Status quo (Belhavia)

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In Belhavia, the term status quo (or the secular-religious status quo) refers to the political understanding between religious and secular institutions, organizations, and individuals not to alter the communal arrangement in relation to religious matters, in a mixed secular-religious population. The established Jewish religious communities in Belhavia desire to maintain and promote the religious character of the Empire, while the secular community wishes to reduce the impact of religious regulations in their everyday lives. Occasionally, one political side seeks to make changes to inter-communal arrangements, but these are often met by fierce political opposition from the other side. The status quo preserves the established religious relations in Belhavia, and only small changes are usually made.

This "social agreement" is codified in the Social and Religious Status Quo Act of 1947.

Origins

The religious status quo, agreed to by President Matthew Rabin in 1947 in the face of a left-wing, secularist, anti-religious majority in the post-Galarian Provisional Assembly under the Provisional Government with the Orthodox religious establishment, is an agreement on the role that Judaism would play in Belhavia's government and the judicial system in the wake of the Galarian autocracy.

Religious authorities in Belhavia, already powerful for centuries, were further granted increased social and political power under Supreme Autocrat Zachary Galarian's Autocracy government (1940-45). In these years, certain unscrupulous rabbis and rabbinical courts instituted rigorous decrees, abused grants of power and local funds, and other controversies. By 1945, there was a crisis in confidence of the rabbinical leadership to faithfully and piously lead the religious Belhavian Jewish world.

With Galarian's fall in Stein's Midnight Mutiny and installation of government-in-exile leader Matthew Rabin as the new President of a provisional regime, these doubts started to perculate into the Provisional Assembly's new social debates. Between 1945-46, Rabin's cautious centrism dominated Assembly politics and legislation, but the 77th Senate was dominated by a liberal left majority with strong secularist and radical leftist sentiments that often were antireligious.

The secularist left in the Assembly commanded a 36-34 margin, according to roll call votes, personal anecdotes, and whip votes early in 1947. The anti-religious bloc was cross-party, but made entirely of the United Left caucus (5) and most of Rabin's fellow Liberal Democrats (20 of 29), along with 5 of 6 independents and even 6 of the center-right Federalists. Only the National Patriotic Union caucus had no supporters of the bloc.

Using the allegations and known abuses by some rabbis under Galarian, this bloc pushed for a constitutional re-write to end the anchor of religious law at the heart of the 1812 Constitution. Furthermore, they wanted to pass a raft of bills promoting secularization of Belhavian law and overturn laws and regulations with religious inspiration.

Provisional Assembly intrigue

Assemblymen Irving Goldstein (United Left) and Aaron Friedman (Liberal Democrat) led the effort to push a litany of anti-religious and pro-secularization bills between January and April 1947. They were opposed by Michael Foxman (Federalist) and Naftali Sefard (National Patriotic Union).

Civil marriage attempt

In early January, Goldstein and Friedman pushed through a bill creating civil marriage in Belhavia narrowly through the Assembly Domestic and Urban Affairs Committee on a 6-5 vote. Three days later, it was granted a floor vote and passed 33-27, with 10 abstentions. Reacting to the violent outrage and unrest by religious Jews in the major cities that dominated the press, President Rabin vetoed the bill.

Constitutional amendment for a "secular state"

Days later, Goldstein and Friedman proposed a constitutional amendment denying the divinity at the heart of the Constitution and redefining the Belhavian polity as a "secular state, not a religious nation-state". Furious protests erupted immediately inside and outside of the Assembly, balanced out by pro-secular urban rallies in favor. However, moderates, refusing to undo the constitutional reaffirmations and legality in the Provisa Convention a year and half earlier, rebelled and came out against the bill. 17 days after its announcement, the bill died in committee as the secular bloc lacked the votes to get it to the floor.

