Florida “Rabbi Rouser” Sues to Stop DeSantis Anti-Abortion Law

.AP News: Synagogue challenges Florida abortion law over religion

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A new Florida law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks with some exceptions violates religious freedom rights of Jews in addition to the state constitutions privacy protections, a synagogue claims in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed by the Congregation LDor VaDor of Boynton Beach contends the law that takes effect July 1 violates Jewish teachings, which state abortion “is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical wellbeing of the woman” and for other reasons.

The congregation’s logo

“As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and this violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” says the lawsuit, filed Friday in Leon County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit adds that people who “do not share the religious views reflected in the act will suffer and that it “threatens the Jewish people by imposing the laws of other religions upon Jews.”

The lawsuit is the second challenge to the 15week abortion ban enacted earlier this year by the Legislature and signed into law by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health providers also sued earlier this month to block the law from taking effect.
Rabbi Barry Silver

In a previous statement, DeSantis office said it “is confident that this law will ultimately withstand all legal challenges.”

The two lawsuits are likely to be consolidated into a single case. A hearing on a proposed injunction to block the Florida abortion law is likely in the next two weeks.

The law mirrors a similar measure passed in Mississippi that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which may use it to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision based on a leaked draft opinion. A final ruling on Roe is expected by the end of June.

In Florida, Rabbi Barry Silver of Congregation LDor VaDor — the name means “Generation to Generation— said it practices “cosmic Judaism,” which he defines on the synagogues website as “the Judaism of tomorrow today” that respects science, tradition and spirituality.

Silver is an attorney, social activist and former Democratic state legislator who styles himself as a “Rabbirouser” on his own website. In an interview Tuesday, Silver said when separation of religion and government crumbles, religious minorities such as Jews often suffer.

“Every time that wall starts to crack, bad things start to happen,” he said, noting that DeSantis signed the law at an evangelical Christian church.

The new Florida abortion law, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.

Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

No faith is monolithic on the abortion issue. Yet many followers of faiths that do not prohibit abortion are aghast that a view held by a minority of Americans could supersede their individual rights and religious beliefs such as the position of Judaism as outlined in the lawsuit.

“This ruling would be outlawing abortion in cases when our religion would permit us,” said Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, scholar in residence at the National Council of Jewish Women, “and it is basing its concepts of when life begins on someone else’s philosophy or theology.”


On the synagogue’s website, Silver elaborated on the group’s religious approach:

“Cosmic Judaism began with his late father Samuel Silver, a Reform rabbi. “He believed in God, but not the God of the Bible, and preached and wrote in various books that he authored that every concept of Judaism, including God, should be rational and logical, and that God should be thought of as a hypothesis, not a fact,” he said.

“Thus, the hypothesis is modified and altered as new facts emerge, which is why the concept of God has been evolving in Judaism since the beginning, except for those who are stuck in the past and have altered Judaism by trying to stop its growth and fix its development in a rigid and dangerous Orthodoxy.”

“L’Dor Va-Dor means ‘generation to generation,’ and so our congregation derives its ideological roots from my father who preached a rational faith, which continues with me,” Silver said. “That progression of thought can be seen in my son Ari, who is 18 and has a similar but unique perspective.”

Silver said he also drew inspiration from scientists Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan for this approach.

The synagogue left Reform Judaism in 2016 and has been unaffiliated for four years.

“The Cosmic Jewish approach, which interprets Judaism through science and reason, was overwhelmingly voted on and approved twice by our congregants,” Silver said. “I do not know of any other congregation where the ideology was not just imposed upon the members or based on the rabbi, but where the members actually voted on two separate occasions to support the ideology, which is a unique approach to Judaism.”

Rabbi Silver with a scripture scroll.

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