But so does water into wine and a lot of other things.
In United Poultry Concerns v. Chabad of Irvine, a group of chickens’-rights activists petitioned a federal judge to prohibit a California Jewish organization, Chabad of Irvine, from engaging in Kapparot, a Jewish ritual. This tradition is associated with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and involves symbolically casting off one’s sins. Some Jews, including the defendants in this case, symbolically “transfer” their sins to live chickens. The chickens are then killed and, typically, donated to needy families.
Except not this year, because a Poultry Rights group sued and a judge stopped the ceremony.
The judge initially granted the plaintiffs’ request and prohibited the Chabad rabbi, Alter Tenenbaum, from engaging in the ritual use of live chickens. Eventually the judge lifted the ban, but only after it was already too late for Chabad to perform the ritual this year. The damage had been done and can never be entirely remedied.
That a federal judge granted such a ban highlights a disturbing trend currently playing out in America’s public and legal understandings of religious liberty. I have written about how foes of religious liberty seek to re-categorize that liberty as an indulgence, doled out at the discretion and convenience of the majority, rather than a fundamental right that may be denied only in rare and exceptional cases. That desire is manifest in this case.
Not just religious liberty. All liberty. The government needs a serious reason to curtail my rights. Except it doesn’t.
Of all the fundamental rights, those in the First Amendment need protecting first. The chicken thing is kinda weird, but next time it’ll be something else, and soon the right to religious practice becomes something they grant you, and not something you own as a fundamental part of your person-hood.
I’m already seeing references to the “right to worship” from the left. As if that’s what religious people will be left with. Just the right to stay inside church and worship there…cut off from a connection with the civic life of America.