My comments follow the article...
IsraelNN.com: Bill Would Grant Immunity To Rabbis Regarding Freedom Of Speech
Gil Ronen, Tevet 5771 / December 2010
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.
MK Michael Ben-Ari
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.”
I actually have mixed feelings about this proposal.
My experience among "Kahanists" has taught me that sometimes these issues are raised, in order to raise awareness, without any hope of actually changing an Israeli law. For that, and his defense of rabbis who are interested in discovering truth about how we Jews are supposed to live our lives, MK Ben-Ari gets points in my book.
However, it must be pointed out that, in actuality, democracy has very little, in anything, to do with the ultimate, Torah-based government. Likewise, there is no place for "free speech" under halacha (Jewish Law). For example, I cannot call "Levi" a nasty name just because he angered me. Even more so, I certainly cannot do so in public. The point here is that there are several contradictions within what MK Ben-Ari saying. Torah vs. democracy, free-speech vs. halacha. They just don't jive together.
I know that many of my friends with only one or two "degrees of separation" from MK Ben-Ari would prefer that he either rephrase the bill to demand that the K'nesseth equate halacha with Israeli law, and to set up a search committee to re-establish a Sanhedrin to make such determinations,...or for him to dissociate himself with the K'nesseth, and speak on these issues from the outside (which I do not believe he would ever do).
Nonetheless, MK Ben-Ari gets more points in my bood, every time he points out the increasing number of contradictions between Jewish Law and Israeli law.