An open response to Isi Leibler

This article originally appeared on The Slowly Boiled Frog.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

An open response to Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler is a frequent contributor to the Jerusalem Post. Sunday he writes: “Candidly speaking: Recent sexual controversies and upheavals.”

It causes me great discomfort when a fellow Jew expresses anti-gay rhetoric. Most of us have learned a thing or two from 6,000 years of oppression. Mr. Leibler has not. Leibler begins by telling us just how wonderful he is. After explaining that he is an octogenarian:

I am no prude and when, 50 years ago, it was fashionable to demonize homosexuals I never joined the pack. I always maintained that consensual sexual relations were a private matter, I never discriminated against gays or lesbians, and I unhesitatingly employed quite a few. And despite the strict halachic prohibitions, I maintain that if gay people wish to be observant, they should not be ostracized from communal religious participation.

This is what follows next:

At the same time, I oppose gays flaunting their sexuality (for example by participating in pride parades) or promoting their lifestyle as progressive while implicitly denigrating the traditional concept of a nuclear family. They should be free to live their lives as they deem fit and enjoy all civil rights extended to heterosexual couples. But I am not ready to concede that gay couples should be glorified, as they sometimes are on TV, for supposedly partaking in a superior alternative lifestyle. I feel that this encourages young people to experiment unnecessarily with their own sexuality.

I scarcely know where to begin but I will start with the absolute certainty that a sexual orientation is not a lifestyle. Suggesting otherwise is an appeal to stereotype. It is an expression of bigotry. I am a retired CEO. My late partner was an executive with American Media. Our “lifestyle” had nothing to do with our sexual orientation. Rather, it reflected our business interests and most of our friends were straight (or at least they claimed to be).

I have no idea whatsoever what Mr. Leibler thinks is denigrating the nuclear family at the hands of dastardly gay people. He is not specific. However, what is obviously the most offensive and intellectually dishonest part of this is the notion that sexual orientation can be influenced by others or through experimentation.

It would help if Mr. Leibler knew the scientific fact that sexual orientation is a continuum with homosexual and heterosexual at the extreme ends. Nothing is going to change one’s positioning along the scale with the exception of a small amount of natural fluidity. People do not “experiment” with their sexual orientation and even if they did, they would still end up in the same place. Those around the middle might cross the 50-yard-line but not to experiment. They are satisfying a temporal attraction. Ultimately that is why all of those pray-away-the-gay enterprises have been such dismal failures. No one ever really changes.

Furthermore, Mr. Leibler does not define what he means by “glorified.” I don’t know what television he watches but in this country we see (all too few) gay couples. At best they are truthfully portrayed as the intellectual and moral equals of heterosexual couples. Again, being gay is not an alternative lifestyle. Then Mr. Leibler goes on a tear about same-sex marriage:

This brings me to the same-sex marriage issue, which has created such a global upheaval. The continuity of mankind depends on male-female intercourse. Marriage implies a heterosexual union and to religious people it is a sacred institution.

While I fully support the legal system providing gay couples with rights identical to those of a heterosexual union, surely appropriate commitment ceremonies can be devised that do not imply bracketing such unions in the same category as traditional marriages.

Jewish non-Orthodox bodies like the Conservative and Reform movements should at most be neutral on this issue, but unfortunately, they are at the forefront of calling for gay unions to be defined as traditional marriages.

Let’s get the intercourse out of the way immediately. I am not sure but perhaps Mr. Leibler believes that when gays marry, that deprives society of an otherwise heterosexual spouse (as well as his or her sexual activities to crank out children). If that is the case then Leibler is beyond the point of redemption. Moreover, marriage might be sacred to religious people which is why those same people marry in their synagogue. To others it is a civil construct.

I am not familiar with Israeli law but in this country marriage is a legal construct that may, or may not be, a religious ritual. In this country we have also experimented with the concept of separate but equal which is what Leibler is essentially advocating. Great legal minds came to the conclusion that separate but equal is inherently unequal. There is no practical reason for gay couples to have a different outcome to being wed. Calling it marriage is not only the correct term but it has no effect whatsoever on so-called traditional marriage. If Mr. Leibler truly supports equal rights for gay couples as he claims then he should vigorously support marriage equality.

Perhaps the answer is right in front of Mr. Leibler. He has the the ability to discuss these matters with conservative and reform rabbis who can explain their reasons for supporting marriage equality.

The gay marriage debate has descended into bullying and vilifying anyone who dares to defend traditional beliefs. But objecting to gay marriage is neither discriminatory nor homophobic. The slandering of all who oppose gay marriage has descended into a poisonous hate fest.

