Online petition calls on Trump to move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

The Orthodox Union (O.U.) has started an online petition calling on President-elect Donald Trump to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

The move would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s “chosen capital,” the O.U. petition on says. It also notes that June 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Trump pledged during the 2016 campaign to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

On the morning of Dec. 5, the petition by the umbrella group for Orthodox synagogues and organizations had more than 1,200 signers toward a goal of 1,500.

“Early in your presidency will be a fitting, if overdue, time for you, President-elect Donald Trump, to relocate the American embassy in Israel to the capital of the Jewish state,” the petition to be sent to Trump concludes.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed a waiver to prevent moving the embassy to Jerusalem. It was the eighth time that Obama signed the waiver, which must be renewed every six months.

Congress passed a law in 1995 mandating the move of the embassy to Jerusalem, but allowed the president to exercise a waiver, citing the national security interests of the United States. Obama’s predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also signed the waiver. 

O.U. formally comments on Obama contraceptive coverage rules

The Orthodox Union formally commented on pending Obama administration regulations mandating employer-sponsored health plans for contraceptives and sterilization.

The comments filed Monday with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services express concerns over the regulations’ exemption of houses of worship, but not other religious entities like schools, hospitals and social welfare program providers.

“If the First Amendment’s pair of clauses guaranteeing the right of ‘free exercise’ and prohibiting ‘establishment’ of religion stand for anything, they stand for the protection of citizens against government compulsion to act contrary to conscience and for prohibiting government officials from parceling out religious protection subjectively,” the comments stated.

In a press release, O.U. executive director for public policy Nathan Diament stated the “deepest concern” is “the notion that the federal government will create two tiers of religious organizations with each receiving different apportionments of religious liberty protection. “

“We fully appreciate that on this issue, President Obama is trying to delicately balance competing concerns, and that he recognizes the importance of religious liberty and further recognizes the crucial role religious institutions play in American society,” Diament said. “But we respectfully disagree with how the President and the Secretary of HHS have decided to strike the balance.  We hope he will change the policy.”

The Orthodox Union raised the matter in a meeting with President Obama on June 5. In that meeting, they made clear that the Orthodox Jewish objection was not to contraceptives coverage, but to government interference in the management of institutions owned by religious groups.

The federal government opens proposed regulations to commentary for a period through publication the Federal Register.