Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Religious demand special rights aat work.


Here is the question. Should an employer, any employer, accommodate employees who refuse to do their job because of their religious beliefs? If so, why?

I am not saying an employer may not choose to make such accommodation but I question whether they must do so. Here is how I see it.

An employer advertises a specific job and with that job come various conditions of employment including work hours, tasks, behaviour, etc. No one should force an individual to take and a job and no one does. It is a contract between the employer and the employee where both agree upon the terms.

But the god addicts among us are now asking for special privileges. They want legal protections that exempt them from having to fulfil the employment contract they entered into. Here are a few such cases of recent weeks.

In Minneapolis a bus driver has refused to drive a bus because an ad on the bus was for a local gay oriented news publication. The local city owned bus service said: “The decision has nothing to do with the content of the advertisements. It has everything to do with the employee’s religious beliefs.” Oh, really. Yeah, I but that. The man attends a church that has a creed about which buses he may drive. I’d like to see the doctrinal statement on that one.

Of course it had everything to do with an exemption because the driver opposed a paying ad on the side of the bus. The local union was amazingly rational, something unions rarely do. The president of the union said: “If you start saying this or that ad is inappropriate, you’re offending other people, and that can create a difficult environment for people to work in. We have Muslim employees. Now if there’s an ad for alcohol on the side of a bus, should Muslim employees be allowed to not drive that bus? And is the next step that mechanics don’t have to work on the bus?”

It is argued that this accommodation is a simple one and that this driver can be reassigned other buses that don’t carry the ad. True. But if the principle is put into effect how do we draw the line? Should the company keep detailed records of the individual prejudices, biases, and beliefs of each driver and then screen the buses in advance so that each and every driver is given the same rights at this one man? In principle the concession to one lone bigot is not particular burdensome. But the concession becomes a policy and then has to be applied to all employees equally.

In Minneapolis as well it is reported that Muslim taxi drivers at the airport are refusing service to customers who are carrying alcohol. My view is that if the taxi owner wants this policy then so be it. But if the driver is imposing that policy unilaterally on a taxi which he does not own then fire his ass on the spot. I don’t care how often he yells, “Jihad.” He’s out of there.

In England Britain Airways has run into a problem with a Christian. Airline rules say that employees in uniform may not wear jewellery or religious symbols of any kind on the uniform. Any such jewellery must be underneath the uniform. The policy applies to everyone and to any kind of jewellery.

Nadia Eweida thinks her beliefs are so special that she should have special privileges denied all other employees. She is on unpaid leave because she refused to comply with long-standing company policy. She says that employees should have “their say in the way they express their faith.” Apparently that overrides British Airways right to determine how employees do their job. Eweida is not on her own time. She is paid by the company to be there. If she wants to express her faith then she should do it off the clock and not at someone else’s expense.

The Airline didn’t say she can’t wear the cross she wanted to wear. They just said it needs to be worn insider her uniform and not on top of it. She refuses.

And Muslim have been demanding that their women be allowed to wear veils in Western nations at all times. Consider the problems this poses. A Muslim woman comes into a country with a passport -- but why bother? You can’t check to see that the person under the veil is the person in the passport and the passport photo would only show someone looking like an pile of sheets. They even want the right to drive while wearing veils and say it is discriminatory if they aren’t allowed to do so. A Muslim woman can cover her face in court, they argue. In all these situations the identity of the person is critical and this stamps out individual identity.

They argue it is bigoted not to accommodate their beliefs. Yet their own nations impose Islamic standards on Western visitors. As far as I can see, like most fundamentalists, their idea of tolerance is: In an Islamic country you must respect Islamic customs and in non-Islamic countries you must respect Islamic customs as well bugger your own values and customs anywhere.

Of course the Islamists jumped into say they supported this woman’s “right” to impose religious symbols on a company uniform because everyone must “respect the right of a Muslim woman to wear the Niqab.” They know that that when companies can’t set their own policies that their own agenda benefits as well.

We already have special laws being pushed through to grant privileges to Christians in various fields. Pharmacies distribute drugs legally to people with prescriptions. But we have pharmacists who are refusing to do their job when it comes to certain medications which prevent pregnancy. Now maybe if they can’t do that job due to their own myths and dreams they ought to seek out another profession? An employer should not be required to hire people who won’t do the job that is needed.

