Friday, May 12, 2006

Deliver us from prayer

A few years ago, I wrote an article in Liberty magazine on the civil liberties implications of the concept of a "hostile environment" in discrimination law. Most of us are familiar with this in the context of sex discrimination. A woman will claim that she was discriminated against not because she was denied a job or paid less, but because the employer allowed the workplace to become an environment that is difficult for a woman to be in, e.g., sexually explicit bantering, pornographic photos on the lockers, etc.

There is nothing, however, that limits this concept to gender or to employment. The law prohibits discrimination on other bases and in other places such as public accommodations, a term that applies, essentially, to facilities held open to the public like restaurants, hotels, etc. Thus, there have been questions regarding whether employers who allow employees to decorate their workspaces may allow religious articles or whether bars can host events and have decor that someone may find offensive on the basis of race, religion, etc. There was even a law review article suggesting that the allowing the Washington Redskins to use a public stadium was unlawful discrimination.

So now (via the Religion Clause Blog, some apartment buildings have felt compelled to prohibit residents from conducting prayer services in common areas. But if they do while making common areas available for other purposes, they run the risk of being sued for religious discrimination.

Once again, this idea that we all have a right to be comfortable which entails never being confronted with views we disagree with or reminders that we are in a minority is just hopeless.

3 comments:

Dad29 said...

This also will apply to workplace conversation about queer "marriage," as Maggie Gallagher made clear this week.

jp said...

Who should decide what is excessively uncomfortable or disagreeable?

Anonymous said...

The following website summarizes approximately 150 lawsuits, formal complaints, etc filed by Jehovah's Witness EMPLOYEES, who claimed religious discrimination:

EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES

http://jwemployees.bravehost.com/