Friday, October 19, 2007

Crist's hanging of mezuzah troubles civil rights activists


What troubles me is this headline . . . I had to do a double-take. "Wait!" I said, "Who is hanging a mezuzah???"

I will ask the halachic question: If the office is truly owned by the people of Florida, and if a large portion of those who live in Florida are Jews, is it correct to hang a mezuzah there or not? With a blessing or not?

I am happy, at least three times a day, that I am not a rabbi who has to figure these things out!

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
Thursday, October 18, 2007

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist views it as a sign of respect, but, for some, the mezuzah hanging outside his Capitol office has morphed into a controversial symbol.

Civil rights activists say that by hanging the icon outside his office, Crist has effectively granted the government's endorsement of a religious symbol, which could in turn transform the governor's office into a multipurpose shrine for religions of all ilks.

Gov. Charlie Crist helps Rabbi Schneur Oirechman affix a mezuzah from Israel upon the doorway of Crist's Capitol office on Oct. 11.

"The problem is that if he says yes to this religious symbol, he's not going to be able to say no to any other religious symbol," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. "While it may look like a lovely gesture, it's very short-sighted."

Crist hung the mezuzah, made of Jerusalem stone, outside his office after receiving it as a gift from state Rep. Adam Hasner, a Jewish Republican from Delray Beach who accompanied the governor on a recent trade mission to Israel. That's where Hasner bought the mezuzah, which contains a sacred script from the Torah proclaiming the absolute unity of God.

"It's done out of respect ... for the Jewish faith that I have great respect for. It was very kind of Adam to present it," said Crist, who doesn't get what the ACLU's problem is with him posting the religious symbol.

"Not really. ... I understand the notion of separation of church and state. But you have a freedom of religion, not a freedom from religion. All I'm doing is attempting to be respectful and grateful," said Crist, adding that he has no intention of removing the mezuzah from his office doorway.

"That's a little surprising given the fact that he used to be the attorney general," Simon said, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court issued a series of recent rulings prohibiting courts from displaying the Ten Commandments and restricting governmental displays of religious symbols.

"The problem is we have a governor who wants to try to please everybody... He just spontaneously accepted this gift and decided to hang the mezuzah on the doorjamb before he realized that there are constitutional issues that govern when government can decide which religious symbols it is going to embrace."

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