Employers Can Ban The Burka

The high court of the European Union has ruled that it is not discrimination on religious grounds for an employer to dismiss women who refuse to remove their headscarves at work. The case involved two women, one from France and one from Belgium, both of whom were fired for refusing to comply with their employers’ demands to remove the coverings while at work, as reported here.

The court said that an employer’s policy of banning all “visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign” is not discriminatory. It went on to say that, absent such a strict neutrality policy, the taking into account a customer’s wishes not to be served by a woman wearing Islamic dress could not be taken as an occupational requirement that is not discriminatory. In other words, employers must have a policy of neutrality in place or risk discrimination claims if they attempt to regulate what can and cannot be worn by their employees.

At first glance this seems reasonable. Simply put a neutrality policy in place. As applied to headscarves, it is simple. What about, though, Jewish yarmulkes, Star of David or crucifix necklaces, wearing of ashes on Ash Wednesday, or even LDS garments, which, though worn beneath clothing, are often visible in outline?

The ruling affects not only religious but political and philosophical symbols as well. That would, it seems, include a rainbow or gay pride symbol, an equality symbol used by the Human Rights campaign and even a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. It could extend to lapel pins of the American flag since that would be a “political sign.”

I don’t know but I suspect that the EU cases arose because someone complained about being subjected to the sight of an employee wearing a headscarf, which is typically associated with Islam. Some would say that is an intolerant and unenlightened attitude, which it is. But do some of those same people feel the same way about crosses on the roadside to commemorate the death of a law enforcement officer or the words “In God We Trust” in a public building or the keeping of Christ in Christmas? Those objections seem to be enlightened enough to bring lawsuits to remove the offending items.

The EU decision is a pragmatic one. If you want to ban anything remotely offensive to someone, ban everything. Maybe everyone should wear the same uniform. Except that won’t work because whatever color the uniform is, it will undoubtedly offend someone. The real solution might be to make it so that we do everything from our computers in our basements so we don’t have to risk offense by having any human interaction.

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Not in My Backyard

There’s an interesting dichotomy playing out in Salt Lake City, one that is reflective of our common schizophrenia over certain social issues. On one hand we have protesters marching to demonstrate their disdain for President Trump’s travel ban, chanting phrases such as “nothing great about hate.” On the other hand we have protesters marching to demonstrate their disdain for Salt Lake City’s plans to build a homeless shelter on Simpson Avenue and 700 East. The reason for their outrage is that the shelter will displace local businesses that have been at that location for years.

In a perfect world we’d all agree that refugees should be given refuge in a safe country. Most Americans came to the United States somewhat as refugees — seeking a safe place so they could worship or live or associate as they wished. Some came as actual refugees, fleeing wars in Europe and other places. Members of the LDS faith settled this valley as refugees from religious persecution in Missouri, Illinois and other states. In that same perfect world we’d all agree that we should do something about the homeless rather than leave them under viaducts and in Pioneer Park. So why is it that the refugees get the thumbs’ up from the protesters while the homeless get the thumbs’ down?

I think it’s a case of proclaiming globally but living locally. It’s all well and good in theory to have homeless shelters, except when it’s proposed to be in your back yard. Then it becomes an issue of displacing favorite businesses, crime, drug use, vagrancy and all the problems that accompany homelessness. Likewise with refugees from other countries. Yes, it sounds good to say, come here, we welcome you. But where? We can’t put them in the Nevada desert and say, “good luck.” Who will pay for housing, food, education, medical care, clothing, transportation and all the other costs associated with providing refugees a safe place to live? As in anything, choices have consequences.

I wish this was a perfect world. This post isn’t to take sides on the issue. It’s just an observation. It seems to me that we are much more accepting and welcoming when it isn’t in our own back yard.

Hillary’s Victory Speech

Hillary comfortably won Super Tuesday. She gave an all-inclusive acceptance speech. You really can’t call it anything but that — she’s the presumptive nominee and her speech reflected that.

