Religion: Fighting For Tolerance Or Existence?
Religion & Liberty Online

Religion: Fighting For Tolerance Or Existence?

I am not concerned how my meat is butchered. I prefer my meat to be raised organically, and I like it cooked. Other than that, I’m not too fussy, but I don’t have to be. My religious faith doesn’t have anything to say about how meat is butchered.

If a person is Jewish or Muslim, however, this is a big deal. And many Jews and Muslims take it as seriously as I take the tenets of my faith. And while they do not ask me to eat only meat that has been prepared in the way prescribed for them, I do believe they have the right to prepare their food the way they see fit.

Seems like a “no-brainer,” doesn’t it? Never underestimate human beings ability to muck things up.

Last month the Danish government banned all animal slaughter conducted without first stunning the animal, forcing anyone seeking to obey dietary restrictions by eating kosher or halal meat to import it from other countries. Jewish and Muslim rituals require, in addition to greater sanitation than is found in a typical slaughterhouse, that the animal be conscious…

What is most worrisome about this latest development is the breezy manner in which it is deemed a run-of-the-mill regulatory change. Apparently, all the Danish government did was eliminate a special dispensation from European Union rules that would ban Jewish and Muslim practices throughout Europe. To be clear: the European Union, a semi-sovereign government for most of Europe, specifically makes kosher and halal slaughter illegal, but allows member countries (like Denmark) to provide a special “dispensation” for religious reasons, if it so chooses. Denmark no longer so chooses—as is becoming more the case in more countries, regarding more religious issues.

Clearly, this isn’t about butchers, meat and the source of food in the European Union. It’s about whether we are moving from tolerating the religious beliefs of others (even if we find them bizarre, outlandish or unnecessary) to denying people the right to practice their faith as it is prescribed.

Bruce Frohnen, who described the Danish government’s move above, says that governments tolerate religions…until they don’t. What was once acceptable is now barbaric, what was once allowed is now illegal, and what was once within the law is now outside it. The corridors of tolerance become narrower and narrower, and those of us with strongly held religious beliefs find ourselves – like Alice in Wonderland – squeezed into tiny hallways constructed by others.

As we allow the call for toleration to morph into a demand for absolute equality and moral sanction for all individual choices, we would do well to remember that no society is truly neutral in its moral judgments. If religion does not “come before” the latest progressive trend, be it the rights of animals, the right to “choose” abortion, or the “right” to die (or be killed when others judge one’s life no longer worthwhile), it increasingly will be seen as an enemy to the new “spirituality” of secular individualism. Then people of faith will find themselves asking for some small area of freedom within which to exist—only to be denied that space because they no longer deserve toleration.

Read “Making religion illegal?” at The Imaginative Conservative

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.