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    Clergy speaking out – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Should religious leaders (not just rabbis but clergy generally) mix in to national debates?

    A. I’m going to answer the question in a rather personal way. Let me confess that whether people liked it or not, I weighed in to countless national debates during the course of my rabbinic career.

    Should society allow abortion? Should Australia keep the Queen? Should politicians take training courses? Should the unemployed have to do voluntary work in order to get the dole? Should the media peddle smut? Should sports people pray to God for success? Should homosexuals parade in the streets? Should immigration be controlled?

    These and a sheaf of other issues got me involved. When I took up a position about Aboriginal welfare in Australia one of my congregation refused to come to shul unless I kept quiet. Of course some of the politicians and others whose vested interests I attacked said that clergy should stick to teaching the Bible. I retorted that this is precisely what the Bible is about – justice, peace and truth. This is precisely what the Biblical prophets spoke and wrote about, and they constantly risked becoming ostracised and even imprisoned because they would not hold their tongues.

    When people said I should stick to Jewish issues and not risk creating antisemitism, I said everything was a Jewish issue. When film stars and swimmers made public statements on education and the economy I objected that they had no special qualifications in these areas – but when it comes to the quality of society this is precisely where the clergy do have special qualifications. Clergy are right to refuse to be muzzled.

    See also Rabbi Apple’s article, “Religion & Politics“.

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