The Law of Ritual Slaughter and the Principle of Religious Equality

In: Journal of Law, Religion and State

In December 2014, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal struck down as unconstitutional a statute that prohibited all animal slaughter conducted without prior stunning. The Tribunal found this law contrary to Polish (and European) provisions regarding freedom of exercise of religion. In the present paper, we critically analyze the judgment through the lens of the general principle of religious equality. Considering other European cases involving ritual slaughter, as well as a landmark us case on the matter, we propose a template for the discussion of equality in religious matters, based on a distinction between two formulas: “substantive” equality, which requires accommodation of religious requirements and often calls for exemptions from general rules; and “formal” equality, which calls for the equal application of general moral standards to all religious and non-religious practices. We conclude that a “formal” conception is also based on substantive moral considerations about the priority of some general moral requirements over those demanded by particular religious practices.

  • 14

    Judgment of 25 May 1998as discussed in Schächten Bundesverfassungsgericht [BVerfG] Jan. 15 2002 1 BvR 1783/99 at [10]. (Retrieved 20 May 2015)

  • 16

    Haupt“Free Exercise”supra note 15 at 868.

  • 19

    Nattrasssupra note 18 at 301–302.

  • 20

    Langenfeldsupra note 15 at 146.

  • 30

    Haupt“Free Exercise”supra note 15 at 855.

  • 57

    Gragliasupra note 54 at 49.

  • 66

     See e.g.Bowen v. Roy 476 U.S 693 (1986) a us Supreme Court case where the use of social security numbers in federal assistance programs was challenged on the grounds that the petitioner’s Native American religious beliefs forbid giving out the number because it harmed their child’s spirit. The Court upheld the law under a rational-basis test.

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  • 69

    Gragliasupra note 54 at 52.

  • 70

    Gragliasupra note 54 at 53.

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