Neil Noesen is a mystic. That is he believes in Jesus and gods and miracles and the supernatural. And his mythical friend tells him that birth control pills are evil. It’s right there in the Bible --- well, maybe it isn’t but it ought to be. He works at a pharmacy at Kmart and a woman came in to fill her prescription for birth control pills. He refused to do it. And he also refused to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy. Typical loving Christian that he is.

Kmart does not discriminate against their customers based on religious beliefs. When this pharmacist refused to do his job he imposed his policy on Kmart. And he insists it is his right to do so. He, unlike all other employees, has the right to set policy based on his invented theology.

In the Theocratic Republic of Texas, once again, a pharmacist was fired because he tried to impose his religious beliefs on a customer. A woman came in with a prescription for a morning-after pill. It was given to her to prevent pregnancy because she had just been raped. Consider that! She had just been raped and was terrified that she might have to conceive her rapists child. And this loving, compassionate, Bible-believing Christian refused to help her because he thinks Jesus was whispering public policy into his ears.

A dozen US states have special laws, or are considering them, that allow pharmacists to not do their job if their religious beliefs conflict. Why are they exempt from their terms of employment due to their religion? Why not also due to any belief they may hold? Why exactly does the absurd embraced in the name of god get precedence over any other absurdity that someone may believe. Why is a bus driver allowed to refuse to work if the bus has a gay ad on it but not if it has an ad showing blacks?

Ah, that’s not religious. It could be. Most the major bigots in the US had theology behind their bigotry. I heard more fundamentalists who found excuses for their race hatred in the Bible than I can possible name. They said this was God’s will. And there are churches that preach race hatred. Every Sunday the worshipers come and hear how white people are the chosen people of God. Can these people refuse to deal with customers who are black when they are at work?

Consider this. What if a Christian Scientist became a pharmacist. Or a pharmacist became a Christian Scientist. Since they don’t believe in medicine are they exempt from handing out all medicines? What seems like a reasonable accommodation may not be reasonable once the nut cases start coming out of the woodwork.

Where exactly does this end? Can an employee at McDonald's who believes in Jesus and other such nonsense refuse to serve customers who he thinks are gay or are “sinners”?

There are federal laws which require US employers to “reasonably accommodate” employee religious beliefs. No such accommodation is required for other kinds of beliefs. One the religious are given the special privilege. And the employer may not even know what these accommodations require of him. He can not question potential employees as to their religious beliefs. So he only learns what the terms of his contract are when the employee decides to tell him.

Why can’t I use my political beliefs to determine how I do my job? Why can’t you? Why can’t a liberal refuse to give customer service to a Religious wing nut? it is a sincerely held belief. It seems that there is only one category of beliefs that get all sorts of special privileges and that is religion. Now I hear the Religious Right say that mere equality before the law for gays is special privileges and that they are against special privileges. So does this mean employers no longer have to accommodate the religious nutters? Federal law granting special privileges to religious employees ought to be repealed.

21 Comments:

Blogger Publius II said...

Here is the question. Should an employer, any employer, accommodate employees who refuse to do their job because of their religious beliefs? If so, why?

My answer is, it is the employer's perogative. They can accommodate if they so choose. It's a management decision.

As you've said, it's a contract between employer and employee. If I as an employer want to give accomodation to one employee and not to another, then it still should be my perogative. The employee, if they so wish, may quit whenever they like.

Unfortately, the government has made a mockery out of that aspect of free trade, and then you have unions to think about as well now.

In all three of the "example" articles you gave, none of them had any involvement from the government. So therefore, in my humble opinion, all three were handled correctly. In otherwords, in all three, it was the employers perogative.

October 19, 2006

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

First to correct an error you made. You said all three were without government involvement. In fact the bus company is actually run the city I believe. I would have to verify that but that is my understanding. Again as I said if totally private they can do what they wish. However, I also laid out why I thought a policy of accommodating the irrational is dangerous and long term bad for the company. I would not derpive them of being stupid if they wish however. But I am pointing out how this can come back to bite them in the ass.

October 19, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

I was wondering about that, if the city ran the buses. Of course, that's another problem entirely. It causes all sorts of problems when the government starts getting involved where free enterprise should be.

Here's a question: What would happen if the add on the side of the bus endorsed the GOP and a liberal anti-republican type person refused to drive the bus? Would your opinion be the same?

October 19, 2006

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

If it were a liberal anti-Republican type (the number of such have grown thanks to King George) were to say he would not drive a bus with a political ad for Bush or the GOP on the side I would say fire his sorry ass.

My comments were quite clear that I don't think their ought to be one policy for religious beliefs and another for other beliefs and that allowing employees not to do their work because of said beliefs is a dangerous precedent. If private they certainly have the right to make the wrong decision.

October 19, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

For the most part, I think I would agree. It's a fine line though, in treating people with enough respect that the moral of the rest of the company doesn't go down the tubes. All people have beliefs and contradictions of one sort or another, and when those beliefs come into conflict with work duties in a way that the worker feels like he cannot ethically complete those duties, I think there has to be at least some acknowledgement of that from the employer. Depending on the situation, it may not always be the wrong decision to respect an employee's beliefs, bases on the fact that your other employees will see the action of the employer and the result would be a more positive work environment. But like I said, it's a fine line, and it could very easily also result in somebody being pissed off about the whole incident, depending on their level of tolerance.

October 20, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

I spelled a few things wrong. Sorry.

October 20, 2006

 
Blogger David said...

While I agree with the point you are making about people's ability to conform to the tasks required by their occupation, I do not agree that this should also apply to a persons attire. Wearing a cross on the outside of someone's uniform should not interfere with their ability to do their job. The Moko holds much cultural significance for Maori, but a tattoo on the face is a little hard to hide. Unless you beleive that unless a person's cultural icons are drawn into their skin; it seems that you are suggesting that people should not be allowed to express their cultural heritage on or off the clock.

Not allowing people to express their religious or cultural heritage through their attire is a form of censorship, it is not the action of a free society. Business may have a right to make sure their staff are recognisable, but only as a requirement of whatever tasks they need to perform, it need not be a branding free of cultural diversity.

October 21, 2006

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

David: Would you hold this for only religious beliefs and cultural symbols or would you apply it equally? That is do all people have the same rights in your view or not? Now if everyone has the right to express themselves via symbols of any kind then would the white surpremacist be allowed to wear a swastika on his uniform? Now I happen to think all people have equal rights and that when it comes to one's work environment that ought to be a matter strictly and privately between the employer and employee. It is not my business nor your business. And if a business, rightly or wrongly, says that symbols of any kind can not be worn on staff uniforms then I suggest that people who don't like it find another employer. And if the customers agree with the employees then I suggest they take their business elsewhere. In a free society I suspect you will have different policies for different companies and that is perfectly acceptable to me. I don't have a cookie cutter by which I expect everyone to live up to my view of the world. Do you?

October 21, 2006

 
Blogger David said...

"Now if everyone has the right to express themselves via symbols of any kind then would the white surpremacist be allowed to wear a swastika on his uniform?"

Yes.

Problems may arise because of this policy, but the problems with this kind of expression in the workplace need not have anything to do with the worker. They may be based around the prejudice of the client. To condone this form of censorship is to condone prejudice. All concepts, including such abhorrant concepts like facism have roots in reality. To disallow expression of these concepts only seeks to push them underground where the reality of such concepts may become clouded with dogma.

Fascism was based on the premise that we are not all the same, it's mistake was to classify people instead of understanding the incalculable nature of human nature. But the backlash to the atrocities committed in its name has been the cultural misconception that we all start out the same, and that our socioeconomic system is without bias, when in reality it evolved over centuries to meet the stereotypical requirements of europeans.

The truth will come out, the question is whether we want to back it into a corner or take hold of it with two hands and our eyes open.

October 21, 2006

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Your definition of censorship is invalid. Censorship is the use of force to deny people the right to express their values with their with own resources or those freely made available to them by others (either through donation or exchange). When an employer says to an employee that "you may not use my property, while being paid by me, to make statements, be their large or small" he is not censoring. Your definition of censorship gives every person a blank cheque drawn on the account of others. And you ignore that under freedom the partners to any contract should be free to enter any voluntary contract they wish. This may include that during work hours they will not promote their own private views. After all why should an employer pay people to extol their beliefs?

