I am a Jew.
One of the things that my people experienced in the past, and was most hurtful to us, was the misrepresentation and misinterpretation of Jewish teachings. At times, especially during the notorious medieval Disputatios—“kangaroo courts” where Jews were forced to defend their sacred beliefs under the threat of punishment—the results were, truly, lethal.
I am not writing here to defend any institution or case or declare the innocence or guilt of anyone. I am not writing here for any purpose whatsoever except to say this: in regard to how the Church of Scientology’s doctrine was interpreted in Los Angeles County Superior Court, in a case to which the Church was not even a party, the Church of Scientology is on its way to becoming “a Jew.”
At times, despite being in a secular society with separation of Church and State, the Law of the Land is forced to take a look at particular religious doctrine if it has a bearing on a case.
However, if this is not done in a considered way, with the utmost respect and deference for the sacred understandings of the religion, this can lead to a violation of the Constitution.
One of the things that my people experienced in the past, and was most hurtful to us, was the misrepresentation and misinterpretation of Jewish teachings.
No secular judge or court can grant itself the right to interpret a religion’s doctrines, thereby electing itself, de facto, and dangerously de jure, a religious tribunal. The judge or court MUST, ALWAYS, consult with and rely on religious practitioners who are knowledgeable about the intent, design and implementation of those religious doctrines in order to correctly understand their meaning.
Let me give you a classic example from many centuries ago. The Torah says: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Some tribunal interpreted this as mandatory “equitable vengeance.” This is not a correct interpretation. Based merely upon the superficial grain of that Torah passage, one could readily come to that wrong conclusion. However, that passage, which was inherited from the earlier Law of Hammurabi and was taken up into Judaism, is actually interpreted to mean that there should be appropriate monetary recompense for any evil that was done.
There is no evidence at all that this so-called Lex Talionis was ever truly a law of requiring the gouging out of someone else’s eyes in return for the loss of theirs. And yet this passage was drawn upon, out of context, by many to “prove” that Jews and their Law were cruel and “unloving,” begging for forcible baptism and slaughter. (Once this misinterpreting-ball gets rolling, it is hard to stop it.)
Similarly, one cannot read the Quran without proper knowledge of the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad by which, over the centuries, the Quran’s meaning was given substance. If one were to look at the Bhagavad Gita of the Vedas, one might come to the conclusion that Lord Krishna is telling one to self-sacrifice and annihilate oneself on the battlefield, because anything else is pointless.
It is for this reason I say that what a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge did by interpreting scripture and failing to consult religious authorities on a matter of church doctrine was wrongful. It would be as wrongful to a Jew as it would be to a Muslim as it would be to a Hindu as it would be to a Scientologist.
No secular judge or court can grant itself the right to interpret a religion’s doctrines, thereby electing itself, de facto, and dangerously de jure, a religious tribunal.
Be clear here: this is not a matter of one religion and one legal case. That is all smoke and mirrors. At issue is a CRITICAL ISSUE. It is a critical issue for all religions in America and all religions in all pluralistic societies around the world.
This matter can only be resolved by something which is increasingly absent in our society, without which our educated democracy is rapidly turning into an ignorant “opinionocracy”: WISDOM!
So I call on everyone to deeply reflect upon what has happened. There is much to learn here. Much wisdom to gain. Much improvement in how we interpret constitutional law in regard to religious law, and vice versa.
Alas, it is not easy to be “a Jew.” It is not easy to be a member of any religion, or any group, that is not in the majority. That’s why everyone—everyone!—should stand, in principle, as a principle, with the Church of Scientology in this matter.
In so doing, you’re standing up for yourself. For your own freedom of conscience.