“Jews Are Again Faced with a Reality in Which They Don’t Belong, and That Is Painful”

So reports one of the Dutch chief rabbis, because Queen Beatrix’s retirement celebration is happening Sept. 14, which will be Yom Kippur. (“Beatrix, who celebrated her 75th birthday on Jan. 31, announced in January that she was abdicating and handing the crown over to her oldest son, Prince Willem-Alexander. The abdication officially takes effect this Tuesday.”)

Let me offer a somewhat different perspective: There are about 30,000 Jews in the Netherlands, which is about 0.2% of the population. I think religious minorities deserve not to be singled out for persecution. I think it may often makes sense to exempt religious objectors from generally applicable prohibitions or job requirements, when such an exemption would impose virtually no burden on others: For instance, if headgear is banned in courtrooms for reasons of tradition and symbolism, it may makes sense to exempt religious headgear. Likewise, if a college can let people take makeup exams when the main exam falls on some people’s religious holiday, that’s good.

But I don’t think that governments or institutions have an obligation — even an obligation of good manners — to change their own schedules in a way that accommodates every religious minority, including the 0.2% religious minorities. That doesn’t mean that the minority “do[esn’t] belong”; it just means that it’s a minority, and that the majority sensibly schedules its events without letting the religious preferences of the 0.2% trump the other preferences that are juggled to schedule a major governmental event. And it seems to me that feelings of “pain[]” on such occasions are unnecessary pain, and breed more unnecessary pain for the future.

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.

UPDATE: The rabbi is apparently one of the Dutch chief rabbis, not the sole one.

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