Religious Liberty in the Workplace

The ACLU, purportedly a “civil liberties” organization, has found a civil liberty it isn’t in favor of–religious liberty. It is opposing the Workplace Religious Freedom Act on the grounds that if you let some people have religious freedom, other people might be affected. The ACLU wants to restrict your freedom to what you wear and what days you take off.

The American Jewish Committee, on the other hand, fully supports the proposed legislation, and rejects the insinuations of the ACLU. The Seventh-day Adventist Church also supports the legislation.

3 thoughts on “Religious Liberty in the Workplace

  1. Thanks for the link to the ACLU release. It’s not that they object on religious grounds, but it appears (to my non-lawyer mind) that the issue may be reflect recent problems like a Muslim taxi-driver refusing to drive a client carrying pork or a pharmacist refusing Plan B on religious grounds.

    “The current WRFA would strengthen the hand of police officers who want to pick and choose who they will protect, as well as emergency health care workers and mental health counselors who could abandon patients because their care conflicts with the worker’s religious beliefs. This legislation would make it significantly harder to get health or safety information or services. Employees would be even more likely to claim that their religion prohibits them from providing contraceptive care or HIV prevention counseling – even if the employer has no one else to provide those services. In most cases, the courts have correctly rejected these claims. The current WRFA language, however, is designed to protect these individual’s dangerous actions.”

    I’d really like to have this parsed out by someone at NARLA.

  2. They want to define “religion” in such a way that you can’t appeal to it when the ACLU doesn’t want you to–thus, they don’t want a pharmacist (unlike other health care workers) to be able to cite religious motivation, even when state laws have conscience clauses that apply to other health care workers. Thus they are elevating abortion to a sacrosanct right that supercedes all other rights, even those enumerated in the constitution (which it is not).

    The NARLA folks testified today.

  3. Thanks for posting on this important subject. Just to clarify, the ACLU wants to limit the Workplace Religious Freedom Act to issues only involving holy days (i.e. Sabbath) and religious dress. The ACLU has expressed their concern that simply allowing broadbased “religious freedom”might include requiring employers to allow an employee to do something extreme spraypaint a swastika on a mirror as a religious act. They also ask about how the bill would handle a police officer who does not want to protect an abortion clinic, or a pharmacist who does not want to dispense medications that do not jive with her faith.

    WRFA proponents counter that the bill would not allow for a creation of a hostile work environment and that limiting protected religious activity to only include holy days and religious garb would create two classes of religious activity. (Protected and unprotected.)

    Again, both the ACLU and the WRFA proponents favor laws protecting religious holy day participation and religious dress. The question is how far the law will extend beyond protecting those two areas.

    Drafting legislation designed to positively affect people in hundreds of potential scenarios while disallowing abuse of the law is difficult to do. So far, people seem to be participating in the discussion in good faith.

    You can read the testimony at

    Michael Peabody, Esq.
    Executive Director, NARLA-West

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