To the People

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Maryland Legislator Seeks to Amend Judaism

Are you a Catholic priest who wants to marry? A Seventh-Day Adventist who's sick of that weekly, um, adventing. How about a Muslim who wants to feel good about eating pork? An agnostic seeking a definitive pre-death "yea" or "nay" on that whole afterlife thing? Don't prefer some other facets of your religion? No worries. Maryland legislators can try to change it so it's more to your liking.
Some Maryland legislators have revived the fight for a bill that would place Orthodox Jewish women on an equal footing with their husbands in divorce proceedings.

Under Jewish law, a man must grant his wife a divorce degree, or get, to end a marriage. Without it, a Jewish woman is unable to remarry within the faith, and she becomes known as an agunah, or "chained woman."

Advocates of the bill say husbands use this power to demand favorable custody or visitation schedules - or money from their wife's family - during divorce negotiations.

"We have to persuade people that the rabbis cannot address this problem on their own, that they cannot undo what the Torah commands," said Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat and the main sponsor of the House version of the bill.

[Ellipsis]

Maryland's attorney general's office issued an opinion in January that "although the proposed legislation presents a substantial issue under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," the law would likely be upheld if challenged in court.

But Marc D. Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, an advocacy group, said the bill breaks down the separation of church and state.

"The problem is a real one and needs to be addressed within the Orthodox community urgently," Stern said. However, "they've chosen a means that's fundamentally inconsistent with our constitutional system."
You'd think (or maybe not) that the bill's sponsor, a lawyer, might be able to figure this out.

Full story here in the Baltimore Sun.

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