Really? It seems to me that we must entertain bullshit about lifestyles and the pernicious ability of gay people to turn straight youth gay. Then, on top of that, another layer of manure is spread in the form of the preposterous notion that same-sex marriage has some mystical effect on so-called traditional marriage — all engineered to make gay people unequal.

Does Mr. Leibler have so much as a clue about the bigotry inherent in demeaning gay people for “flaunting their life style?” We are deeply offended and rightfully so. If Leibler wants less hate then he can ratchet down his homophobia and the reaction will recede accordingly. If he wants less poison in the environment then he should turn off his spigot. And then he can cease feigning victimization as a tactic to gain traction.

The blatant bigotry continues:

The just campaign to ensure equal social and civic rights for gays has succeeded beyond all expectations. But it was never intended to promote a gay lifestyle at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family. I do not endorse the belief that sexuality is fluid. Nor would I condone the silencing of traditional and religious values, which consider marriage between man and wife to be uniquely sacred.

“… at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family” and he ponders why that is considered bigoted hate speech. And let’s not imply that marriage equality has an effect on the religious practices of anyone. That is just dishonest nonsense.

You can continue to read Leibler’s diatribe at the link above. I have had more than I care to have.

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ABC Fact Check corroborates Aleph Melbourne’s fact checking of shameless claims from Karina Okotel and Lyle Shelton

In September Aleph Melbourne first exposed Lyle Shelton’s preposterous claim that marriage equality led to the Vishnitz Girls School failing Ofsted tests.

Today ABC Fact Check found as baseless the same claims made by Coalition for Marriage’s Karina Okotel on Q&A:

Now that The Guardian, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, ABC Fact Check and Aleph Melbourne have exposed the ridiculous misinformation being peddled by the likes of Okotel and Shelton, perhaps they will stop exploiting the misfortune of this Jewish school and stop abusing LGBTIQ people.

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Coalition for Marriage’s Karina Okotel thumbs her nose at Executive Council of Australian Jewry

On the “Same Sex Marriage Debate” episode of Q&A (Monday October 23 2017) Karina Okotel from the Coalition for Marriage dismissed claims from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry:

TONY JONES
I’m going to bring in Karina here, because obviously you’re concerned about these areas precisely.

KARINA OKOTEL
The short answer to your question is that if same-sex marriage is legalised, no, Christian schools will not be immune from the consequences that flow from that. And we’ve seen that just last week, when Theresa May in the UK said that one of her greatest achievements in her parliamentary career was legalising same-sex marriage. And the next step now is to ensure that there is LGBTI sex education in all schools – not just government schools, all schools.

TONY JONES
OK, Magda.

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
I actually… You said fact-check. I did fact-check a couple of the claims that you’ve made. One of them was about the guy who’s the prominent guy from Canada for the No campaign. And he said it’s been sort of put forward that because he wouldn’t accept teachings about gender and sex education, he was suing the school.
He had a six-year-long battle going on and his claims, his list of claims, included things like he didn’t want his children to be exposed to what he called false teachings, which meant the mere idea that there were other sets of values that existed, anything to do with the environment, to do with astrology, which is in newspapers everywhere, and wizards, meaning the kids couldn’t discuss… He wanted to be informed. It was not because of a difference of views, it was…it was unworkable.
And one more thing – the other one I want… You mentioned the Jewish school in London. I fact-checked that because I actually went to the site of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and they said that is inaccurate. If you want to tell the Jews how to run Jewish schools – because we’re talking about freedom of religion – it seems to me…

TONY JONES
Just to confirm, this is a story about a Jewish school in the UK and the suggestion or allegation that it was going to be forced to shut down because they were refusing to teach gender diversity?

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
And I’m not saying that’s inaccurate. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry is saying that that’s inaccurate.

TONY JONES
We’ll quickly throw that to Karina.

KARINA OKOTEL
The council are the only ones who say that that’s inaccurate. Everyone else says that it is accurate…

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
They’re the peak body. They’re the peak body.

KARINA OKOTEL
The reports are on the internet. If you don’t believe that it’s true…

(LAUGHTER)

KARINA OKOTEL
..have a look at the very reports that are provided by the inspectorate itself.

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
So, you don’t accept the word of the peak body of Australian Jewry?

KARINA OKOTEL
It’s inaccurate to say that they didn’t face consequences as a result. The reality is that the inspector came, inspected the school and they failed inspections after same-sex marriage was legalised.

