First they came for the kosher butchers

On July 28, TIME recalled: “Denmark enacted a sweeping ban on the religious slaughter of animals in 2014, prompting a furious backlash from Jewish and Muslim community representatives.” The controversy is continuing throughout a half-dozen European nations that have already prohibited kosher and halal slaughtering of animals. In spite of the fact kosher and halal ritual slaughter seeks to eliminate pain, Denmark wants them to use a stun gun, which violates the ritual protocols of both Judaism and Islam.

But Denmark hasn’t ritually slaughtered animals for a long time. Denmark doesn’t even have any kosher slaughterhouses and only 6,000 Jews who import their kosher foods. So expect to hear lazy commentators drone that this is all much ado about nothing. The Danish press blames the controversy on impassioned, irrational religious people who just won’t assimilate and are squawking again.

But if it is much ado about nothing, why bother forbidding kosher and halal slaughtering at all? If it’s no big deal, why make a big deal of it?

Because it is about something: Arrogance and moral insecurity. It is about elites who need to justify themselves as moral progressives. They want to be good people even though they have lost any coherent understanding of “the good.” When people reject the moral law of God, they must replace it with some type of arbitrary ethical imposition they claim is higher. For instance, Denmark doesn’t mind adultery. You can still be a good person and engage in serial adulteries. Nobody is offended. But second-hand smoke raises eyebrows.

Ironies abound in these progressive European countries. Denmark, after encouraging small families or childlessness for decades now, has a birth rate considerably lower than replacement level and threatening their demographics. Still, Denmark would rather agonize over the slaughter of kosher animals and the docking of pigs’ tails.

It’s about arrogance. The Danish minister of food and agriculture, a 40-year-old Social Democrat named Dan Jorgensen, explained the ban on Danish television by saying “animal rights come before religion.” That’s living under spiritual delusion. Thankfully, in September 2013, Pope Francis asked for an investigation into similar laws in Poland and other European countries. He is a champion of religious liberty for Jews and Catholics.

Watch where this leads. The next step will be to forbid non-therapeutic circumcision as a form of child abuse. Catholic teaching doesn’t command kosher or circumcision, but it does require defense of religious liberty. Circumcision remains important to Judaism. Even in the New Testament, St. Paul informs us that circumcision and dietary laws were an important part of Jewish identity. They serve as boundary markers between the Jews and the world. Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod, author of The Body of Faith: God and the People of Israel, writes:

“Israel’s symbol of the covenant is circumcision, a searing of the covenant into the flesh of Israel and not only, or perhaps not even primarily, into its spirit. And that is why God’s election is of a carnal people. By electing the seed of Abraham, God creates a people that is in his service in the totality of its human being and not just in its moral and spiritual existence.”

Secular governments are driving to eliminate those covenants and the covenantal signs because they divide the people Caesar wants to govern. Religious distinctions are among the most difficult to eradicate; just ask George W. Bush about Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq. Ultimately, Caesar wants and needs allegiance to maintain his illusion of control. He doesn’t tolerate any competitor that will defy, contradict or minimize his rulings.

There can be only one Supreme Ruler or Supreme Court. For Christians and Jews, the supreme authority is not in Washington, D.C., or Tel Aviv. The civil authorities don’t like to be second in the hearts of their countrymen. For this reason, secularist leaders are tone deaf to the cries of religious minorities who appeal to a higher authority than Caesar. Unsympathetic to religious concerns, these secular civil elites regard dietary laws and Sabbaths and circumcisions as bizarre, residual practices of an ignorant and barbaric age. This enables them to feel a moral superiority which, in turn, emboldens them to crush these religious liberties.

In James Kalb’s The Tyranny of Liberalism, he argues liberalism is an expression of the interests and outlook of commercial and managerial elites, who are suspicious of less rationalized and controllable forms of social organizations such as the family and religious communities. The family and religious communities resist the technological and commercial demands for efficiency and conformity. They don’t easily fit into the smooth functioning of the technocratic and bureaucratic state. For this reason, minority religions and the traditional family become targets of opposition to these elites. Elimination or irrelevance of these religious influences is the aim.

This dynamic will unfold in America as opposition to same-sex so-called marriage gives the government the pretext to abolish tax exemption, withhold FCC licensing or cancel contracts with religious groups for adoption services or drug rehab. The aim will be the marginalization of those who believe same-sex so-called marriage is a violation of nature and nature’s God. If circumcision and kosher killings threaten social order, imagine how social solidarity cracks apart when every couple can write their own definition of marriage.

Al Kresta is president and CEO of Ave Maria Communications in Ann Arbor. His radio program, “Kresta in the Afternoon,” can be heard from 4-6 p.m. daily on 990 AM-WDEO and EWTN.