- Topics & Settings
Obstacles to Success
Obstacles to compromise and legislative success for the JRLC originate from 3 main categories. First, the very existence of an interfaith coalition brings with it a complex history of religious relations and engagement with varying concepts of pluralism. Though, according to former Executive Director Brian Rusche, the founders of the JRLC “decided pretty early on that they would agree to disagree and they would work on the issues where they could find common ground,” backlash originated from constituents in each tradition that resisted the idea of contributing time and money to an organization that had other members with “horrible views on name your issue.” These tensions still exist, particularly in response to external events, such as surges in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that ultimately expose differences in core beliefs between participating groups. Remarks by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on the American-Israeli relationship provoked varying reactions across religious groups in 2018. As Rev. DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches and JRLC board member puts it“the challenge is to take those conversations and have them sort of as much as possible, outside of the JRLC table so that JRLC can continue to move on its legislative agenda. It’s not like those conversations don’t need to happen, [but] they need to not disrupt the good work that needs to be done."
DeYoung states, “the challenge is to take those conversations and have them sort of, as much as possible, outside of the JRLC table so that JRLC can continue to move on its legislative agenda. It’s not like those conversations don’t need to happen, [but] they need to not disrupt the good work that needs to be done,”
Secondly, as a non-partisan organization, JRLC must navigate ideological and political differences in advocacy work. While these divides become publicly apparent through the individual lobbying carried out by the organization members, their association with JRLC can bring significant benefits. Participation in an interfaith lobbying group allows member organizations to dedicate their own independent lobbying efforts on issues of concern that do not fall under the JRLC’s purview. These range from advocacy against abortion and same-sex marriage for the Catholic Conference, to a separate focus on education against anti-Semitism by the Jewish Community Relations Council.1 Additionally, for political work through the JRLC, the wide range of constituents and theologies represented by the organizations infuses their advocacy work with a strong ethos, as well as with connections from both sides of the aisle due to each individual faith’s connections.
Finally, in the 2018-19 legislative session, community organizer Katie Powell describes a limited budget, rather than any one political party, as a significant challenge in the JRLC’s work. The JRLC is non-partisan, and frequently forms political alliances with other such groups, circumventing some degree of partisan politicking that would be associated with strict adherence to membership or beliefs of an established political party. However, backlash from political representatives can still pose a barrier when the JRLC’s priorities and requests for reallocation of resources (for example, the MN Family Investment Program) compete with legislators’ other budget priorities . A limited amount of money available to fund all desired programs can create competition that is inhibitory to the JRLC’s success.2