Irish Jews can now wear chainmail and leather armor:

Thanks to an astute reader on a previous post, who pointed out that Ireland has repealed its law, enacted in 1181, which forbade Jews from possessing armor.

The Irish law was almost certainly based on the Assize of Arms, which was promulgated by England's King Henry II in 1181. At the time, England claimed sovereignty over Ireland, so presumably the Assize remained part of Irish laws, even after Irish independence was recognized in 1921.

Other sections of the Assize of Arms required freemen to possess weapons and armor, with the particular implements depending on the subject's socioeconomic rank. The Assize was one of many examples of the English policy of relying on a widely-armed populace for national defense.

The Jewish section of the Assize stated:

7. Item, no Jew shall keep in his possession a shirt of mail or a hauberk (an armored shirt made of mail or leather), but he shall sell it or give it away or alienate it in some other way, so that it shall remain in the king's service.
Read narrowly, the Assize still allowed Jews to possess plate armor for their chests (although such armor, invented during the Roman Empire, had temporarily fallen out of use when the Assize was written), and to possess any form of armor for their arms, legs, and head, as well as to possess shields and any type of weapon.

For a burgess (citizen of a borough; similar to bourgeois), the Assize also specified the maximum amount of arms and armor which could be possessed.

Shari'a law forbids dhimmis (Jews, Christians, and sometimes Hindus) from exercising a wide variety of civil rights, including repairing the outside of religious buildings, possessing arms, and engaging in self-defense against Muslim attackers. (See Bat Yeor's fine books for details.) Restrictions on Jewish possession of arms were common in many European Christian countries as well, and of course were also a characteristic of National Socialist law.

Some questions for commenters: do any states currently have specific laws placing special restrictions on weapons possession by Jews? Or on adherents of other religions? Is the Assize of Arms still part of the positive law of the United Kingdom, albeit an unenforced law?

And, BTW, thank you to the commenters on my information-seeking posts from the past couple weeks; you have helped advance public knowledge of various subjects, corrected errors, and demonstrated the enormous intellectual firepower of the VC's readership.

Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
There's a tremendously geeky Dungeons and Dragons joke about Jews and armor class to be made here someplace, but I'm not the tremendous geek to make it today.
3.15.2006 11:15pm
You left out the part where they are only allowed to wear it on Saturday while drinking.
3.15.2006 11:28pm
Kieran (mail) (www):
Ireland's Jewish community is small but not insignificant. There has been a Jewish Lord Mayor of both Dublin (Ben Briscoe) and Cork (Gerald Goldberg. There's also the immortal Leopold Bloom, of course.
3.15.2006 11:59pm
Cornellian (mail):
Hmm, never occurred to me to think about armor. Perhaps the Second Amendment is due for an update.
3.16.2006 12:33am
GMUSL 2L (mail):
As a redheaded Jew, I whole-heartedly approve of this development!
3.16.2006 2:02am
Ex-Fed: Yes, but when do they get Martial Weapon Proficiency and d8 hit die?
3.16.2006 5:23am
Cead Mile Failte:
Happy Saint Patrick's Day to you, Mr. Kopel.
May G-d bless you and yours, and make it a peaceful journey for All in our common struggle for human survival.

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d'aghaidh
Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
3.16.2006 7:31am
Bob The Lawyer:
I believe that an Assize lasted only as long as the King making it; there was, at the time, no concept of legislation in the modern sense. The first Magna Carta, for example, died when John died.
3.16.2006 7:48am
Ex-Fed, as an Irish Jew myself, I'll take up the gauntlet:

I'd like to thank Blizzard for this much-needed upgrade. It will definitely affect Jewish itemization, but it's a step in the right direction. We were getting pwned in PVP, and being able to wear leather and mail will drastically improve our damage reduction. There's still work to be done: I'd like to be able to wield polearms and 2h swords, but this is a good first pass. For now, I'm heading into Blackrock Depths so I can be the first Irish Jew to equip the Deathdealer Breastplate.

As for the last part of the original post, I've always just assumed that there are places in the world where I'm simply not permitted. Saudi Arabia may have editted their website, but they still don't permit tourists "of a Jewish persuasion" from entering their Kingdom. Religious pluralism is still to my mind the exception rather than the rule in this world.
3.16.2006 8:17am
Tflan (mail):
At this time England still claims sovereignty over part of Ireland.
3.16.2006 9:08am
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Are we going to take a strict textualist reading of this, and exclude flak vests from the definition of "armor?" Or did the, err, framers intend for a more flexible interpretion, that could last for 1000 years?
3.16.2006 9:11am
alkali (mail) (www):
This is my recent pet peeve: politicians who promote "repeals" of ancient statutes that have actually already been repealed (or otherwise invalidated) in an effort to appeal to a particular group's sense of victimhood, whether well-founded or not. I hope this is not one of these cases.
3.16.2006 9:17am
alkali, it does seem to be a broad cleaning up of outdated laws, not simply interest group pandering...

Plus, how many votes does a politician stand to gain from the Irish Jewish Dungeons &Dragons demographic? =)
3.16.2006 9:44am
Nick (www):
I wonder... had the law not been repealed... and had it been interpreted more broadly... could it have applied to Kevlar, thus preventing Jews from possessing more modern body armor?
3.16.2006 10:20am
JosephSlater (mail):
I congratulate David K. for coming up with a topic that simultaneously fits the new trend on VC of threads involving Jews and/or weaponry; is timely with St. Patrick's Day coming up; and is pretty darn amusing, both on its own and in the comments it produced.