Second de facto civil marriage push

Undeterred, "Goldstein-Friedman" (as they became known to both supporters and enemies alike) whipped for a new bill at the start of February pushing a bill to create secular civil courts for marriage issues and import secular common law from places such as Arthurista and Belfras to do an end-run around the failure to legalize civil marriage just a month before. This time, both allies and opponents were prepared for a prolonged political battle. After a week of delaying tactics, the bill left committee on a 5-4 vote with two abstentions. The Assembly Majority Leader, a Liberal Democrat unaligned to the secular bloc but opposed to this bill, invoked every parliamentary maneuver to slow the bill down. It was eventually scheduled for mid-March. In the interim, Provisa and the large coastal cities saw enormous protests and counter-protests. Datim (Religious) and Chilonim (Secular) Jews organized political rallies, marched in pickets, and would skirmish physically in the streets. The chief of police in Dakos deployed police officers in Army gear to patrol and separate religious and secular neighborhoods, where spontaneous mobs would erupt and attack areas of their social opponents. On March 3rd, 1947, a chiloni mob attacked a commercial district in Dakos' dati-dominated Old City area, causing thousands in shekels in damage and dozens injured.

By March 15th, newspapers were warning of a "collapse of social cohesion" and "society falling apart". The stock market began a three-month steady decline, increasing economic anxiety. The bill made it to the floor and was voted upon, passing 36-34. Rabin immediately vetoed it. Buoyed by growing chiloni support for their efforts, Goldstein-Friedman had a second floor vote a day later, after convincing the Majority Leader to join their bloc. It passed again 36-34, and was vetoed.

On March 28th, a dati mob invaded the Liberal Democratic Party's Provisa headquarters and ransacked it, beating up 20 staffers and dispersing before the police arrived. Two days later, after a third floor vote and veto, a protest march in Freeport City by ethnic Rodar-Catholics, who supported the existing confessional marriage system by religious group, was confronted by a counter-protest of chiloni Jews, and after shots were fired, violence erupted. The Governor of Freeport ordered in the Home Guard to restore order.

Bill of Universal Rights proposal

Getting nowhere on the end-run to legalizing civil marriage, the Assembly secular bloc turned towards another constitutional amendment in early April, called benignly "the Bill of Universal Rights", that created a sphere of legal and civil rights "from religion", including in marriage, divorce, food regulation, public transportation on the Sabbath, and other socio-religious concerns.

Hours after its announcement to the press, in an uncharacteristic move, Rabin summoned the national press corps and strongly denounced the proposed amendment, chiding the secular bloc that its actions "were from noble intentions and rational self-choices, yet this bill is unacceptable because this group's actions have led to violence in the streets and a serious threat of social disintegration. We will not let society fall. A new arrangement for our national community is in order."

Negotiations for a compromise

Rabin summoned Goldstein, Friedman, Foxman, and Sefard, and their top allies to the Presidential Palace on April 7th, where he started negotiations. On May 9th, 1947, after a month-long set of talks, walk-outs by the parties, and fresh negotiations, a "communal arrangement" was agreed-to and written for legal effect as the Social and Religious Status Quo Act.

With approval and support polled across socio-religious groups, civil society, and the media at around 80%, the bill passed overwhelmingly 61-0 with 9 abstentions on May 16th.

"Rabin's Compromise"

The Act stipulated policy principles in four main areas that were considered fundamental to traditional, Torah-true Orthodox Judaism:

  • Shabbos (the Jewish Sabbath): The Jewish nation's day of rest would be that of Torahic and Talmudic law, between sunset on Friday and nightfall on Saturday.
  • Kashrus (Jewish dietary laws regarding food, cooking, and eating): Kitchens in the Jewish nation's official institutions would keep kosher as defined by the authorities of Orthodox Judaism, but privately each individual would be free to choose how to observe these rules, if at all, in their homes, offices, etc.
  • Family laws (marriage, etc.): A single judicial system would be preserved for the purpose of marriage and divorce, with these being conducted in rabbinical courts for Jews and by the relevant religious authorities for people of other faiths, as was the case before; there would be no civil marriage.
  • Education: Full autonomy to the different Jewish denominations, while stipulating the minimum standards in fields such as the Hebrew language, Jewish history, science, etc.

Post-1947 "status quo" politics

Reforms

See also