Freedom of Thought

No one should be afra⁠i⁠d of workplace d⁠i⁠scr⁠i⁠m⁠i⁠na⁠t⁠⁠i⁠on for l⁠i⁠v⁠i⁠ng ou⁠t⁠ ⁠t⁠he⁠i⁠r fa⁠i⁠⁠t⁠h

August 17, 2023

No one should be afraid of workplace discrimination for living out their faith

Freedom of Thought

August 17, 2023

In America, most states have laws that protect people from being discriminated against in the workplace for things like their race, gender or religion. Still, far too many Americans are afraid to live their faith openly because they fear retaliation at work. 

A recent survey found that three in five Americans are afraid to share their personal religious and political views – even outside of the workplace on their own time – because they’re afraid of “negative consequences at work.” They have reason to worry. A quarter of Americans say they personally know someone who has experienced this discrimination, even when expressing themselves respectfully, and 63% of private companies have used the power of their brands or finances to roll back protections for free speech and religious liberty. These companies are especially hostile to religion with nearly 80% of them having policies in place that prevent or threaten to prevent employees from donating to religious charities.

That is unacceptable. It’s time to expand non-discrimination laws for religious citizens in civil rights acts as well as in employment, housing and education law to ensure accommodations for religious faith.

This can play out in a variety of ways. In 2015, a Muslim teenager named Samantha Elauf was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch because she refused to remove her headscarf. While it was in violation of the company’s dress code to wear the scarf, it would have violated her own religious beliefs to remove it. Her fight for a very reasonable religious accommodation went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Justice Antonin Scalia said it was “really easy” to determine she had the right to practice her religion in that way.

No one should have to go to the Supreme Court to be able to live according to their faith. The Civil Rights Act already protects employees against discrimination due to gender, sex and race.  We believe religion should be protected in the same way. That won’t require any new laws, simply updating those already on the books. 

Every American deserves to be able to participate in society – and in the public square. Requiring government agencies to adopt reasonable accommodation guidelines for religious employees and members of the public would be a great step toward making that a reality. However, private employers will also have to do their part by adopting policies that protect religion and speech inside and outside the workplace. 

Faith is an integral part of life for many Americans, and asking them to hide that will only end up hurting us all. Because without free and thoughtful conversation, we cannot learn from and come to understand each other. It is then that we find ourselves divided.