Religious liberty and economic freedom in the heart of … Israel? In September, the foundational message of the Acton Institute was featured at “Judaism, Christianity, and the West: Building and Preserving the Institutions of Freedom,” a conference that brought together Jewish and Christian scholars in Jerusalem.
One featured speaker was Professor Daniel Mark, an Orthodox Jew and an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University, Pennsylvania’s oldest Catholic university. Mark is also a visiting fellow in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. His lecture argued that the Jewish community needs to restore and promote religious freedoms based on the centrality of Jewish obligations, or “commandments.” Mark stressed the difference between “obligations” and personal “rights.”
The Torah doesn’t have a word for “rights,” Mark tells JNS.org. Judaism instead thinks in terms of obligations.
“We can defend the idea of [religious] rights by defending the idea of obligations. The reason we have to respect people’s rights to religious freedoms is because we have to respect their rights to religious obligations,” he says.
Mark explains that hypothetically, “If the government were to make one’s religious practices illegal, they would in actuality be withholding your obligations, not your rights or preferences.”