The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that protects the right to perform a brit milah (circumcision) and shechita (ritual slaughter) as part of the criteria of religious freedoms.
The bill extends the definition of “violations of religious freedom” in the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to include the persecution of advocates of male circumcision or ritual animal slaughter. This bill also makes atheists a new protected class.
“The world is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of international religious freedom, a crisis that continues to create millions of victims; a crisis that undermines liberty, prosperity and peace; a crisis that poses a direct challenge to the U.S. interests in the Middle East, Russia, China and sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).
Over the past two years, Smith has held several hearings to highlight the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment abroad. He is the chairman of the House committee on human rights and co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
U.S. government officials and European Jewish leaders have said that there have been increasing calls in recent years in northern European countries to put an end to circumcision and ritual slaughter, which have been partly spurred by misplaced anti-Muslim backlash.
Over the past decade, several European nations have seen increasingly strong movements against ritual circumcision and ritual slaughter of animals.