Testimony on CO Religious Exemption Bill

I delivered these remarks during a public hearing at the House Committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs in opposition to CO House Bill 1013 entitled “Free Exercise Of Religion”

I stand before you today as a person deeply committed to the traditions and tenets of my faith and called to live by the values and commitments of my tradition. I am grateful that I live in a country where I am afforded the freedom to practice my religion. As a citizen I am also committed to the idea that my freedom is intertwined with the rights of others and therefore I am able to exercise my beliefs so long as they do not oppress or discriminate against another person.

As a Jew, part of a small minority in this country and world, I fear that others will attempt to impose their beliefs upon me and hinder my ability to engage in rituals and traditions. For thousands of years the Jewish people have been exiled, enslaved and slaughtered in the name of religion and I pray that our leaders will continue to protect our rights as envisioned by the founding fathers and enshrined in our constitution.

Whether we believe that someone’s choices or core beliefs are right or wrong, even if they go against what our own religion dictates, we are still called by our diverse traditions to love others as we love ourselves and not to impose our own views upon others. The laws of our country allow us to live together in harmony, not only to tolerate but to respect each other because of our differences in beliefs. We have built our nation upon a bedrock that one’s commitment to their Truth should not dictate how they must act in service to the divine or in service to their fellow man or woman.

While we defend freedom and fight for tolerance we must also recognize when our actions are misguided. This bill before us today is a thinly veiled attempt to legally permit discrimination masquerading as a way to safe-guard our religious freedom. It has been clear for centuries that our freedoms extend only so far as they might hurt another person and our courts have upheld this notion time and time again. My friends and family have felt great pain when our laws seek to impose a certain set of rules that hurt people rather than protect them.

It is an anathema to claim that one is violating their religious tenets by choosing to oppress another person. People have the ability to choose how they engage with others and if they do not wish to uphold the laws and values of this country they are free to choose a separate path regarding employment or civil service. Rather than try to change someone or impose our views upon then, we should instead approach them with love. May we today find the courage to act out of love and compassion as we work to make a more perfect union.