Well, her acceptance speech was almost all-inclusive. At one point she declared“We have to defend all our rights, workers rights and women’s rights, civil rights and voting rights, LGBT rights and rights for people with disabilities.” A great sound bite, meant to portray Ms. Clinton as a candidate of all the people, but notably lacking in at least one category: religious liberty.

Hillary make token acknowledgements of religion. She mentioned her own “Methodist upbringing” that taught her to work as hard as you can for as many as you can for as long as you can. No mention of God. She threw in a homily that referenced a house of worship when she told how she met with a group of Baptists in Flint, MI, regarding the water fiasco. There was no mention of supplication or invocation of Deity,though you can be pretty sure the Baptists had a prayer. And she closed her speech by pleading that we all work together to ensure that every American has the opportunity to live up to his or her own “God given potential.”

This is but one problem with the Left. They give lip service to religious freedom while simultaneously working to restrict those freedoms. Hillary calls for a swift approval of President Obama’s “strong, progressive” nominee to the Supreme Court. Does anyone doubt that “progressive” means one who will limit religious freedom as well as the Second Amendment? It’s like saying “some of my best friends are” blacks, Hispanics/gay, pick your minority that you want to placate. It didn’t play well 20 years ago, it shouldn’t play well now.

Believers use words like “faith,” “God,” “worship” as tenets to live by. Hillary uses them as a punch line and exclamation point.

LDS Church on Religious Freedom

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) held a press conference today. The LDS Church rarely holds press conferences so when it does, most news organizations take note. Today it addressed the issue of nondiscrimination and religious freedom. Leaders of the Church reiterated that the LDS Church believes that people of all beliefs and lifestyles should not face discrimination in any form because of their beliefs or the way they choose to live their lives.

So far (about three hours after the conference ended), response has been generally positive. Following the conference Equality Utah  issued its own new release in which it praised the LDS position and called for cooperation between “people of faith and the LGBT” lifestyle. The Catholic diocese of Salt Lake City issued a statement supporting the Church.

There were two points to the news conference, however. In addition to the call for nondiscrimination, the Church made a plea for recognition of religious freedom. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church, cited several examples of how religious freedom is being eroded in the name of equality. In California, two dozen Christian student groups have been denied recognition by the University of California system because they require their own leaders to share their Christian beliefs. In one city pastors of several churches had their sermons and notes subpoenaed and face not only government intimidation but also criminal prosecution for speaking out against a proposed city ordinance on gay rights and arguing that it should be put to a vote of the people. And we all remember the call to boycott Chick-Fil-A because the owners hold certain beliefs, among them being that they want their stores closed on Sunday. Elder Oaks full statement can be read here.

It is a sad commentary on the state of society that a major religious organization feels compelled to make a plea that its rights and those of its members be afforded the same respect the rest of the nation takes for granted. Some time ago I ventured the opinion that there may come a day where someone tries to forbid any religious organization from proselytizing on the grounds that trying to convince others of the benefits of that particular religion is a form of hate speech. It appears that others share that opinion and are trying to prevent that day from coming.

Religious Liberty

It’s been a few weeks since the Hobby Lobby decision from the Supreme Court.  What has struck me about this decision is the almost complete lack of positive recognition in the media or by almost anyone. This is a significant decision in the religious freedom arena yet it was received with almost unanimous disdain from any commentators. It has been decried as yet another step on the road to a theocracy, another blow to “reproductive rights,” another slap in the face to women in general.

I contrast this lack of concern except in the most negative sense with what happens any time gay rights are mentioned. Anyone who publicly comes out as gay is heralded as a hero/heroine. Any court case is lauded as a step toward equality (note that all the court cases strike down any law that prohibits marriages except between men and women).