I strongly disagree that all "concepts" "have roots in reality". This says that there is no such thing as reality in fact. Nor did I say that bad ideas should be pushed underground. All I said was that no one has the right to use the property of others to express their views unless they have the consent of the person's whose property they are using. If you are going to use the time you owe your employer, that is the time he is paying you for, and his property, the workplace, to do anything other than that for which you have contracted to do then you are stealing money from him and making use of his property in a manner that is illigitimate. Your freedom of speech doesn't mean that I have to pay you to speak and give you an auditorium to boot.

Fascism was not based on the premises you state. In many ways it argued we are all the same, the same cogs in the machine, small cells in a great living organism who must all live for the sake of the whole. It denied individualism, in fact it hated individualism, but then all the top fascists had taken their socialist priniples (they all started out in the various socialist parities) and just added some nationalism to the mixture. And the one thing they preached strong and hard was that no individual had the right to live for their own sake but all must live for the sake of the collective. Individualism, the opposite of collectivism, teaches we are all unique and different. We are not interchangeable parts in a vast machine. I disagree with your analysis of the history of economics as well. But that is another question.

I believe in absolute freedom of speech but all freedom is contextual. I am free to run around my house naked but not free to do so in your lounge unless I have your permission. I am free to say what I want but that doesn't mean the local church has to let me use their pulpit Sunday morning to do so. But on my own property, or that made freely available to me, then I should have the right to express any view no matter how absurd or abhorrent. I do not think the extremists should be muffled but exposed. And that is done through free speech.

October 22, 2006

 
Blogger David said...

"Your definition of censorship is invalid. Censorship is the use of force to deny people the right to express their values with their with own resources or those freely made available to them by others (either through donation or exchange). "

That's your definition, not mine. My POV is based around the premise that the "free market system" isn't all that free.

The level of control business has over it's employees, and the general population is far from balanced. If you go looking for a job do you really "negotiate" your terms? Generally they tell you what they want, and you can either agree to it or not. Negotiation is generally for the rich and the lucky. Aside from that simple analysis of day-to-day life, the amount of resources availiable in this day in age to big business is staggering. Allowing unfettered capitalist structures to influence society, and not even allow common citizens to express, quietly, their own cultural views while working it's absurd, and is only a requirement because of the fundamentally flawed nature of capatalism in the information age.

Does a person's ability to make money enhance their ability to construct reasonable arguements on all subjects? If you think the answer is yes, I only need one reply, "Iraq".

"I strongly disagree that all "concepts" "have roots in reality"."

What I mean by that is that no idea springs out of nothingness, it's gotta be based on _something_, which is pretty obvious really.

"Fascism was not based on the premises you state. In many ways it argued we are all the same"

Perhaps I wasn't specific enough. facism was based on the premise that people of different races are different.

"I believe in absolute freedom of speech but all freedom is contextual. I am free to run around my house naked but not free to do so in your lounge unless I have your permission. I am free to say what I want but that doesn't mean the local church has to let me use their pulpit Sunday morning to do so. But on my own property, or that made freely available to me, then I should have the right to express any view no matter how absurd or abhorrent. I do not think the extremists should be muffled but exposed. And that is done through free speech. "

My apologies for quoting(and commenting) so much but I hope this will be the last one. We have the same point of view from this perspective. My differing viewpoint is based on the larger view that the difference in the amount of "property" a person can possess has become far too great, and the rules involved in aquiring wealth are culturally bias, are biased to the rich; and do not generate incentives to maintain a free society. If I agreed that capitalism held up to the idealism it's propponants adhere to, I would agree with you. My view however that it is outdated, bloated, and will most likely go out of fashion this century.

October 22, 2006

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

David, try to keep commments shorter and to one issue at a time otherwise we end up with very long comments that are hard to read and which tend to go off on tangents (that is a general thing I'm not referring to you specifically).

