Euro­pean ex­am­ples prove wor­ry­ing

The Church of England - - COMMENT -

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.”

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