An Animal-Rights Group Is Suing to Prevent Jewish Ritual Slaughter

July 17 2015

An animal-rights group has filed suit against four rabbis, several ḥasidic congregations, and the city of New York to stop ultra-Orthodox Jews from performing the pre-Yom Kippur ritual of kapparot, in which a chicken is ritually slaughtered and then donated to a poor family for consumption. The plaintiffs allege that the ritual involves cruelty to animals and constitutes a public-health hazard. Wesley Smith addresses the constitutional questions the suit raises:

[T]here is no question that the animal rightists seek to interfere with the free exercise of religion. But that is not the end of our inquiry. Does the government have a compelling state interest in preventing this ritual slaughter? Perhaps. . . .

[The] allegations [made in the suit] are sufficiently serious and weighty to warrant a thorough investigation, both as to the animal-cruelty and public-health issues. I don’t have an opinion on the “correct” answer. Free exercise of religion is not an absolute right, but the burden of proof should be on those who would interfere with religious freedom. . . . [But those] who don’t care about the religious angle should never call themselves civil libertarians. Any “civil libertarian” who doesn’t defend the free exercise of religion is no civil libertarian.

Read more at National Review

More about: American Jewry, Animal rights, Freedom of Religion, New York City, Religion & Holidays, Yom Kippur

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy