"First, let’s be clear on what we are not saying. We are not saying that religion should be hidden from view. We have only respect for those elected officials who profess a deep religious belief, and we are appalled when media voices pour scorn on religious people.
"But we are saying that no matter how profoundly religion influences you, when you make a public argument, you must ground your statements in reason and in a language of morality that is accessible to everyone—to people of different religions or no religion at all. In our diverse democracy, Americans need a common political discourse not dominated by exclusivist theology. They do not want to hear that unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text, you cannot be a moral person.
"We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the Religious Right is the voice of atheism. We are appalled when "people of faith" is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews, Catholics, and Muslims. What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God and that anyone who disagrees with you is not a person of faith?
"So we ask our neighbors on the Religious Right to take note: We are religious Jews, gathered in Houston to study, pray, and commit ourselves to God. And yes, we are generally liberal in our politics. But our liberalism flows directly from our religious commitments.
"And we worry that you don’t understand what this means, or what it means for anyone to be a liberal religious believer.
"What it means is this: that we bring a measure of humility to our religious belief. We study religious texts day and night, but we have no direct lines to heaven and we aren’t always sure that we know G-d’s will.
"It means believing that religion involves concern for the poor and the needy, and giving a fair shake to all. When people talk about G-d and yet ignore justice, it just feels downright wrong to us. When they cloak themselves in religion and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy.
"It means that "family values" require providing health care to every child and that G-d cares about the 12 million children without health insurance.
"It means valuing a child with diabetes over a frozen embryo in a fertility clinic, and seeing the teaching of science as a primary social good.
"And it means reserving the right for each person to prayerfully make decisions for herself about when she dies."
--Rabbi Eric Yoffe speaking at the Houston Biennial, November 19, 2005