I referred to a free society not a free market. You say a free market is not "all that free" and then propose a system of state control which clearly is not free. I'm not sure how that solves the issue. But let's look at your claims

You say that you either take it or leave it. What that has to do with Nazis using their job to spread hate I don't know. But I'm willing to go that route if you want. If as you claim the worker is powerless and you have to take what is offered then why exactly aren't the jobs all at minimum wage? Why are incomes in the freer markets rising faster than in the more controlled markets. Why are workers in Australia seeing bigger increases in the more laissez faire Australian system while workers int he more controlled environment of NZ have seen income rise less quickly? Why are American wages, a relatively deregulated labour market, rising so much more quicker than wages in Europe which is more controlled to "protect" labour?

And you distort what I said. In a free society different companies would have, and do have, different policies. There is no uniform policy but diversity. The Left sways they like diversity. Rot. They demand conformity like every other religious cult does. You then jump from me saying there would be diversity to saying that unfettered capitalism (gee, try not to sound so Marxian) will not "even allow common citizens, to express, quietly, their own cultural views while working..." As I said some companies will allow this and others will hot depending on the circumstances of the company.

And you noted that the problem is the customers. So how would your state enforced mandate to allow such symbols (which I presume you support) solve the customer problem? Will you force people to be customers as well?

Next throw out the comment about making money enhancing the ability to construct reasonable arguments. Since no one said anything of the sort that is not relevant. I don't believe it. You don't believe and I don't know any body who does believe it. So why bring it up?

You say "no idea springs out of nothingness" . I think ideas are often self generated without roots in reality. Tooth fairies, Santa Claus, Jehovah and such are examples of that. Often people have ideas which are not grounded in reality. They may think it is but it is not. Or they cling to ideas that require them to change reality. The Marxists in particular feel the need to manipulate people to get what they want -- what the pioneering socialist Robert Owen called "the scientific arrangement of people".

Again your definition of what fascism thought is not quite correct. You say fascism "was based on the premise that people of different races are different." Not true. That is what Nazis taught. The Fascists of Italy were nationalists not racialists. Ditto for the fascism of Peron in Argentina and Franco in Spain and Salazar in Portugal. The British Union of Fascists, founded by former Labour MP Oswald Mosely, were somewhere between Hitler's versions and Mussolini's verrsion of fascism. So some fascists were racialists and some were just old socialists with a nationalist streak (Mussolini for instance).

Your closing remarks sound like the utopian Marixian view of the world. But it is here that I think you are most wrong. The biggest problem that the Left has is that the evidence is against them. We have reached the point where the old Fabian Society in England, which used to claim the workers would get poorer now complains that capitalism brings too much prosperity and people don't take time "to smell the roses" -- red roses no doubt. The entire Green movement is taking the old socialist arguments and repackaging them. Now instead of needing state control to make the workers prosperous we have to use state controls to limit prosperity to save the planet. The trouble they see is that the world is too rich. Ah, how far the Left has fallen from their original premises. But then a century of evidence is hard to ignore.

October 23, 2006

 
Blogger David said...

These comments are about your last paragraph.

I'm not a socialist, or a communist. I agree with the marxist view of capatalism, but I certainly do not agree with his solution. I never proposed anything, I was simply stating an opinion reguarding our current system. You are an individualist, so am I.

Back to the topic, the issue with expressing opinions while on the job.

My opinion is incompatible with our current system, that is not the fault of my opinion, that is a fault of the system. Capitalism does not promote individualism, it may tolerate it, but it promotes creating strength in numbers.

October 23, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

Is there an economic system that doesn't favor strength in numbers? That seems to me to be called "economic growth."

October 24, 2006

 
Blogger CLS said...

In fact Publius there is one but I dont think david would agree. I notice, for instance, that there is no need for large numbers of people to want a particular product. There need to be just enough to make a profit providing it. But that is the market. In the US, where they is no state ownershp of television, you have channels beyond imagination. Nothing like that exists in the socialised television markets of the rest of the world. There are TV stations not just for English and Spanish but for dozens of other languages as well. There are networks that only cater to Christians and networks that specialize in only gay oriented shows. The profit motive encourages production of items that people want period. Take the crude world of porn. Now what percentage of individuals are actually attracted to old women? Shockingly such stuff is produced though I find it rather unappealing myself. There is no strength in numbers here. We are speaking of a very tiny minority of people.

