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Home » Archives » Legislative Issues » National Legislation Issues Archive » September 8, 2004 - Home Stretch in Push for Workplace Religious Freedom Act, S-893

September 8, 2004 - Home Stretch in Push for Workplace Religious Freedom Act, S-893

By Alan J. Reinach

Senate leaders have assured us of their commitment to press for a vote on the Workplace Religious Freedom Act before Congress adjourns for the year. We need to assist that commitment by pressing the issue and generating as much support as possible for the bill. If you care whether Sabbath observers and other people of faith are able to work without sacrificing their religious principles, you need to put your care into action!

Dr. Timothy Standish serves as religious liberty secretary for the Yucaipa Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was startled by the report, earlier this summer, showing how few churches had gathered signatures or e.mails. Tim writes: "What I'm writing to tell you about is what I did last Sabbath. I took the letter you have on the web site, copied it into a Word document, cut out a paragraph to make it fit and then put places for the information you ask for on the web. I then photocopied off a bunch of copies and went around with them at our church potluck. By doing this I was able to get 80 letters asking Feinstein and Boxer, 40 to each senator, to get on the boat with the Workplace Religious Freedom Act. I faxed the letters to their respective offices yesterday. I tried to get people to do this as individuals, but some couples put both of their names on the same letters."

O.K. Tim. Let's give that one a try. Go to www.religiousliberty.info, if you wish, and send your e.mails--get others to do the same. Or else, use the letter below, which fits on a single page, to get people to participate in this important piece of legislation. (Don't forget to change the Senators' names to fit your own state).

Meanwhile, don't forget to financially support this effort and your church's other advocacy work by becoming a dues paying member of the North American Religious Liberty Association, details and online sign up at www.religiousliberty.info.

Final note: Earlier we announced that whoever submitted the largest number of names of those who have sent e.mails or letters in support of WRFA would be awarded a cruise. We regret to inform you that our sponsorship for someone to attend the Liberty cruise must be withdrawn due to complaints about using church funds for a cruise. I suspect this wonderful Liberty magazine event was misunderstood. Liberty has planned an inspiring weekend of education and inspiration, and we wanted to support this event. Our sincere apologies.

Substitute: We still want to reward you for your effort and dedication to this vital cause. As a substitute prize we would like to sponsor the individual that gathers the most signatures in support of WRFA to attend our religious liberty weekend at Camp Cedar Falls, November 12 – 14. So remember the deadline of September 10, and submit your names immediately for consideration.

These religious liberty newsflashes and legislative e.lerts are published by the Pacific Union Conference Department of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty.

Sample Letter:

September _____, 2004

Dear Senators Feinstein and Boxer [your state's Senators]:

I am writing to urge you to support and co-sponsor the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, S-893. This is an urgently needed civil rights measure. Every day, Americans are fired from their jobs because their religious practices conflict with work obligations. Many employers don't care to provide even reasonable religious accommodation, and the Federal courts have signaled that they really don't have to.

In 1972, Congress amended the Civil Rights Act to require employers to provide "reasonable accommodation" for their employees' religious practices, so long as the accommodation did not result in "undue hardship." Since that time, the Federal courts have interpreted both these terms in ways that swing the balance in favor of the employer. Undue hardship now means that any minimal cost to the employer is too much. This does not take into account the size of the employer, or the relative cost of an accommodation. Reasonable accommodation is often interpreted to mean that any effort to reduce the conflict between an employee's religious practice and the job requirement is adequate, even if the conflict is not eliminated. Thus, a Seventh-day Adventist who is scheduled to work only two Saturdays per month instead of four, in violation of his Sabbath observance, may be found to have been reasonably accommodated.

It is past time for Congress to act decisively to correct the injustice and inequality being wrought by employers, and endorsed by our courts. It is a sad day in America when people of faith have to choose between their religion and making a living. According to the EEOC, the number of religious discrimination charges filed has increased 82% in the past decade, even as other discrimination cases are decreasing. More than forty religious groups agree on very little, but we all agree on the necessity of enacting the Workplace Religious Freedom Act. This measure will restore the balance, and permit people of faith the dignity to support their families without undue compulsion to abandon their religious practices.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this important issue, and for your support.

Respectfully yours,

Signed: ____________________________________________________________

Print Name: _________________________________________________________

Address: ___________________________________________________________

City, State, Zip: ______________________________________________________