When I was a kid back in the ’50s and ’60s, “blue laws” were still in force in Virginia, both at the state and the local levels. These laws were fairly common in the South in those days, when Baptists and Methodists were predominant in public life — as is still mostly the case.
Blue laws in Virginia meant that you couldn’t buy certain things on Sundays. Alcohol was the main target, but there were other items whose sale was restricted on the Sabbath. Some counties were completely “dry” — they forbade the sale of alcoholic beverages on any day of the week. If you lived in one of those counties and had a taste for the sauce, you had to drive to another county to stock up, or make contact with a moonshine distributor. White lightning is still common today, especially in the more mountainous regions of the Commonwealth.
Widespread opposition to the blue laws arose in the 1970s, and most of them were repealed. But some counties — Pittsylvania is one — still prohibit the sale of booze on Sunday.
The impulse behind these laws was religious, but they weren’t framed using religious terms. They simply reflected local sentiment as expressed in legislation at the state or county level. Thus they were completely constitutional.
I bring all this up because of a controversy that erupted recently in the Netherlands. Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom, has been attacked as “anti-Semitic” because of his support for a ban on ritual slaughter (both kosher and halal) in his country.
Regular readers know how laughable it is to accuse Geert Wilders — who is regarded by serious Jew-haters as a “tool of the Zionists” — of anti-Semitism. But it gets worse: Manfred Gerstenfeld described Mr. Wilders as “a guy who is at forefront of the anti-Semitism movement in Europe”.
I dread broaching the topic in this space, because I know all too well what discussions like this one can turn into. Rational thought is discarded, civil discourse is thrown out the window, and we get caught between the Scylla of a angry Jews and the Charybdis of angry Jew-haters.
However, given the stature of Geert Wilders in the European Counterjihad movement, this conversation can’t be avoided.
The background to the story is this: an animal rights party in the Netherlands proposed a bill requiring that all livestock must be stunned before being slaughtered. The lower of house of the Dutch parliament passed the bill last year, but it failed in the senate. Mr. Wilders and the PVV support such a ban.
Halal and kosher laws require animals to be conscious when they are killed. Every year thousands of cattle in the Netherlands are slaughtered according both forms of religious law.
A prominent Dutch rabbi recently attacked Mr. Wilders for his stance. According to Yahoo News:
Rabbi Warns Dutch Populist Wilders Over Ritual Slaughter Ban
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Israel’s leading rabbi has warned Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders that his party’s support for a ban of ritual slaughter of animals in the Netherlands is “anti-Semitic” and could drive away the country’s Jewish community.
Some of his most outspoken supporters are in the conservative, pro-Israeli movement in the United States. Wilders calls himself Israel’s “greatest friend” and has also proposed creating a national Dutch holiday to commemorate the victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
In a letter to Wilders on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger called on Wilders’ Freedom Party to stop backing a ban on ritual slaughter.
It is the strongest public condemnation yet of Wilders’ position on the policy and comes two weeks before the Netherlands holds a general election September 12 in which he is expected to take a sizeable portion of the vote.
“It is obvious that one cannot be at the same time a friend of Israel and the Jewish people and on the other hand support an anti-Jewish law,” Metzger wrote.
“By denying Jews to live according to the Torah you will eventually force them to leave the Netherlands where they enjoyed religious freedom for centuries.”
First of all, this is not about being a “friend of Israel”. One can be a friend of Israel without insisting that one’s own country follow Jewish law.
This is about the law of the land. The Netherlands is not a Jewish state. It is a secular democratic country with a long Christian tradition. The laws of the Netherlands do not have to comply with Jewish law; they must simply reflect the views and preferences of Dutch citizens.
If Jews cannot in good conscience abide by the law of the land, then yes, they may want to move to Israel — and thank God they have that choice! But the law is not required to bend to their wishes; they are obliged to accede to the law as determined by the majority of their fellow Dutch citizens.
This seems fairly simple and straightforward to me, but some Jews find it “anti-Semitic”.
“This is the classical anti-Semitic way our rites have been targeted and demonized throughout history,” he wrote.
I’m certain that many Jew-haters may have targeted kosher slaughter in the past, but it does not follow that everyone who opposes ritual slaughter is prima facie anti-Semitic. This is a non sequitur.