New Congress Aims to Protect People of Faith in the Workplace
By James Standish
The Workplace Religious Freedom Act, H.R. 1431, was introduced into Congress on March 9th by Congresswoman McCarthy (D-NY) and Congressman Souder (R-IN). In what has become a rare occurrence at the intersection of religion and politics, the bill enjoys broad bipartisan support -- with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans joining as original cosponsors. A version of the bill will soon be introduced in the Senate and is expected to be an equally bipartisan effort. The bill aims to stem the growing tide of intolerance to people of faith in the American workplace.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the number of claims involving religious discrimination rose 83% between 1992 and 2006. By comparison, claims of racial discrimination and gender discrimination held roughly steady during the same period, and claims of age discrimination decreased substantially.
The Coalition for Freedom of Religion in the Workplace, a group comprised of 45 major religious organizations ranging from the American Jewish Committee through to the Southern Baptist Convention, from the Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund through to the United Methodist Church, enthusiastically supports the bill. James Standish, co-chair of the Coalition, states "far too many good people are arbitrarily forced to choose between their faith and their jobs. Americans don't accept bigotry in our media, in our schools, or in our government, and we certainly shouldn't accept bigotry against people of faith in our workplaces."
"In the last few years we've heard a lot of talk about religion in public life," notes Standish, "but of the attention was focused on symbolism. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act gives Congress a chance to refocus their attention from the divisive rhetoric over religious symbolism, to making a significant contribution to solving a very real problem faced by far too many Americans today."