United States: Leaders Renew Workplace Religious Freedom Efforts
May 28, 2002 Washington, D.C., USA .... [Liliana Henao/ANN]
The ability to work for a company without having to compromise your religious beliefs is a basic civil right, but one that United States workers can't necessarily take for granted, agree religious leaders from a wide spectrum of faiths. The need for greater on-the-job religious accommodation for workers was just one of the challenges discussed by representatives of the business, labor, legal, and religious communities who met last Tuesday in Washington, D.C., for a conference called "Reconciling Obligations: Accommodating Religious Practice on the Job".
Every year the Seventh-day Adventist Church receives about 1,000 requests for legal representation from members who have been fired or disciplined because of their faith--usually because they cannot work on their Sabbath, or Saturday, explains James Standish, director of legislative affairs for the Adventist Church. "Despite these efforts sometimes we are not successful because the law doesn't provide adequate protection. Therefore we are working to change the law."
And this is perhaps the biggest challenge now facing the political coalition Standish co-chairs. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) has been introduced and rejected by the United States Senate twice in the past, but the coalition is not giving up. The bill was introduced again in the Senate last Thursday
"If Sabbath keepers are going to be afforded the respect their faithfulness deserves," says Standish, "we as church members must let our representatives know that we care". He says that support is urgently needed in the next couple of months.
Mitchell Tyner, associate legal counsel for the Adventist world church, was a panelist at last week's meeting, and says the symposium was important for raising awareness of the problem, and for bringing together groups that have a "natural affinity to the issues of religious freedom."
How can United States citizens support the bill? "They should write a letter to their member of congress saying: We think this is a very important bill and we would like you to support it," explains Tyner.
Nathan Lewin, attorney and vice president of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, says that pressure from voters is all important in getting a bill such as this passed. "The truth of the matter is that the bill enacted in 1972, which provided protection for religious observers in private employment, was put on the floor of the Senate and then was approved in conference because there was pressure from people who called their members of congress," he says.
The main topic of discussion at the symposium was the extent to which private employers are required to accommodate religion and the ways in which the courts, congress, and the executive branch have understood that obligation.
For more information about WRFA visit http://ola.adventist.org.
SOURCE: ADVENTIST NEWS NETWORK