In 2000, New York State's kosher products law was declared unconstitutional due to its necessary entanglement of religion and state.
At the time, Agudath Israel of America opposed the court decision to overturn and saw nothing wrong or unconstitutional in that entanglement.
[Noted constitutional attorney Nathan] Lewin, in an interview with The Jewish Week Tuesday night, argued that the kosher laws are not an entanglement with religion but “simply protection against consumer fraud in the area of religion.”
“There’s nothing wrong with protecting consumers against being defrauded, whether it be over kosher food or anything else,” said Lewin, an Orthodox attorney who is representing the Orthodox Union, the nation’s largest kosher certification agency, Agudath Israel of America, the National Council of Young Israel, and state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Fast forward almost five years.
Another two cases – Rubashkin shechita and the Monsey-based mohel who (allegedly) has herpes – involving state supervision of humane slaughter and protection of health and welfare, also involve state monitoring of religious practice, this time to limit tzaar baalei hayyim (protect animal welfare) and to safeguard infants from contracting a deadly disease.
In the latter cases, Agudath Israel has championed 'religious freedom,' claiming that such 'religious freedom' preempts the government's right to protect the welfare of animals or the safety of humans.
Nathan Lewin is serving as Rubashkin's attorney, arguing for Rubashkin's 'religious freedom' to rip a cow's neck out with a hook and against government 'entanglement' with religion, the opposite of his argument in the Kosher Law case.
Why the sudden shift in policy? Follow the money.
The old kosher law benefited kosher consumers and the kosher food industry both. The kosher food industry has strong financial ties to Agudath Israel.
Conversely, Rubashkin's apparent violations of the Humane Slaughter Act can be viewed as a direct result of Agudath Israel's attempts to limit government supervision of shechita. Indeed, a meeting between Agudath Israel officials, leaders of kosher supervising agencies and the USDA was held in October of 2003 with that goal chief on the agenda. The kosher meat industry has strong financial ties to Agudath Israel.
The case of the mohel? It proves that Agudath Israel wants the goverment out of all religious matters – unless governmental involvement benefits them.