said in a written statement.

Saperstein is Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where he has served since 1974.  He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches First Amendment Church-State Law and Jewish Law.  Rabbi Saperstein serves on a number of boards, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.  He was a Member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2010 to 2011.  Rabbi Saperstein was a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 1999 to 2001, serving as its first Chair from 1999 to 2000.  Rabbi Saperstein received a B.A. from Cornell University, an M.H.L. from Hebrew Union College, and a J.D. from American University.

Saperstein is a long-time abortion advocate, and his group has been pro-abortion having resisted recent pro-life bills.

Ironically he seems to be against religious freedom when contraceptives are at stake.

He opposed the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.  In an interview with State of Belief on July 19th  he said, “By giving religious exemptions to a broad category of employers – millions of employers in this country – and allowing them to make religious claims to discriminate on the basis of religion, this is deeply, deeply troubling.  I mean, you can see that it’s not just, I have a religious objection to contraception; it could be to transfusions, to any kind of medical… Christian Scientists; it could be a religious exemption to working with Jews; a religious exemption to working with Catholics… There’s no end to the claims that can be made.”

In the same interview he expressed support for President Obama’s executive order on federal contractors regarding hiring of LGBT employees that offered no religious exemptions for faith-based groups.  “This should be a matter or core principle, here in the United States, that tax dollars should not be used to discriminate.  There’s something deeply troubling about the notion that someone pays their tax dollars to the government; the government then partners with a private organization – a religious organization – and then that religious organization would be able to discriminate against the very person whose money was paid into it.  So this is a core principle for many of us,” Saperstein said.

President George W. Bush in establishing his faith-based initiative did allow faith-based groups receiving federal grants to screen prospective employees on the basis of religion.  It is difficult for faith-based groups to maintain their identity if they were forced to hire those who are opposed to their religious mission.  Federal funds could not, however, be used for religious activity or discriminate clients based on religion.  Faith-based groups would apply for funds for programs like mentoring children of prisoners or prisoner re-entry aftercare, as well as, other social services.

Ironically in his comments about faith-based groups receiving federal funds Saperstein makes a case for religious exemptions under Obamacare.  He is against taxpayer money being used to discriminate against those who may very well be the taxpayers funding the grant, etc.  He is, however, in favor of an employer being forced to violate his religious conscience with his own money!

Saperstein engages in ridiculous hyperbole you can’t with any seriousness compare contraceptives, in particular abortifacients,  with life-saving procedures like blood transfusions.  He like many liberals neglect to mention that Hobby Lobby provides coverage for 16 different types of contraceptives without a copay.  It was only the abortifacients, the contraceptives that end life, that they objected to.  Their employees are free to purchase such items with their own money or I’m sure could find some harbinger of death like Planned Parenthood to provide it for them.

Despite his objection to protecting religious conscience domestically some do hold out hope that he will be a champion of international religious freedom.  Rabbi David Saperstein has over the decades nearly always aligned politically with liberal Protestant groups and the wider Religious Left. His recent apparent stands against protecting domestic religious freedom on the HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate and on LGBTQ advocacy have been unfortunate. But he has long been a tireless defender of international religious freedom for all, including persecuted Christians,” said Faith McDonnell, Religious Liberty Program Director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “He likely will bring energy and enthusiasm to his new role. We pray for his boldness and his success as America’s newly designated advocate for the religiously oppressed around the world.”

Saperstein needs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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