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Hey, Mr. Postman


Today, students, we will consider the meaning and extent of religious liberty in our society by way of The Case of the Israeli Postal Refusniks. As reported by RNS' MIchele Chabin, dozens of Israeli postal workers have been refusing to deliver thousands of copies of the Hebrew New Testament and other Christian written material on the grounds that such delivery amounts to proselytizing for an alien faith and therefore is contrary to Jewish law. There's no question that the purpose of the mailings is to proselytize. Nevertheless, the Israel Postal Authority has declared that "a governmental company operating in accordance to the Postal Law, which obligates us to distribute any mail it receives. The Israel Postal Company has no right or ability to choose what it can or cannot distribute. Therefore, the mail will be distributed according to the law."

Now let's suppose that thousands of American postal workers similarly refuse to deliver English copies of the Koran mailed by a Muslim organization to hundreds of thousands of American households in hopes of making converts. Whose religious liberty rights should prevail--the senders of the material exercising their own Islamic Great Commission? Or the postal workers who contend that participating in such an exercise would violate their religious beliefs? Answers due on Monday. For extra credit, suppose the postal workers were joined by thousands of UPS and Fedex workers. Would the situation of the latter be different? 

Topics: Politics, Law & Court


  1. And to further muddy the water, consider the senders of such mail to be non-US citizens, the mail originating from foreign soil.  What standing would the senders have in the eyes of the law?

  2. How do they know whether the recipient of the mail is not ALREADY a Christian, or is a Jewish scholar who is studying the book as part of research for an article on comparatuive religions, or writing a rebuttal supportive of the Jewish viewpoint? 

    If the letter carriers are going to be nannies about what they deliver, are they going to deliver food to the overweight?  Deliver only kosher food?  Deliver no pornography?  Deliver no books or movies that criticize a Jew? 

    It is sad that soe Jews feel like they must take away the freedom of their customers in Israel and do their thinking for them.  But that is the behavior of a totalitarian state, not a country that engages in open dialogue with other cultures.  The legal ban on proselyting in Israel is based on fear that Jews will be converted out of existence, but it is only a problem because Jews are converting at times to Christianity.  It is their own choice.  If Jewish rabbis cannot find persuasive reasons that will convince people to remain Jewish, perhaps they are not trying hard enough.  Do they really think, in the age of the internet, that they can prevent a Jew from being exposed to other religious beliefs? 

    Israel needs to join the modern world, and the Jews who are worried about the secularization of Jews and the loss of Jewish identity need to work on attracting Jews to religious judaism, rather than hoping they will be Jewish by default.

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