Is the Constitution Judeo-Christian?

June 29, 2018 in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

ConstitutionThis week, all eyes have been focused on the US Constitution.  Not only did we hold primary elections this week (refer to Article 1 of the Constitution) but we began to absorb the implications of Chief Justice John Roberts majority opinion on upholding President Trump’s travel ban.  Further, we learned of the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court.

Opinions about the severe consequences of all these matters is pervasive but I thought it would be good to step back and look at the Constitution itself.

In November 2016, the National Constitution Center (NCC) in Philadelphia hosted a discussion on the development and context of the Constitution exploring its relationship to the Jewish and Christian traditions.  They invited three scholars to explore this: Professors Menachem Lorberbaum of University of Pennsylvania’s Katz Center and Tel Aviv University, Michael Moreland of Villanova’s Charles Widger School of Law, and Suzanne Last Stone of the Cardozo School of Law.

The implication of this week’s events reminds us that elections can have profound effects lasting far longer than the term of the elected official.  The NCC pushes us to think about America’s foundational document in different ways.  Professor Michael Moreland closes by encouraging us to look deeper into America’s national diverse religious life and values.  He says “a term like Judeo-Christian… doesn’t encourage enough understanding of the richness of American religious life which is a necessary part of our civil conversation.”

I hope this panel provokes you to act guided by Judaism’s deep wisdom and values.