Category Archives: Judaism

Light sensors cause religious row

A couple have taken legal action after claiming motion sensors installed at their holiday flat in Dorset breached their rights as Orthodox Jews.

Gordon and Dena Coleman said they cannot leave or enter their Bournemouth flat on the Sabbath because the hallway sensors automatically switch on lights.

The couple’s religious code bans lights and other electrical equipment being switched on during Jewish holidays.

They have now issued a county court writ claiming religious discrimination.

They also claim breach of their rights under the Equality Act 2006 and Human Rights Act 1998 and the case is due to be heard at Bournemouth County Court next month.

It has gone further than it should have done, I think they have jumped the gun

The light sensors were installed at Embassy Court in Gervis Road to save money and energy but the couple, who live in Hertfordshire, felt they breached their religious rules.

Dr Coleman and her husband offered to pay for an override switch as a compromise but Embassy Court Management Company rejected this and the couple took legal advice.

They have said they will drop the legal action if an override switch is installed and their legal costs and compensation are paid.

The firm said almost all residents supported the installation of the sensors and taking legal action was the Colemans’ “prerogative”.

Other residents in the block of 35 flats, who could end up having to pay legal costs, are upset.

Neighbours meeting

One of them, who did not wish to be named but attended a management meeting last week with the couple, said: “For some time there has been discussions around here about the lights being on all day, which is crazy.

“Light sensors mean the lights only come on when you require them to be on, which is common sense.

“This couple are observant Jews. They have a religious problem with this.

“It has gone further than it should have done, I think they have jumped the gun.

“They did come to a meeting and put their point of view forward.

“The general view was that despite any differences the matter should be resolved as quickly as we can.

“It just seems to have been blown out of all proportion.”

In a letter to the other residents, the couple said they sought legal help because the sensor lights meant they would never again have full use of their flat.

They also said that their solicitors told them they had a strong claim.


Parents choose religion over their child’s life

OREGON CITY, Oregon (AP) – An Oregon judge has rejected defense claims of selective and vindictive prosecution in the manslaughter trial of a couple whose 15-month-old daughter died of pneumonia while they prayed for her recovery.

Clackamas County Judge Steven Maurer told lawyers for Carl and Raylene Worthington that the couple had a duty to seek medical care for their daughter, Ava, despite their religious beliefs. A state medical examiner has said the toddler, who died in March 2008, could have been treated with antibiotics.

The Worthingtons are members of the Followers of Christ — a small Oregon City church that advocates spiritual healing instead of medical care.

If convicted, the couple faces up to 10 years in prison.

Can religion really save the world?

Tony Blair is not the first person to think that religion will decide the fate of the modern world.

“The 21st century”, said André Malraux, at the height of the Cold War, “will be religious or it will not be at all.” But can they be right? When we look round the world today, the presence of religion in any conflict seems to make it more intractable, and bitter. Our instinct is to take the principle out of conflicts and turn them into pragmatic disputes, susceptible to reasonable resolution.

That is certainly the approach the Tony Blair’s “peace process” took in Northern Ireland. Many people will feel that the answer to religious wars is less religion, not more of the “right” sort. But there are two problems with this approach. The first is that secularism is losing prestige in the places where wars are actually under way. There’s not enough of it about to quench the fires. The second is a very simple question: if secular common sense doesn’t start disputes, what makes us think it can end them? Perhaps the kinds of dispute for which people will kill, and die, will always have a religious dimension.

Rabbi claims Jews are as bad as Catholics for Child Abuse

REFORM rabbi Brian Fox has made allegations of child abuse in Orthodox Jewish institutions.

After having qualified remarks he made in a recent sermon that Jewish society was “worse” in this respect than others, he said at Menorah Synagogue’s Ethics Seminar on Tuesday: “What we do know is the more we look, the more we find.

“It seems that institutions run by the Catholic Brothers in Ireland are by no means alone.”

He claimed that the head of a North Manchester yeshiva used to use a strap to beat his pupils and said that even his own grandfather used his sewing machine strap during the Pesach seder.

Rabbi Fox, formerly of Australia, said that the chairman of the Melbourne Jewish community had been proud of the fact that he had “beaten to a pulp” his child for breaking Shabbat. The child had had to be hospitalised.

Rabbi Fox added: “There is a cabinet in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem which displays instruments used for discipline in East European yeshivot.”

But he maintained that this “spare the rod, spoil the child” attitude was at odds with real Jewish values.

He said: “Triage is fundamentally incompatible with Jewish values and Jewish law. All life is sacred. It is in the values of Jewish education that we see Judaism’s attitude to caring for the child.”

Nevertheless Rabbi Fox claimed that more than 300,000 Israeli children were believed to be abused or were “potential victims of abuse”.

He said: “If we admit the problem, we are more open to addressing it.”

But emeritus professor of child health Sir Robert Boyd, who felt that media reaction had created a “numerically unbalanced” attitude to abuse incidents, queried the Israeli statistics.

He said: “Some of the incidents could be of slightly inappropriate behaviour. There is far too hysterical a reaction. A generation has been damaged by phobia of neighbours.”

Professor of child psychiatry Jonathan Green referred to “classical scapegoating within Jewish biblical tradition” with its current finger-pointing at professionals.

This, he said, pushed away “painful realities by loading them on someone and expelling them”.

While he admitted that evidence suggested that “partaking in communal religious practice” improved “social, family and thus child health,” he said he was concerned about religious conservatism and fundamentalism, which frowned on single and same sex parents.

Social worker Terry Tallis complained about the current scapegoating of her profession because of recent scandals.

She said: “Doctors are not expected to cure all their patients. Teachers are not expected to have all pupils pass all their exams. It is impossible to protect all children at risk when they are in the care of their parents.”

Adoptee Ruth Cohen who herself adopted two children, said: “Adoption has become almost a dirty word.

“Many more children should be taken away from drunken and drugged parents and given to people who can give them love. Love is more important than hereditary.”

Mrs Tallis agreed and complained about the ban of placing children for adoption with families of a different race.