NEW YORK — US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday touted the recent nomination of conservative Justice Amy Comey Barrett as the difference maker in a recent Supreme Court ruling striking down government restrictions on houses of worship in New York.
Pence highlighted the nomination among a handful of other accomplishments on issues pertaining to religious freedom and Israel in a pre-Hanukkah phone call with Jewish leaders, one of the people on the call told The Times of Israel.
Pence said Barrett’s nomination helped secure the 5-4 decision last month determining that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions placed on New York’s “red zones” with high COVID-19 test positivity rates unfairly discriminated against houses of worship. The ruling was celebrated by Orthodox Jewish groups, including Agudath Israel of America, which filed the appeal in that case. Until Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was Jewish, died in September, the court had in two 5-4 decisions rejected such openings.
Pence spoke for 10 to 15 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, the day before US President Donald Trump is hosting his last two Hanukkah parties, and two days before the first night of Hanukkah. He did not take any questions, two listeners on the off-the-record call told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“It’s been such an extraordinary honor for me to serve as your vice president, alongside the greatest friend and strongest defender of the State of Israel and the Jewish people — ever to sit in the Oval Office — President Donald Trump,” Pence said, according to Jewish Insider. “When you think of the accomplishments over the last four years, I know for many it seems almost surreal.”
He did not address his imminent departure. Trump and his loyalists still deny that they have lost the election to President-elect Joe Biden.
He noted the span of Trump administration policies that have aligned with those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including moving the embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 and, more recently, advocating for the labeling of goods made in West Bank settlements as made in Israel.
Pence went on to offer his condolences for the recent passing of British Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. “He was a true eved Hashem — a humble servant of God,” Pence said, according to Jewish Insider.
The vice president said that Sacks advised him on a 2018 speech he gave at the Knesset.
JTA contributed to this report.