June 09, 2004
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) warns of a bill sponsored by Rick "the frothy mixture" Santorum that would expand the scope of accomodations employers, public and private, must make to the religious practices of employees. The text of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act makes it sound as though it's mostly about religous clothing or taking off religious holidays, but the ACLU worries its vague wording would force employers to countenance proselytizing on the job or even employee refusal to work with gay or female clients or colleagues.
Interesting side note: Santorum's joined in sponsoring this one by Senators Clinton and John Kerry (the sponsor of a previous version of the bill in the late 90s).
Just the facts MA'am.
http://www.americanhumanist.org/press/a ... aWRFA.html
Sens. Kerry, Santorum reintroduce Workplace Religious Freedom Act
March 18, 2005
(ABP and staff reports) – Congressional supporters of religious freedom will try once again with an employees' religious rights bill they have been trying to get passed for more than eight years.
At a Capitol press conference March 17, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Rick Santorum, R-Pa., announced they had reintroduced the Workplace Religious Freedom Act. Kerry has introduced a version of the bill in every Congress since 1996.
"No American should have to choose between practicing their faith and working at their job," Kerry told reporters.
"This is an attempt to balance the scales," Santorum said of the legislation. "This is not a bill that attempts to elevate religion over all other rights; it simply is an accommodation."
In an April 7 speech at the annual religious liberty banquet of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., a co-sponsor of the bill, spoke passionately about the need to protect employees' religious rights in the United States.
"From my perspective, religious liberty is one of the most important issues on the world stage today," Clinton said. "Our nation has been, I would argue, the exemplar of religious freedom and tolerance amongst a diverse people."
Clinton said maintaining that tradition is what has inspired her to support the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, as she has in every session of Congress since she joined the Senate in 2001.
WRFA would place a greater legal burden on employers to prove they have good reasons when infringing on an employee's expression of religious faith – such as refusing to work on the Sabbath or wearing religious garb or jewelry in the workplace.
Supporters of WRFA believe that federal civil rights laws, as written, were intended to provide such a legal standard of protection for employees, but that court decisions have eroded it. Now, employers only have to prove that the business would incur minimal inconvenience or financial burdens by accommodating an employee's religious expression in order to deny such an accommodation.
The bill is supported by a wide array of religious and civil rights organizations, including the Baptist Joint Committee, the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the American Jewish Committee and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations.
Kerry, when asked by a reporter if his sponsorship of the bill was part of the campaign to make Democrats look more faith-friendly, laughed. "Look, I started this years ago," he said. "I believe in this because I have constituents – two Catholic ladies who lost their jobs because they wouldn't work on Christmas – and I said, you know, 'What's going on?'"
Bill supporter Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., backed Kerry up, saying the support for WRFA was a "rare kind of bipartisan moment."
Souder noted that when the bill was originally introduced in the House, there were more Democrats who co-sponsored it than Republicans. He also said WRFA may face more opposition on his side of the aisle than the Democrats' because of his ideological cohorts' employer-friendliness.
"We have to work on the Republican side as well, if not a little harder," Souder said. "There, we may face some business opposition."
The Senate version of the bill is S. 677. The House version is H.R. 1445