venerdì 16 settembre 2011

An open letter to Rav Michael Lerner

Dear Rav Lerner,

in [1], the "News Advisory" dated 16.06.2011, but received by me on 15.09.2011, you say:


Should Israel be a Jewish state?

“Calling Israel a Jewish state,” Lerner insists, “is no different from calling Tibet a Buddhist state before its takeover by China, or calling Indonesia a Muslim state or calling Italy a Christian state. A Jewish state would have the same right to privilege the observance of Yom Kippur as the U.S. has to close down its government on Christmas. It does not mean sanctioning existing forms of discrimination that currently exist there against Palestinians, or against its own secular majority which currently suffers from religious coercion by the Orthodox minority (which gets its way because it has enough votes in the Knesset for the major parties to need the religious groups in any coaliton government secular parties might hope to put together).”


I'm not contending with the self-definition of pre-invasion Tibet or of the Republic of Indonesia, which in the Preamble to its Constitution declares that it "shall be built into a sovereign state based on a belief in the One and Only
God" [2] - I'm taking issue about what you said about Italy, which you called "a Christian state".

God is absent from the Italian Constitution, in force since 1948; Christianity (or better, Catholicism) are only mentioned in the Articles 7 and 8, which state [3]:


Art. 7

The State and the Catholic Church are independent and sovereign, each within its own sphere.

Their relations are regulated by the Lateran pacts. Amendments to such Pacts which are accepted by both parties shall not require the procedure of constitutional amendments.

Art. 8

All religious denominations are equally free before the law.

Denominations other than Catholicism have the right to self-organisation according to their own statutes, provided these do not conflict with Italian law.

Their relations with the State are regulated by law, based on agreements with their respective representatives.


The Article 7, second clause, is one of the most vituperated against in our Constitution, but:

- since 1866 Italians enjoy civil marriage;

- in 1970 the Italian Parliament passed a divorce law;

- in 1971 the Italian Constitutional Court voided a fascist law forbidding contraception;

- in 1978 the Italian Parliament legalized abortion;

- in 1984 the Lateran pacts were amended, and the Catholic Church waived the "state religion" status;

- in 2000 the Italian Constitutional Court voided some articles of the Criminal Code giving added protection to the Catholic Church against vilification of religion.

All these things are directly against Roman Catholic religion: no Catholic should even dream of civil marriage, divorce, contraception (not even when it saves actual lives), abortion, and giving his/her Church the same legal status as others.

I could have added the decriminalization of homosexual acts, which dates back to 1889, but it wasn't actually an anti-Catholic stance: even though "sodomy" is a grave sin for Catholicism, the Catholic Church, unlike some of its Protestant counterparts, grants LGBT people the right to physical survival ... and a closeted lifestyle!

What matters more for the Catholic Church is not that people sin, but that people defy its claim to embody the divine ordainment of nature in its teachings; in their collective eyes, a closeted gay is not worse than a covert heterosexual adulterer, but an out and proud lesbian, gay, transgender are a real pain in their collective ass.

I'm not saying that the battle to loose the Italian state from the grip of the Catholic Church has ended in victory; it's still ongoing (that's why I resent your labeling Italy as a "Christian State"), is hindered by the politicians who woo the Church's favors (Israel can teach little to Italy on that regard), and the frontline is LGBT rights - as LGBT people don't want to be pushed back into the closet.

The importance of loosing state self-definition from religious identity has been proved by the fierce battle over an "acknowledgement of the Christian roots of Europe" to be included in the Preamble of the European Constitution. This reference was luckily and eventually dropped, as it could otherwise be used to discriminate against non-Christians and against Christians leading non-Christian lifestyles.

The European and Israeli cases show that it's nearly impossible to base a state's self definition on a religion and avoid discriminating against other religions or people of the dominant religion who lead an alternative lifestyle.

You're trying to have a cake and eat it.

Yours Truly,
Raffaele Ladu

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