European examples prove worrying
I worry when northern European states such as Denmark are held up, as they so often are, as an ideal that we should follow. Denmark has just banned both Halal and Kosher methods of animal slaughter and in doing so has followed the example of Sweden and Norway.
Libby Purves rather timidly urges religious believers to begin examining what is necessary and what is not because religious believers are increasingly going to face restrictions on their freedom in future (‘In a melting pot, religion may be outvoted’, 24 February 2014, The Times). “What trumps what? The question is not only for states and societies but for honest believers. Religions too, should ask, how much is non-negotiable? What truly relates to the vital spiritual core and how much is barnacled cultural accretion, outdated and unnecessary to the essential flame you tend?”
These are legitimate questions for internal discussion among believers but I am uneasy at the imposition of such decisions from the outside, and especially by legal fiat of the courts. In Britain for example in the case of Islington Council against the registrar, Lilian Ladele, the court claimed that doctrine on marriage was not a ‘core’ component of Christianity. Courts have also claimed that wearing a cross was not a ‘core’ practice for religious believers. Courts should not be determining the core convictions and observances of religious believers.
In the case of the Scandinavian states banning of Halal and kosher slaughter, at least it can be said that there is a public debate among legislators as to whose rights are primary - those of believers or animals. Denmark, in the words of the agriculture minister, Dan Jorgensen, has decided: “Animal rights come before religion.”