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 Politics Archive 2015

A majority of the Senate GOP voted against Rabbi David Saperstein's confirmation
by Nathan'ette Burdine: January 3, 2015

Republicans like to say that they support the Jewish community and will stand with them at any cost.

But when it came time to vote for Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein to become the Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom, the majority of the Senate GOP and its leadership were nowhere to be found.

Led by Senate Majority Leader-Elect Mitch McConnell (R-KY), thirty-four Republicans plus one Democrat, Sen. Manchin (D-WV), voted to no avail against the confirmation of Rabbi Saperstein as the next Ambassador at- Large for International Religious Freedom.

There were 48 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 12 Republicans who voted to confirm Rabbi Saperstein.

Considering the fact that Saperstein is above qualified for the position, it will be difficult for the Republicans to argue that their decision to vote against his confirmation is not due to partisan politics.

Saperstein has over 20 years of experience working on international religious issues.

He helped to get the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act passed into law in 1993. The law was passed in order to address the deep religious divide throughout the global community.

Saperstein’s efforts in getting the law passed helped to create the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which was supported unanimously by a majority Republican led Congress in 1998.

Saperstein is the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. His nomination was supported by conservative and liberal religious leaders.

Former Ambassador Robert Seiple, who was the first chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said that Saperstein is his “favorite rabbi.”

Daniel Mariaschin, who is B’nai B’rith International’s executive vice president, said about Saperstein, “I think David got nominated to this position because of his experience, his expertise, his caring, his sensitivity to these issues, and his being able to speak out.”

Some Republicans, however, did not take too kindly to Saperstein speaking out on what the party views as liberal issues.

Specifically, Saperstein’s speaking out on the “hot button” issue of Obamacare caused some Republicans to see him as a problem.

Saperstein spoke out against the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case to allow for-profit businesses to use religion as a reason to be exempt from certain provisions within the Affordable Health Care Act.

Republicans, along with some Red State Democrats, are staunchly opposed to the new health care law.

They argue that the law forces citizens to engage in an act of commerce at the benefit of the federal government and that the law applies an undue tax on those who refuse to take part in the system.

The new Republican congress has vowed to get rid of the law, and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has filed a federal lawsuit against President Obama, arguing that the president is “overreaching” in his executive power in order to change certain Obamacare provisions.

Although Saperstein’s support for Obamacare resulted in a majority of the Senate Republicans not supporting his nomination, he was able to find support among the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

Tea Party Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) were among the 12 Republicans who were able to place aside their beliefs about Obamacare and support Rabbi Saperstein as the next Ambassador at-large of International Religious Freedom.

Prior to Saperstein’s nomination, Rubio wrote a letter urging President Obama to nominate someone to the position.

The position had been vacant for two years, and was previously held by Suzan Johnson Cook.

Fox News quoted Rubio as saying, “In order to display the United States’ dedication to religious freedom, we must have an Ambassador-At-Large in place to lead our efforts around the world.”

The jailing of Meriam Ishag in Sudan, North Korea’s jailing of an American who left a bible on the table, and the terrorist group ISIS’ targeting of Christian minorities and Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the Nigerian school girls have made religious freedom an important issue in the U.S.’ foreign policy.

Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out that a substantial amount of people live in countries where they do not have the right to worship freely.

Christianity Today quoted Kerry as saying, “When 75% of the world’s population still lives in countries that don’t respect religious freedoms, let me tell you, we have a long journey ahead of us.”

Jim Walls, president and co-founder of the Christian social justice organization Sojourners, expressed confidence that Rabbi Saperstein will be able to shine a light on these issues and to bring about change in how others view religious freedom.

Christianity Today quoted Walls as saying, “Given the importance of this issue in the world today, I can think of no better leader to serve as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom than David Saperstein. As a friend and fellow advocate for justice, I know he brings the courage, dedication, and passion for protecting religious freedom that is necessary for success in this role.”

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