Friday, February 10, 2012
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.