Oh, and as another red-haired (well, what's left of it) Jew, I appreciated it on that level too.
3.16.2006 10:29am
Mark Eckenwiler:
When I lived in Dublin 20 years ago, we visited the Jewish Museum, a disused synagogue in the former Jewish quarter in south Dublin, near Rathmines. One of the more memorable exhibits pointed out the first written mention of the Jews in Ireland (in the Annals of Innisfallen), from the year 1079: "Coicer Iudaide do thichtain dar muir &aisceda leo do Thairdelbach, &a n-díchor doridisi dar muir." ("Five Jews came from over sea with gifts to Tairdelbach, and they were sent back again over sea.")
3.16.2006 10:36am
Cornellian (mail):
Plus, how many votes does a politician stand to gain from the Irish Jewish Dungeons &Dragons demographic? =)

They're small in number but fearfully well organized from all those endless dungeon runs where teamwork is a life or death proposition.
3.16.2006 10:37am
Cornellian (mail):
I agree with allowing leather armor, since no one should have to suffer in paper-thin cloth. I draw the line at chainmail though, unless the Irish Jew in question is of the hunter, shaman, paladin or warrior class. It would be obviously unfair to allow an Irish Jewish rogue (for example) to wear chainmail when other rogues are restricted to leather.
3.16.2006 10:39am
SenatorX (mail):
Brilliant blog, loved the comments too.

I think Irish Jews should not be allowed to be Shamans. It is hypocritical and Shamans need to be nerfed as it is :)
3.16.2006 11:19am
Martin Grant (mail):
Well I'm of Irish Jewish descent, but I'm 3rd generation American and 1st generation Athiest now. Can I still get the AC bonus?
3.16.2006 11:32am
David Wangen (mail):
Chain Mail? That seems unfair to me. Why not just allow them Scale, as the rest of the Hibernian classes use? Surely there's no need to give them access to armor from Midgard and Albion...
3.16.2006 11:34am
Attila (Pillage Idiot) (mail) (www):
Kieran --

Leopold Bloom is Jewish in the sense that his father was born Jewish (I don't think his mother is mentioned, but I could be wrong); the Irish treat him as Jewish; he thinks of himself as Jewish; and, most important, he's a quintessential outsider.

But Bloom's father converted from Judaism, and Bloom himself was baptized three times.
3.16.2006 11:34am
alkali (mail) (www):
alkali, it does seem to be a broad cleaning up of outdated laws, not simply interest group pandering...

It's not the pandering that bugs me so much as the legal/historical inaccuracy. If it's really legally correct that Irish Jews aren't allowed to own armor, then I don't object to self-congratulatory repeal efforts even if the law is never enforced. But if the law was invalidated centuries ago, it's just silliness.


An Irish gaoler walks past a cell and sees a prisoner with his head in his hands, sobbing. "Ah, Mr. Bloom, it's a shame that you drank so much that you forgot that Irish Jews can't buy armor. But it's good to see that you're so sorrowful and repentant of yer sins."

The prisoner stops sobbing and looks up at the gaoler, his face wet with tears. "It's worse than you think. I paid retail."

(Commence groaning.)
3.16.2006 11:38am
Richard Bellamy (mail):
We hereby witness the Death of Sarcasm . . .
3.16.2006 11:48am

You mean like Mississippi ratifying the 13th amendment in the early 1990's?
3.16.2006 1:11pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Unfortunately, the fine print of the bill *requires* Irish Jews to wear chainmail in public, so it's not as progressive as it seems at 1st glance ....
3.16.2006 1:35pm
alkali (mail) (www):
You mean like Mississippi ratifying the 13th amendment in the early 1990's?

That would be what I had in mind if the rationale for doing that were something like "on the books, slavery is technically still legal in Mississippi." (Which it wasn't.)

I think the actual rationale for what Mississippi did was some sort of general expression of sentiment, which legislatures do all the time by resolving to honor National Pickle Week or suchlike.
3.16.2006 2:36pm
Mikeyes (mail):
But they also repealed a law that forbad a publican from chasing you down the street in order to collect his money for your drinks when you stiff him. Where is the justice in that?
3.16.2006 3:21pm
Patrick (mail):
Actually, that the first Magna Carta ceased to be in effect at any stage would be an overstatement.

Also, even if this law had still been valid it would have been disabled by European human rights legislation.
3.16.2006 5:44pm
Kaimi Wenger (mail):
"Do any states currently have specific laws placing special restrictions on weapons possession by Jews? Or on adherents of other religions?"

Not quite what the question asks, but in the same vein:

In 1838, Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs issued the Mormon Extermination Order, which ordered state citizens to drive Mormons from the state or kill them outright. That Extermination Order was not formally rescinded until 1975, by an executive order of then-governor (now Senator) Christopher "Kit" Bond.

I suspect there are a lot of laws like this still "on the books" somewhere but unlikely to be enforced.
3.16.2006 11:29pm
alkali (mail) (www):
I suspect there are a lot of laws like this still "on the books" somewhere but unlikely to be enforced.

Actually, probably not. The reason is this:

In the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, the states periodically -- every 30-40 years or so -- re-codified their laws. Usually, a bunch of worthies from the state bar would sit down and figure out what was worth keeping, and they would set it in type. The legislature would then pass a law declaring that the Consolidated Laws of East Carolina (1872 edition) or whatever constituted the statutory law of the state, and everything else was deemed repealed save for pensions and legislatively-granted charters. Large cities did this for city codes and ordinances as well.

The upshot is that when you hear something like "it is illegal for women in West Indiana to appear outdoors on Tuesdays without a parasol" and the basis is some ancient statute that is "still on the books," the statute is very probably not "still on the books." If it was not separately repealed, it was almost certainly repealed in connection with one of the recodifications.
3.17.2006 8:50am