A group of leading US congressmen and women from both the Republican and Democratic parties have launched an appeal to the Dutch Senate to block legislation that would ban kosher slaughter of animals.
In a letter to Godefridus de Graaf, Senate president, California Congressman Henry Waxman, New York Congresswoman Carolyn B Maloney, and eight others, declared that they were "troubled" by the possibility of a prodhibition. The shechitah ban is to be debate d by senate members today, ahead of a vote.
"A ban on ritual slaughter would unnecessarily restrict the religious freedom of one million Jews and 50,000 Jews in the Netherlands," they said.
They said such a ban would "unequivocally challenge the democratic principles of religious freedom that both of our nations hold dear".
Noting that the US humane society considers the shechitah method to be as humane as other methods, they said banning shechitah would contravene the principles of religious liberty guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Netherlands is a signatory.
"As close friends of the Netherlands and mutual supporters of the democratic value of freedom of worship, it is our hope that the Dutch Senate defeats this bill that unfairly targets religious minorities and inhibits their ability to practi s e their faiths," the letter finished.
The letter was sent following appeals to the US Orthodox Union by the Conference of European Rabbis.
Moscow-based Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the CER, said he was grateful for the help of the OU and the congressmen in "urging the Dutch government to recognise the rights of minority faiths in their country".
He added: "Our focus returns now to today's debate and the vote that will follow. The CER has stood firm alongside the Dutch community and we feel that we have made the case as robustly as possible."
Following a bill proposed by the Dutch Party for Animals, the Dutch parliament voted to ban shechita last June, subject to approval by the senate, a decision that the chief rabbi Lord Sacks described as "a dark day in Dutch history".
Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, also commented on the possible ban. "We consider it an issue of religious freedom, to the extent that this is action is something that is an expression of religious faith and practice," she said. "We believe that governments should not interfere with that."