Daily Israel Report

Bill Would Grant Rabbis Immunity Regarding Freedom of Speech

NU's Ben-Ari wants rabbis to have immunity from prosecution regarding actions and pronouncements that are part of their leadership duties.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 12/12/2010, 7:11 PM / Last Update: 12/12/2010, 8:46 PM

Flash 90

National Union Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari is proposing a bill that would give rabbis who work for the state immunity from prosecution regarding actions and pronouncements that are part of their leadership duties, or over pronouncements of Jewish law (Halacha). The bill would grant the rabbis immunity similar to that of Knesset members, as far as their freedom of speech is concerned.

The bill is a response to the public debate around a decree signed by an estimated 300 rabbis, calling upon citizens not to sell or rent out homes to Arabs.
 
The bill was originally drafted by former MK Shmuel Halpert of Agudat Yisrael.  
 
The explanatory notes to the bill note that since Israel's laws grant immunity to “negative elements” like Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi and Hanin Zouabi – who openly side with Israel's foes – it is only proper to give immunity to Israel's chief rabbis and to the rabbis of cities, towns and neighborhoods. Rabbis must not be made to refrain from publishing Halachic rulings – or to twist the true meaning of Jewish law – because they fear the Prosecution, the notes explain.  
 
In a separate statement, MK Ben Ari added that “the Left in Israel must remember that freedom of speech is the heart and soul of democracy and we must ensure that a rabbi should have no fear of publishing Torah opinion in the letter and spirit of Halacha.”