Proposed Law Calls for Free Speech Immunity for Rabbis

Move would afford rabbis same rights given to 'writers, artists and academics' on the left, according to backers

The National Union, Shas and United Torah Judaism parties have submitted a bill that would provide rabbis with immunity from prosecution for religious edicts or things said when referring to religious matters.

The bill, drafted by MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) is cosponsored by Shas whip Avraham Michaeli, MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism ) and Tzipi Hotovely (Likud ).

Rabbi Dov Lior - Tomer Appelbaum
Tomer Appelbaum

The bill comes just a week after the announcement that Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior could face charges for incitement.

Ben Ari said yesterday the bill was meant to send an unequivocal message to the prosecution.

"What is allowed to the academics from the left is surely allowed to rabbis. The bill aims to legally secure for the rabbis the same treatment awarded by the prosecution to the radical left," he said.

The bill states that a rabbi will not "bear criminal responsibility and would be immune to any legal action following the publication of a religious essay, agreeing to the publication of a book, or expressing an opinion on Torah related matters, orally or in writing."

The introduction to the bill mentions several instances of rabbis brought in for questioning following rabbinic rulings or writings.

"Unlike writers, artists, and academics, who are granted academic freedom in the name of which they publish articles, petitions and exhibitions, freely voicing their opinion, rabbis are being persecuted and silenced by the prosecution, which tries to submit eternal Jewish law to the authority of attorneys from the prosecutor's office," the introduction reads.

Earlier this week, a group of intellectuals and Israel Prize laureates published a petition calling on the state to dismiss Lior from public office, after he refused to submit to police questioning over his endorsement of a book justifying the killing of gentiles in certain cases.