But in field after field we find that. Gay people make up about 5% of the population (10% if you define it more broadly). This is a minority. And within that minority there are other minorities. Lesbians make up about 40% of gay people or about 2% fo the population. Yet there are bars for lesbians. You have businesses that cater particularly to gay men who are black. That is under 1% of the US population. Yet they exist. Even when it was illegal to cater to gay people, when having a gay bar, was actually illegal, there were still hundreds of establishments across the US that catered to gay people. So under markets people will cater to the wishes of minorities even when we would think they would not. There is a reason no gay rights movement ever was spawned in a communist country and that it was exported from market based systems.

October 24, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

What you're describing is a capitalist system that is over-ripe with luxuries. And in fact, it DOES favor strength in numbers. The more people you have buying into those specialized markets, the more profitable they become, and the more likely they are to stick around. The ones that are not profitable will not survive. It's that simple. So the system you have described most definately does favor strength in numbers.

October 25, 2006

 
Blogger CLS said...

I totally disagree. In a market one does not have to have a big market to have a profitable one. There are plenty of niche businesses that are tiny, that don't make huge sums but make enough to keep the owners happy so they do it. As for the system being over-riple in luxuries some of these niche markets were being filled long before there was great wealth.

The typical black taxi in South Africa is basically a VW bus with a driver. He charges a rand or two for a trip. His clients are not rich and he is not getting rich either. But the business exists and continues to exist. Hawkers fill the streets selling tomatoes and potatoes. They have no store, no equipment but they offer a service in their niche (their particular corner or section of the sidewalk). Again there is no great wealth (yet) nor are they making huge profits. The Meilie ladies walk the neighbourhoods offering meilie (corn on the cob) for sale. No huge market, no great wealth or income but enough to make their life better so they do it.

Most businesses that provide for people do not rely on mass numbers of customers nor do they depend on wealthy customers. What they need is as a follows: a demand. It does not need to be a huge demand but a demand that is sufficient to make a profit filling. As long as there is some profit in doing it then it will probably be done absent regulations restricting it. So there are often not numbers in the sense of a large number of customers, which was the context, nor are there numbers in the sense of huge profits. And most businesses fall into this category around the world.

October 25, 2006

 
Blogger David said...

"I totally disagree. In a market one does not have to have a big market to have a profitable one."

Just because it's not nessesary to expand a business either by increasing demand for the product or by diversifying the product base, does not mean society does not reward such actions. The rewards for generating capital are increased security, a greater degree of choices, and an increased ability to influence society as a whole. I fail to see how the points you've raised change this fact. It may reward catering to a niche market, but it will reward a monopoly even more.

October 26, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

cls, I have 2 questions for you:

1. Are you trying to say that the scenarios that you've mentioned (the taxi driver and the produce stands), are not functioning under the capitalist economic system? Clearly they are. The function on the principles of supply and demand.

2. In any of the scenarios or businesses you mentioned, if any of them had 50 customers a day, instead of 10 customers a day, which day would be more profitable to the business? The day with 10 customers or the day with 50 customers? Clearly numbers benefit the business.

So what is it that you are trying to prove again?

October 27, 2006

 
Blogger CLS said...

I am saying that they are part of the market system. You claimed the market system only respects "strength in numbers" which can be read two different ways (and you never bothered to explain which you meant). One is that there are lots and lots of customers or two, that there is a large volume of sales and thus profits.

I am arguing that in a market you only need enough business to come out ahead for it to be worth being done by someone. So that there need not be large numbers of customers nor large sales. There does not need to be "strength in numbers" for markets to meet human needs. That doesn't mean having more customers doesn't mean it wouldn't be better for the business.

You implication that one must have strength in numbers for capitalism to provide needs is not accurate. And most businesses prove that.

October 27, 2006

 
Blogger David said...

"You implication that one must have strength in numbers for capitalism to provide needs is not accurate. And most businesses prove that. "

The assumption that I was implying that is not accurate. This is not a simple discussion about supplying demand. I was stating that there are economic incentives to create strength in numbers, the rewards for upholding individualism are much less, and the task much harder.

To put it another way, both the left and the right are a drive toward collectivity. Socialism does it with laws. Capitalism does it by propergating a culture. A culture that in my view, is self defeating.

October 27, 2006

 

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