John’s hometown, like many American municipalities, has enacted an ordinance that prohibits the killing of livestock animals, except by law enforcement officials, veterinary specialists, and licensed meatpackers and butcheries. The stated reasons for such an ordinance relate to public health and sanitation. Violations of the ordinance can result in fines, and in extreme cases, imprisonment.
John’s hometown has a significant Hmong community. Assume that members of that community legally purchased pigs or chickens and sacrificed them in public following the traditional Hmong procedure. None of the Hmong have the required license. Neighbors call the police, who issue a citation for violation of the ordinance. The Hmong explain that they were not aware of the ordinance, and that animal sacrifice is an age-old Hmong custom.
Barbara, prosecuting district attorney, and Juan, the lawyer for the Hmong, are developing the legal arguments for each side, which they will present to the presiding judge. If the Hmong stipulate that they are not licensed and did sacrifice the animals in public, how should the judge rule on their defense that the act is an integral part of the Hmong culture?
Issues and Study Questions
- Based on the overview above, what is the conflict?
- What are the beliefs at issue here?
- If you were a leader/policymaker, would you recommend any suggestions or changes to the ordinance?
- Why did the Hmong object to the ordinance?
- What could the Hmong community members/city leaders do differently?
- Why was religion an issue in this situation?
- What is the responsibility of city government/county attorneys/Hmong attorney in such a situation? What about other professions?
- Do you think there is a “right” and “wrong” way to handle this situation? Why? Why not?
- Have you faced similar conflicts in your own profession or personal life? If so, what were they? Were they resolved?
- What can be learned?
- Do you think education about religious literacy would have helped/harmed in this situation? How so?
Source: Religion and the Professions (General Honors 1030) taught by Dr. Jill Raitt, University of Missouri