TONY JONES
I’m going to draw a line. People can fact-check…

KARINA OKOTEL
Please fact-check it. I would ask people to fact-check it.

TONY JONES
I’d expect the fact-checkers will fact-check it.

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
I did fact-check. The Jews fact-checked it. But they don’t know, apparently.

(LAUGHTER)

KARINA OKOTEL
They’re the only body that say that.

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Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council doesn’t walk its talk

On October 9 2017 ABC Media Watch quoted Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s Colin Rubinstein:

“We do critique journalists and media stories when we see factual errors, lack of context, or unprofessionalism …”
— Dr Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director, AIJAC, 28 July 2017

It is disappointing that Colin Rubinstein is taking the high moral ground on matters of factual accuracy.

AIJAC remains unrepentant for a matter of factual inaccuracy that Aleph Melbourne called them out on in 2016 (see AIJAC should apologise for unsubstantiated criticism of Greens policy).

It would be good to hear AIJAC’s apology for their factual inaccuracy and perceived bias.

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Claim UK school failed inspection over marriage teaching ‘factually inaccurate’ | The Guardian

Claim UK school failed inspection over marriage teaching ‘factually inaccurate’

Australian Jewish body denies Coalition for Marriage claim ultra-Orthodox London school was threatened with closure

Paul Karp
@Paul_Karp
Thursday 5 October 2017 12.33 AEDT
Last modified on Thursday 5 October 2017 13.28 AEDT

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has refuted “factually inaccurate” claims a Jewish school in the UK was threatened with closure over its teachings about sexuality and marriage.

The case of the ultra-Orthodox Vishnitz girls school in north London has been cited repeatedly by the Australian Christian Lobby’s director, Lyle Shelton, and used as recently as Thursday by the Liberal senator Zed Seselja, as an example of a school forced to change its teaching because of the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

In a statement released on Wednesday the ECAJ rejected the claim that Vishnitz “lost its accreditation as a school because it would not cease teaching its version of sexuality and marriage after same-sex marriages became legal in March 2014”.

“In point of fact the school found itself in difficulties with Ofsted [the UK school regulatory authority] well before March 2014 because it was said to have failed various other legal standards arising under earlier legislation,” it said.

“For example, the school was found to have failed to have policies in place that would require it to report incidents of abuse and neglect.”

In October 2016 and May 2017 Ofsted found Vishnitz girls school had failed to meet standards that education must “encourage respect” for others based on protected characteristics in the UK Equality Act 2010, including sex, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The school also failed its inspections for a number of other reasons including facility maintenance, lack of a medical room and poor labelling of suitable drinking water.

In May 2017 Ofsted concluded the issues had been fixed, including lack of child protection policies, but not the issue of encouraging respect.

Shelton has repeatedly cited Vishnitz, arguing it has been penalised because it “doesn’t want to teach their children these radical concepts” and noting it failed inspections after same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK to suggest it was a consequence of that change.

ECAJ said the 2010 law predated marriage equality in the UK and “explicitly provides that the school has the right to teach its own beliefs about sexuality and marriage in a way that does not disrespect LGBTQI people”.

Explaining why it issued the statement, ECAJ said that during the debate about legal recognition of same-sex marriage “verbal abuse should be condemned and factual inaccuracies corrected”.

Seselja told Sky News that in the UK “there is a Jewish school which is being threatened with being shut down because it doesn’t want to teach the gender theory that we’ve seen in some schools here in Australia”.

“I’ve seen the examples in the UK – where there are religious schools told they have to change their teaching in order to keep their registration.”

Seselja said he was concerned about religious freedom and parental choice but refused to nominate what changes to law he would like to see, arguing the burden should be on those arguing for same-sex marriage not opponents to devise “protections”.

At the National Press Club on 13 September the Liberal party’s vice-president, Karina Okotel, said: “Three months ago in England, a Jewish school failed three inspections as they didn’t teach about homosexuality and gender diversity and, therefore, as same-sex marriage is legal, the students were not being provided a full understanding of fundamental British values and that school now faces closure.”

None of the Ofsted reports mentioned teaching about marriage

A spokeswoman for the Coalition for Marriage acknowledged that the Equality Act came into force before same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK but said the school had only failed its inspections after the marriage law changed.

“This timeline proves, rather than contradicts, the claim by Coalition for Marriage that a change in the marriage law has a direct impact on the education of children, specifically requiring LGBTIQ issues to be taught in primary school,” she said.

The Coalition for Marriage spokeswoman said the ECAJ “had previously issued a statement asserting that there is no threat to religious freedom at all if a change to the Marriage Act was to occur”.

