Mirror of Justice

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Friday, February 10, 2012

MOJ Onion Edition: Jewish Deli Ordered to Serve Pork – Civil Rights of Swine Eaters Cited

The newly created Department for the Regulation of Everything Not Yet Subject to Federal Regulation issued a new rule requiring kosher delis to make pork dishes available on their menus.

Government officials were quick to defend the regulation against the charge that it violates the principle of religious freedom.  “We’re not requiring the operators of these delis to consume pork products themselves, only that they make them available to others.  What those individuals decide to order from the menu is up to them” said a senior government official.  The great tradition of freedom of worship is, he said, fully respected under the law.  Although many regard the option of ordering pork as purely elective, the administration insisted that it regarded the availability of pork as “important” for a healthy diet.  (See here).

One member of Congress remarked (here) that it was “sad” when “the overwhelming practice was in favor” of pork consumption for some to try and use “the excuse of religious freedom” to thwart the administration’s efforts.

Mordecai Weisman, proprietor of Mort’s Deli, said he objected to the new regulation.  “What is this?  All of a sudden I’ve got no rights in this country?  How can I keep a kosher kitchen if I have to serve pork?  Oy!”  However, two of Mr. Weisman’s workers, Manny Garcia and Juan Rodriguez viewed the rule differently. “We work long hours and so we often have to take our meals here, which the deli provides.  We’d love to have the freedom of choose a good pork dish.”

Proponents of the measure such as the National Pork Producers Council (here and here) cited the fact that the vast majority of American Jews do not keep kosher and that many freely choose to consume pork, notwithstanding the traditional religious dietary prohibition (here, here, here, and here).

A lawyer for the ACLU remarked that regulations governing businesses serving food to the general public had been enacted in several states and upheld by their highest courts.  When a business hires non-believers it has “to at least some degree, be prepared to accept neutral regulations imposed to protect those employees’ legitimate interests in doing what their own beliefs permit” said the lawyer, paraphrasing one such opinion.  Thus, “as a legal matter, as a constitutional matter” the new rule was she said “completely unremarkable.” (See here).

The administration said that the fact that Mr. Weisman’s temple was not being required to serve pork represented a reasonable accommodation of religious liberty.

Mr. Garcia and Mr. Rodriguez said they were looking forward “to enjoying some chorizo and perhaps even a tasty cochinita pibil” in the near future.

Mr. Weisman said he hoped that the supporters of religious liberty would rally to his defense.

http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2012/02/moj-onion-edition-jewish-deli-ordered-to-serve-pork-civil-rights-of-swine-eaters-cited.html

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Interesting fact pattern. Does the story above imply that a woman's interest in access to contraception is like a person's preference for certain types of food?

How does this story go if the restaurant owner decides it violates his conscience to hire workers who don't share his religious faith? Or perhaps his race? Or that it violates his conscience to serve food to people of another faith, race, ethnicity, or sex? If it's a matter of conscience, could the owner require women (or African Americans) to sit at the back of his restaurant?

Is access to contraception more like a preference for certain foods, or more like not being discriminated against in a public accommodation? Or does it not matter? I'm not sure what, if anything, the implication here is supposed to be.

Posted by: Micah | Feb 10, 2012 11:47:12 PM

"How does this story go if the restaurant owner decides it violates his conscience to hire workers who don't share his religious faith? Or perhaps his race? Or that it violates his conscience to serve food to people of another faith, race, ethnicity, or sex?"

You take no humor in the comparison between pork and contraception. Yet--you are willing to compare non-coverage of birth control to discrimination based upon race, gender, and religion? Please! It goes the other way too (which is what John's parody illustrates): does the government always get to cry "bigotry" and "equality" every time a minority wishes to act on their viewpoint in the public square?

Administrations change. Crap can flow in both directions.

Posted by: Don Altobello | Feb 11, 2012 9:17:22 AM

Except the Deli isn't receiving federal funds. If whatever organization didn't want to provide contraception in their health care plans, all they have to do is stop taking federal money...

Posted by: Nick | Feb 11, 2012 1:50:20 PM

The receipt of federal funds is not a condition for the application of the contraceptive mandate. It applies to all employers. Thus, the deli analogy holds. Pass the relish.

Posted by: John Breen | Feb 11, 2012 2:04:44 PM

So ... women's health is like a ham sandwich? Not a persuasive analogy.

Posted by: william brennan | Feb 11, 2012 2:24:15 PM

@John Breen: that was not my understanding, but I'm no expert. Either way, the mandate has been changed: "the insurance companies will have to reach out directly to employees and offer contraception coverage for free, without going through the employer."

Posted by: Nick | Feb 11, 2012 2:48:38 PM

As a parody, I don't find this to be humorous, but I tried to take it seriously as an argument from analogy. If the restaurant owner had 10 million employees, and if those employees could only eat lunch at his restaurant, and if pork was very important to their health and well-being, then the analogy might do some work. As it is, keep the relish.

Posted by: Micah | Feb 12, 2012 2:33:34 PM

The main employers that would be affected by this are Catholic Churches and Universities. Both receive federal funds through medicare/medicaid payments and federal student loans, respectively.

Posted by: Nick | Feb 12, 2012 6:45:01 PM