Either do your job or get a different one
Where does it end?
I’m not usually all that sympathetic to the arguments of the business sector when it comes to employee disputes since the deck is usually stacked in favor of the house. But the intensifying debate about religious beliefs in the workplace is more complicated than it seems.
Kim Davis, an elected official, was sent to jail because she defied a court order to do her job and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She refused to comply with a routine job duty because it conflicted with her personal morality. Instead of resigning her position, she seemed to relish the idea of becoming a persecuted martyr of Christianity, despite her oath to uphold the law of the land, as affirmed in this instance by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Several Republican presidential candidates couldn’t wait to embrace her cause, rushing to Kentucky to presumably woo voters who have been persuaded by Fox News that the political elite in America is at war with Christianity. The inflamed rhetoric of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was endlessly broadcast on cable news shows, as he compared her religious objection to placing her name on a same-sex marriage license to those who served as conscientious objectors to slavery.
Upon her release, Davis vowed to continue her legal battle for a religious accommodation, as outlined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC), which requires businesses to make exceptions to their standard employment practices on a case by case basis, as long as it doesn’t cause “undue hardship” on other employees or the business itself.
Davis, as an elected public official sworn to uphold the law, is a bit different from the Muslim flight attendant who was recently suspended from work because she refused to serve alcohol. The airline had agreed to her request to refrain from serving cocktails as a reasonable religious accommodation until a co-worker complained about the situation. The flight attendant has now filed a discrimination compliant with the EEOC regarding the revocation of the accommodation, a matter that may eventually lead to additional EEOC guidance for employers.
The Nevada legislature grappled with another version of religious job interference when complaints started surfacing a few years ago about pharmacists declining to fill birth control prescriptions for certain patients, usually young, unmarried women in rural communities. To its credit, the state Pharmacy Board issued strong guidelines about the ethical responsibility of pharmacists to limit their concern about filling certain prescriptions to drug safety issues and refrain from moral directives, but the issue is intensifying across the nation as more and more pharmacists are citing religious beliefs as a reason to deny birth control.
It makes you wonder why a pharmacist with such deep-seated moral views wouldn’t find another line of work more compatible with his religion? Or why the Muslim flight attendant doesn’t seek employment that doesn’t involve alcohol at all? And why doesn’t Kim Davis honorably resign her office now that her job duties are causing such a crisis with her conscience?
The heightened awareness of workplace religious conflicts is bound to be cable news fodder for the foreseeable future as the Republican presidential contenders try to outmaneuver each other in search of primary voters who feel religiously persecuted. But a few have struck a more practical, long-term view, no doubt worried that more rational voters might be alienated by the spectacle.
Somehow the treasured American value of freedom to practice the religion of your choice, in your own way and on your own time, has been transformed into workplace demands to accommodate particular religious views, especially if they are Christian.
It almost makes you empathize with the business owner muttering in the background about wanting their employees to just do their jobs.