This was “in contrast” to a Senate committee inquiry on the same-sex marriage bill exposure draft and “any other serious commentators on this issue”, she said.

Guardian Australia has contacted Seselja, Shelton and Okotel.

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JCCV backs same sex marriage | AJN

JCCV backs same sex marriage

October 4, 2017

THE Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has voted to support same-sex marriage and called on the Federal Government to eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples.

The resolution passed on Monday night “notes that the question before Australia at the upcoming postal survey is one relating to civil, not religious, marriage”, “supports same sex marriage under civil law as part of its commitment to equal rights and respect for all people and the elimination of discrimination in all its forms” and “urges all participants in the public debate regarding same sex marriage to engage with respect and tolerance, and without personal rancour”.

It also resolved to “call on the Federal Government to support the elimination of discrimination against same sex couples under Australia’s civil law by extending legal recognition to marriages between same sex couples who choose to marry”,”to support equal treatment under Australian law to same sex couples who choose to marry” and “to call on its members and the wider community to take part in the postal survey and help ensure that the basic right to marriage is afforded to all Australians regardless of their gender or sexuality in order to create a modern, fair and just society”.

At the organisation’s monthly plenumt, 41 people representing 25 affiliates voted in favour of the motion, with four abstentions.

Fourteen people spoke in favour of the motion proposed by the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (Victoria) and seconded by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, while two people spoke against the JCCV passing a motion on same-sex marriage, but not against same-sex marriage itself.

“JCCV has been working very hard in the area of inclusion for Jewish members of the community who identify at LGBTI for a number of years,” the body’s president Jennifer Huppert said.

“This is one further step and relates to same sex civil marriage and the view of the JCCV, and the plenum, is that this is a human rights issue and consistent with our commitment to human right and equality.”

Huppert said she is personally in favour of same-sex marriage and the motion sent a clear message of equality.,

“There were some people who said they didn’t think that it was an appropriate matter to be dealt with by the plenum, but the debate was very respectful and positive.”

NCJWA Victoria president Miriam Bass hailed the overwhelming support for the motion as “really gratifying”.

“This is about doing what is right because we have a duty to all out discrimination when we see it,” Bass said.

“This is what we felt we had to do to join with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, who recently passed a similar motion, and state what is right.

Bass said that NCJWA made its own statement last month and the response was overwhelming.

“We had something like 57 good comments and only one negative, and that was from someone that wasn’t a member of NCJWA.

“I think the way it was done at the JCCV was good because it came from the community, not the JCCV executive.”

LGBTI advocacy and support group Aleph Melbourne congratulated the JCCV on passing the resolution.

“That the motion was voted on without opposition, by a significantly larger than normal number of delegates, speaks volumes to the importance equality means to the Jewish community,” the organisation said in a statement.

“By supporting marriage equality the JCCV sends a message to all Victorian Jews, and the wider community, that no matter a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status, their relationships are valued equally and should be afforded equal dignity.”

For further coverage, see this week’s AJN.

JOSHUA LEVI

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Executive Council of Australian Jewry responds to misleading claims around marriage equality and the London Jewish Girls school

Factual inaccuracies surrounding London’s Vishnitz Girls School
04.10.2017

In the continuing debate concerning the legal recognition of same sex marriages, verbal abuse should be condemned and factual inaccuracies corrected.

One claim relating to the Jewish community is that the ultra-Orthodox Vishnitz Girls School in north London in the UK lost its accreditation as a school because it would not cease teaching its version of sexuality and marriage after same-sex marriages became legal in March 2014.

In point of fact the school found itself in difficulties with Ofsted (the UK school regulatory authority) well before March 2014 because it was said to have failed various other legal standards arising under earlier legislation. For example, the school was found to have failed to have policies in place that would require it to report incidents of abuse and neglect.

Provisions of the UK Equality Act 2010, under which sexual orientation became a protected characteristic, and which predates the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, explicitly provide that the school has the right to teach its own beliefs about sexuality and marriage in a way that does not disrespect LGBTQI people.

 

Aleph Melbourne has detailed this situation in our post Lyle Shelton exposed for falsely blaming marriage equality for the failings of a London Jewish school.

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JCCV Media Statement – Same Sex Civil Marriage

JCCV Plenum Marriage Equality vote - Oct 2 2017

Same Sex Civil Marriage
03 October 2017

The members of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) voted overwhelmingly in support of same sex civil marriage at their Plenum last night.  The National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (Victoria) moved the motion below, which was seconded by AUJS (the Australasian Union of Jewish Students).  The motion was strongly supported with 41 votes in favour and 4 abstentions.

