Sunday, February 22, 2015

Can religion give power to kidnap, torture and incarcerate individuals?

Image Retrieved from ABC News which you can access here
In a recent news article published by ABC News, a rabbi was reported going to trail for kidnapping and torturing husbands into signing divorce papers. According to ABC News, you can access the article here, Mendel Epstein lead an organized group, that charged Jewish women to kidnap their husbands and obtained a divorce. Jewish laws, according to the article, prevent women from filing for divorce known as a get. The Jewish law allows only the husband to file for divorce and if the husband does not want to get a divorce the women are forced to remain in the marriage. Epstein stated that he is a “champion of women’s right” and that older Jewish laws allow him to use torture measurement to relieve husbands of their “evil” and consent to a divorce. Epstein, his son David, and two other men were investigated by undercover FBI agents, who obtained voice recordings of Epstein’s methods of torture.  Epstein is reported to be a leading rabbi in divorce cases and he is believed to have participated in 2500 divorces.

                When founding fathers Madison and Jefferson talked about freedom of religion for everyone they did not mean freedom for women, African American/ Blacks, or minority religious groups. Supreme Court cases like Reynold v. United States (1879) are examples that religious freedom was directed towards white Christian males only.  However, a couple years after in Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940) the court took a complete different stand. Newton Cantwell and his sons, Jesse and Russell Cantwell were arrested after complaints were filed against their “anti-Catholic” messages. The Cantwells were convicted of door to door solicitations in the form of playing records, and asking for contributions. Justice Roberts who delivered the opinion of the Court stated that the “Amendment embraces two concepts, freedom to believe and freedom to act”.  The Supreme Court in this case decided that the actions the Cantwell’s had engaged in did not show a clear and present danger to society.

                The case against Epstein should be reviewed under this idea. Epstein is free to believe that he has the power of forcing husbands into signing divorce papers. However, he is not free to act upon his belief.  Torture or causing physical harm on anyone is not protected under no constitutional law.  Although the intentions of this man might be considered good, his actions physically and emotionally harmed other people.

                Although this man is guilty of kidnapping and torturing you cannot deny the underlying problem; lack of women freedom.  Not only should the court find this man guilty but they should also find this old Jewish law unconstitutional. The Jewish law deprives women of freedom and additionally, allows the torture of men who are unwilling to give a divorce.  Many would argue that invalidating this Jewish law would be a violation of the free exercise of religion. However, this action of religion is causing harm to individual which is under no law protected by the First Amendment. Justice Roberts explained that an action that is a clear and present danger to society is not protected under the freedom to exercise religion.

                Kidnapping and torturing as well as depriving an individual of his/her freedom it is not protected by the First Amendment or any other law. Epstein is guilty of kidnapping, torturing, and depriving people of their freedom while the old Jewish laws are guilty of enforcing laws that allow these actions.

                What do you think are steps that should be taken in this case? Should the get be legal? Should Jewish women be allowed to obtain a divorce? What are some possible downsides to allowing women to obtain a divorce? 


Molly H. said...

I found this case to be extremely interesting but also extremely hard to side with. I agree the the lack of women's freedom with the traditional and strict Jewish law is outdated as well as unconstitutional, but it's also hard to investigate this as many other religions do not give men and women equal rights and continue to do so into the 21st century. As for Epstein, I believe that he should be tried for kidnapping and torturing his victims, as this would be illegal in the eyes of the US government regardless of whether it was because of religious intentions. I am confused as to why Epstein, a rabbi who seems to be very devoted to his faith, allowed women to have the option to divorce men with his assistance. Was he only doing this for the money? Is he against the idea that women can not file for divorce? Regardless of religion, Epstein committed a crime and harmed innocent human beings, and for that he should be tried.

As for the clearly old-fashioned belief that women do not have the right to divorce men and are often forced into an unhappy marriage, that is a whole different debate.

Peter M said...

I believe that it is pretty clear that Epstein does not have the right to kidnap and torture people, even if he cites some religious reason for it. The explanations of the absolute freedom to believe and the conditional freedom to act are outlined in Cantwell and this is a case where there is a very compelling state interest to have a society free of kidnapping and torture.

This case should be about the freedoms of Epstein to act on his religion and not whether Jewish laws are good or bad. Jewish women have the right to get a divorce as any other citizen would. What is keeping them from getting a divorce is a religious conviction which is a personal choice of their's and there it would be inappropriate for the government to outlaw a religious belief about divorce.