America’s rabbis currently structure their employment market with rules that flagrantly violate the Sherman Act. The consequences of these rules, in addition to the predictable economic outcomes of inflated wages for rabbis and restricted consumer freedoms for the congregations that employ them, meaningfully hinder Jewish communities from seeking their preferred spiritual leader. Although the First Amendment cannot combat against this privately-orchestrated (yet paradigmatic) restriction on religious expression, the Sherman Act can. Ironically, however, the rabbinic organizations implementing the restrictive policies claim that the First Amendment immunizes them from Sherman Act scrutiny, thereby claiming the First Amendment empowers them to do what the First Amendment was arguably designed to prevent. This essay evaluates this interesting intersection between the Sherman Act and the First Amendment, and it argues that the Sherman Act can, and must, be vigorously applied against the private rabbinic cartels.
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