Faith and homosexuality

In the first of our series on the perceptions of homosexuality, the Chief Executive of Liberal Juda

Liberal Judaism’s attitude to homosexuality is rooted in its core principles: ethical monotheism, right conduct as it applies to human relations, care for the quality of community and society, and the idea that traditional texts require continual evaluation in the light of either ethical insights or factual knowledge of our own time.

Liberal Judaism – in common with traditional Judaism – affirms the idea of God as both the single Creator of the Universe and as its righteous, just, loving and compassionate Guide who requires of the human creature the self-same attributes.

Whatever is demanded of those who are in relationship with God, right conduct heads the list, above even sound belief and correct ritual. For Liberal Judaism right conduct includes an appreciation that each human being owes to another mutual respect and care by virtue of the view recorded in Genesis that the human being was created in the image of God.

Therefore, Liberal Judaism celebrates the diversity of God’s creation including the human being whether man or woman, Jew or non-Jew, black or white, straight or gay. Liberal Judaism thus rejects the harbouring of prejudice or the pursuit of discrimination against lesbian and gay men as a violation of Judaism’s most fundamental ethical teachings.

Furthermore, conscious of the history of persecution, discrimination and persecution of homosexuals, Liberal Judaism celebrates human sexuality as an opportunity for men and women whether straight or gay to demonstrate love and faithfulness and to create units in which children may be nurtured. Accordingly in 2005 Liberal Judaism was the first mainstream religious organisation in the world to produce its Brit Ahavah: Covenant of Love, Service of Commitment for Same-Sex Couples.

Liberal Judaism is, of course, cognisant of passages in the Book of Leviticus which appear – or have been used – to legitimise discrimination at least against gay men. Liberal Judaism does not accept the traditional interpretation of these texts, and, even if it were the case that the Torah sought to condemn loving, same gender relations, Liberal Judaism would take the view that the editors of the Torah were products of their time, without the benefits of modern knowledge and experience, and would affirm that lesbians and gay men ought to be able to live as God created them to be.

Rabbi Danny Rich is the Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.