Jewish liberals are traditionally outspoken defenders of free speech. They support the American Civil Liberties Union. The leading so-called Jewish defense organizations, the American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee and the Bnei Brith Anti-Defamation League, also are strong supporters of freedom of expresssion. Apparently however, there is a "Proposition 8" exception to that suppport.
Mark Paredes is the Los Angeles-based director of Latino outreach for the American Jewish Congress. Paredes previously served as the press attache' for the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles. He speaks fluent Hebrew. He has long-standing ties to the Los Angeles Jewish community. However, Mr. Paredes is also a Mormon, and a public supporter of Proposition 8. As reported in the Jewish Daily Forward, that political expression has submerged Mr. Paredes into hot water. Liberal opponents of Prop. 8 have called on him to recant or resign.
“I’m upset with how Mark Paredes has conducted himself in the Jewish community over this issue,” said Denise Eger, rabbi of West Hollywood’s gay and lesbian Reform synagogue, Congregation Kol Ami. “He’s been so public about his support on Proposition 8, and he’s somehow expected that the Jewish community is with him on this, when 70% of the Jews voted no on Prop. 8.”
Actually, Mr. Paredes hardly could have had any illusions regarding the vast majority of the Los Angeles Jewish community, which has made its strong opposition to Proposition 8 and its strong support for gay marriage quite clear. Outspoken support for Proposition 8 and traditional marriage is largely concentrated in the Orthodox Jewish community, which in Los Angeles does not tend to actively particpate in American Jewish Congress.
[Honest disclosure requires the Kosher Hedgehog to note that he is a former Vice President of the Southern Pacific Region of American Jewish Congress, and resigned because of his discomfort with the organization's support for unfettered abortion rights.]
American Jewish Congress did not take a public position on Proposition 8. According to the Forward story, Mark Stern, a national AJ Congress official, stated that the organization asks its staff members not to become publicly identified with politics or controversial issues when there’s a possibility of roles becoming confused. He said, however, that he had not made this clear to Paredes, specifically in regard to referendums.
Opponents of Proposition 8 argue that marriage is a fundamental civil right. Well, so is free speech, and its bona fides as a constitutionally protected right, both in the U.S. and California State Constitutions, have far firmer historical antecedents and legal precedents than the "constitutional right" to same-sex marriage, which first became law as a result of a May 2008 California Supreme Court decision that the voters of California have now overturned. The case of Mark Paredes will provide an excellent measure as to whether the opponents of Proposition 8 truly value free speech, or only when it serves their agenda.