Workplace Religious Freedom Act (HR 1431) February 20, 2008

Workplace Religious Freedom Act (HR 1431)

It sounds nice — Religious Freedom — but in this case, it could cause a lot of problems.

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (HR 1431) would actually allow for religious persecution and harassment the way it is currently written.

The Secular Coalition for America sent a letter to members of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, Pensions, which will soon be considering this bill. Excerpts from the letter are below (emphasis mine):

The Secular Coalition for America, dedicated to protecting the rights of nontheists, is very concerned about HR 1431. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act will empower individuals to use its religious freedom protections as a weapon against co-workers and clients who do not hold or share their religious beliefs.

The purpose of this legislation is to strengthen current protections to require employers to accommodate the religious needs of their employees in such areas as observing religious holidays, wearing religious apparel, and religious requirements for beards and hairstyles; however, the language of this legislation goes much further.

As written the legislation would encourage employees to ignore employer policies prohibiting religious proselytizing in the workplace, religious condemnation of co-workers, and inserting religion into secular workplace practices and activities. The courts have already seen these types of cases and ruled against them, but HR 1431 puts these precedents into question.

Employees and clients have a right to a workplace free from religious harassment and coercion. This bill must be changed to protect these rights.

Religious tolerance as far as personal freedoms go is commendable and should be protected.

But we have to make sure religious freedom doesn’t trump personal rights to live and work in safe environments.

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • Tolga K.

    Great, now the fundies can infiltrate scientific institutions and dismantle them from the inside.

    My friend wants to move out of this country when he graduates to avoid the bullshit, I think I might do the same.

    Sweden, here I come!

  • Milena

    Sweden, here I come!

    Sweden and Norway have been dreams of mine for a while now.

    Almost completely unrelated to the topic: one of my coworkers actually tried to convert me to evangelism once. She wasn’t hostile or pushy about it. We were two people working a completely deserted burger-joint on stormy day at the beach. We were just sitting on these upturned crates behind the counter, waiting for customers (I think we served 3 people that day), and she just turns to me and asks me if I believe in Christ. I was still questioning my belief back then, so I told her I did. She then asked me if I wanted to be saved, and I was kind of curious by this point, so I once again said that I did. She took my hands and had me repeat her prayer for Jesus to accept my soul. A few days later, she gave me a Bible. I still have it, too. This post just made me think of that.

  • I have been thinking about going to Canada. I just got my passport last week. I will start planning a visit to Toronto soon.

  • the Shaggy

    A Sikh is poised to win an Ontario cout battle concerning wearing turbands on his motorcycle. The law requires a hlmet, an he’s fighting a ticket, which exploded into a larger issue.

    Apparently, the father of four believes he is being discriminated against because he’s willing to risk his life for his religion. I don’t think his kids would like his crashing and dying, but hey, he can continue to treat a book like a person.

    (Sorry, that last part was uncalled for) I don’t like how, again, a religious dogma is allowed to trump safety regulations. On the one hand, it is his decision, but on the other hand it says to anyone “Hey, you don’t need a helmet.”

  • stogoe

    Helmets are a thorny issue, because it doesn’t feel right to me to require everyone to wear a helmet.

    On the other hand, in America, the resulting head and neck injuries from your underinsured, bare-skulled motorcycle accident end up costing the rest of society a ton of money for the rest of your bed-ridden-tube-fed life.

    Which you could add a slippery slope to, if you wanted to continue the discussion.

  • The First Amendment commands Congress to “make no law” respecting religion. It would seem to me that the Workforce Religious Freedom Act – what a phony title – would necessarily be unconstitutional if enacted.

    In stead, if one employee can wear a head covering, than any employee should be able to wear a head covering. If an employee can be accommodated for a religious holiday, then any employee should be accommodated for whatever day they want off. We are a nation of equal opportunity, not people privilege for some and subordination for others.

    People can believe whatever they want, but they aren’t entitled to government endorsement or facilitation.

  • the Shaggy

    I could, but that’s not where I would go. That’s where the court battle seems to be (according to the article), but that seems quite wayward.

    The fact is that regardless of whether or not it is right, wearing a helmet while motorcycling is A LAW, a ticketable offense, and this man may become exempt due to his religion (which, according to a few scholars quoted in and article in the Toronto Star, doesn’t explicitly require a turban at all times – he just happens to believe so). There shouldn’t be a case to change the law there, but there is.

  • At my primary job I am the only atheist, and I’m in the closet, except to the one person there who is Jewish.

    There are two women who are born again christians, and while they never attempt to convert me, (since they don’t know, and I talk to them within the frame they set for the conversation) I hear things like “I’m so glad I”m saved” or “People who are not Christians are going to hell” or “God does/doesn’t want me to ______” . . . It makes me afraid to mention that, oh by the way, I don’t believe in god. I’m tempted to give them your book (or a book about bridging the gap between atheists and xians) when I quit. I get along well enough with them, and we work well together, but I am generally afraid of how being open about my atheism at work would affect that.

    To contrast that, one of my best friends in grad school was a born again evangelical christian, and we would have some pretty interesting and respectful discussions about our beliefs and how they play out in our lives and influence our behaviors. It was very cool to see how similar we are– and we were a great team when we had to work on projects together. I got to be open and we both accepted the other for our differences.

    I think some accomodations are unreasonable, for example, some women refuse to obey hygeine rules due to religious proscriptions.

  • Maria

    The First Amendment commands Congress to “make no law” respecting religion. It would seem to me that the Workforce Religious Freedom Act – what a phony title – would necessarily be unconstitutional if enacted.


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