Gay marriage will become the law of the land. That’s because marriage has been held to be a fundamental right and the only way a state or governmental entity can infringe on a fundamental right is to demonstrate a compelling need to do so. No state can do that without resorting to arguments based on morality, which is strictly forbidden. Discussions of what is moral have no place in the legal system anymore. Morality, it is argued, is a vestige of various religious beliefs and religion cannot be brought into government under the First Amendment, at least as the First Amendment has been interpreted by the Supremes over the years. Without morality as an argument states can show no compelling need to restrict marriage. The fact that 98% of the state’s citizenry support such laws is of no concern.

Religious freedom, particularly Christian religious freedom, is being challenged at almost every turn. I foresee the day when arguments will be made that the First Amendment allows people to believe whatever they want but the practice of that belief can be constrained in the name of tolerance and unity. After all, that very argument carried the day in Reynolds v. United States, the 1878 case that held that the federal government could enforce its anti-polygamy laws in Utah even though the Mormon religion taught that it was man’s duty to have more than one wife. It’s interesting to note that the Supreme Court there found polygamy to be odious and repugnant on moral grounds. The opinion of the court says in part:

From that day to this we think it may safely be said there never has been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy has not been an offence against society, cognizable by the civil courts and punishable with more or less severity. In the face of all this evidence, it is impossible to believe that the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom was intended to prohibit legislation in respect to this most important feature of social life. Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties, with which government is necessarily required to deal. In fact, according as monogamous or polygamous marriages are allowed, do we find the principles on which the government of the people, to a greater or less extent, rests. An exceptional colony of polygamists under an exceptional leadership may sometimes exist for a time without appearing to disturb the social condition of the people who surround it; but there cannot be a doubt that, unless restricted by some form of constitution, it is within the legitimate scope of the power of every civil government to determine whether polygamy or monogamy shall be the law of social life under its dominion.

The Court said that while marriage is by its nature sacred, it remains a civil contract and can be regulated by law. That part of the decision has gone the way of the dodo bird. Can you imagine making the argument that “an exceptional colony of gay persons under an exceptional leadership may sometimes exist for a time without appearing to disturb the social condition of the people who surround it; but there cannot be a doubt that, unless restricted by some form of constitution, it is within the legitimate scope of the power of every civil government to determine whether gay or straight shall be the law of social life under its dominion?” Anyone making making a similar statement would be in danger of his or her life today.

But the underlying premise, that religious liberty can be restrained, is the holding of the case and remains the law. Perhaps one day someone will try to prohibit missionaries of any religion from proselytizing on the grounds that espousing one belief system over another is a form of hate speech.

Meanwhile, the Hobby Lobby case stands as a beacon signifying that religious liberty isn’t quite dead yet.

Hobby Lobby case

The Supreme Court handed down decisions in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products cases today. Those are the cases that challenged Obamacare’s mandate to provide contraceptives to employees. The two companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products, are both closely held businesses owned by self-described Christians who oppose being forced to provide, as part of the benefits package offered to employees, contraception.

The issue was spun as feminism vs. religion. Those in favor of the mandate argued “reproductive rights” should trump religion. Online comments have been varied with strong views on each side. One commenter stated that “the march to making this country a theocracy continues apace.”

I find that amusing to say the least. From a religious person’s view this is just a small step back from the restriction of religious liberty that seems to be sweeping the world. Christians who remember the real reason for Christmas have to endure signs saying “Who needs Christ for Christmas” and campaigns to do away with “Merry Christmas” in favor of “Happy Holidays.” Apparently those in favor of that change have forgotten or never knew that “holiday” derives from “holy day.”  Lawsuits are brought to prohibit placing white crosses where law enforcement officers have died. Religion has no place in any type of debate in society. Prayer hasn’t been allowed in schools for years. There is a movement to do away with “In God We Trust” on money.

Just over a year ago the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”). That was followed by days of celebration by those supporting the decision. If religionists would become as pro-active in the wake of the Hobby Lobby case maybe the tide of restrictions on religious liberty would ebb.