Monday, June 11, 2007

Religious Accomodation Amid Respectful Pluralism

Joel posted a great example in comments of a conflict between respectful pluralism, as we've discussed it, and religious accommodation:

These are great ideals, but I'm not so sure this can be done in the US as it is today. For example, I voluntarily concealed my Pagan beliefs at one place I worked at not because I feared my boss' reaction, but his customers, most of whom were fundamental Christians. Had it been known that he employed a "devil worshipper" (as those Christians defined all non-Christians) he would have been out of business overnight. It would have been unfair of me to seek religious equality at the expense of all our jobs.

Indeed. So here is the conflict: Douglas Hicks proposes a model of respectful pluralism in which Joel should be able to express his beliefs and hang a symbol in his workplace. But religious accommodation in the workplace means that legally an employer does not have to accommodate if it causes undue hardship (financial loss).

Did you get that? Federal law requires reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs, but not if it causes undue hardship. And interpreting "reasonable accommodation" and "undue hardship" is why people hire lawyers.