The UK Independent reported last week that legislators in Iceland have proposed a ban on circumcision of boys. In practice of course, a ban on male circumcisions essentially outlaws Judaism. Anticipating opposition from advocates for religious freedom, the legislation “insists the ‘rights of the child’ always exceed the ‘right of the parents to give their children guidance when it comes to religion’.”
Iceland is not alone in considering laws that pit the majority against the allegedly barbaric practices of a minority group.
In the Netherlands, for example, animal rights activists are hard at work trying to outlaw kosher and halal meats.
Meanwhile, in Quebec, lawmakers have recently prohibited the use of head coverings by — presumably Muslim — women in certain public places.
Nor is the circumcision debate limited to Iceland. Male circumcision has been on shaky legal ground in Germany in recent years where a court banned the practice in 2012. Perhaps recognizing that banning Judaism could look bad for German “tolerance,” lawmakers intervened to allow the practice again.
For the subjects of this regulation, the activities being targeted are no mere preferences. They touch on fundamental values, and they present a clear conflict with other value systems. In cases such as these, where there is no apparent room for compromise, whose values ought to prevail?
Democracy Doesn’t Always Work
Throughout most of the West, of course, we’re all taught from an early age that “democracy” will allow everything to work itself out. The parties in conflict will enter into “dialogue,” will arrive at a “compromise” and then everyone will be happy and at peace in the end.
But, that’s not how it works in real life. While there some areas for compromise that can be found around the edges of issues such as moral values and ethnic identity, the fact is that in the end, kosher meats are either legal or they’re not. Circumcision is either legal or it’s not. Abortion is either legal or it’s not. Muslim head coverings are either legal or they’re not.
After all, if one group of people believe that a 3-month-old fetus is a parasite that has trespassed against the mother, those people are going to find little room for compromise with a group of people who think the same fetus is a person deserving legal protection.
Indeed, we see …read more