The motion was consistent with the recent resolution of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

JCCV President Jennifer Huppert stated, “The debate at the Plenum was respectful and positive, with a clear message sent in support of equality and inclusion, and against discrimination.  Speakers recognised that this was a civil matter and a human rights issue, and not a religious issue.  They were careful to reiterate JCCV’s commitment to religious freedom and remained respectful of those with an alternate view.”

The resolution:

“This meeting of the Plenum of the JCCV:

NOTES that the question before Australia at the upcoming postal survey is one relating to civil, not religious, marriage

SUPPORTS same sex marriage under civil law as part of its commitment to equal rights and respect for all people and the elimination of discrimination in all its forms.

URGES all participants in the public debate regarding same sex marriage to engage with respect and tolerance, and without personal rancour.

And resolves

1.              To call on the Federal Government to support the elimination of discrimination against same sex couples under Australia’s civil law by extending legal recognition to marriages between same sex couples who choose to marry;

2.              To support equal treatment under Australian law to same sex couples who choose to marry; and

3.              To call on its members and the wider community to take part in the postal survey and help ensure that the basic right to marriage is afforded to all Australians regardless of their gender or sexuality in order to create a modern, fair and just society.”

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Aleph Melbourne congratulates the JCCV for supporting marriage equality

Aleph Melbourne congratulates the Jewish Community Council of Victoria for passing a resolution at its Monday evening plenum meeting in support of marriage equality.

That the motion was voted on without opposition, by a significantly larger than normal number of delegates, speaks volumes to the importance equality means to the Jewish community.

Particular mention goes to the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia for proposing the marriage equality motion and speaking to it with such dignity and respect.

By supporting marriage equality the JCCV sends a message to all Victorian Jews, and the wider community, that no matter a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status, their relationships are valued equally and should be afforded equal dignity.

The successful JCCV marriage equality motion follows closely a similar successful motion from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Aleph Melbourne calls on the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to declare support for marriage equality at a national level, in line with its stated values of social inclusion.

[See JCCV Media Release]

 

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The Yes Alliance: Multicultural Australians for Marriage Equality

THE YES ALLIANCE

Multicultural Australians for Marriage Equality

Australia has an enviable record of fostering a diverse, open and welcoming society.

Together, we have built a place where people from every corner of the world can live and work side by side – a place where everyone can belong.

The YES Alliance is a group of Australians from faith and culturally diverse communities – that will be supporting a YES vote in the marriage equality postal survey.

Australians from migrant and faith backgrounds have often faced discrimination and
harassment based on race, skin colour, language, religious beliefs or cultural heritage.

LGBTI people are also in our communities, they are our friends and family members, and they can face discrimination on multiple fronts.

It’s never been more important for our communities to stand up for a more tolerant and
open society. A society that has equal rights for everyone. The postal survey will be an
opportunity to do that. That is why we must reaffirm our society’s shared values of –
freedom, fairness, equality before the law, respect for all and that discrimination is never acceptable – values that have shaped our success, and will underpin our future prosperity.

These are the values that unify us as a peaceful and prosperous society with a shared sense of belonging, respect, acceptance and contribution.

As the survey rolls out, we will engage with Australia’s multicultural and multifaith
communities and have difficult but important conversations about:

✓ why a YES vote is about equal rights
✓ why a YES vote is not a hindrance to religious freedoms or free speech
✓ why a YES vote will protect religious freedoms
✓ why a YES vote is about removing discrimination for all

We, the undersigned, pledge our support for marriage equality and to work with
multicultural and multifaith people to achieve a society where everyone is equal before the law.

For more information visit www.theyesalliance.com.au

Acceptance Melbourne LGBT Catholics
Aleph Melbourne
Arab Council Australia
Asian Australian Alliance
Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council Inc
Australasian Union of Jewish Students
Board of Directors of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria
Centre For Multicultural Youth
Chairperson of Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia
Chairperson of National Ethnic Disability Alliance
Christians for Marriage Equality
Colour Code
Democracy in Colour
Greek and Gay Support Network
Interfaith Centre of Melbourne
Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria
LGBTI Latin and Hispanics in Australia
Multicultural Friends of Labor
Muslims for Marriage Equality
Muslims for Progressive Values – Australia
One World Family
Settlement Services International
Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council
Weave Network
Welcome to Australia

[PDF: The YES Alliance Joint Statement 20092017]

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