Faith in the workplace

One of those places where religious freedom gets a little sticky is in how much an employer should be required to accommodate the religious practices of employees.
What about religious dress, asking someone to provide a service they consider unethical, or granting time off for scheduled prayers or holy days?
Those issues are being addressed as Congress considers the Workplace Religious Freedom Act once again.
The debate ultimately comes down to what is “reasonable” accommodation.
My childhood friend Steve was a Seventh-Day Adventist. When we went to work together in high school, washing dishes at the Days Inn restaurant, the accommodation was handled well.
He washed on Sundays and I washed on Saturdays (his Sabbath). But the growing religious pluralism makes workplace accommodation more challenging.
Aside from genuine concerns, some people could come up with all kinds of religious prohibitions to get out of work or certain kinds of work.
In fact, I remember another friend who was eager to miss our kitchen duty to go camping. As he stewed over his appeal to our boss, he wondered aloud: “Have I already used the dead grandmother story twice?”


  1. John: Wanted to speak to you and Warm Springs Bob both in one shot here.
    I continue to hold in the average mind all these issues get confused by good people in one fog from what they see as the culture’s assault on a value system, that while not perfect, at least held things together for them and they hope will hold for their children.
    One of the most articulate and “sensible” assertions of that is the late 90’s collection of essays by the Pulitzer Prize Winner Marilyn Robinson; her collection The Death of Adam.
    Her essay on Prigs and Puritans should be enough of a tease for you and the Mercer Community as well as Cartledge and Campbell.
    And just yesterday at the Newsweek religion blog a secularist was lamenting why her audience recently when she left NYC for a church related college in the heartland was only 75, while Campus Crusade in same time slot drew 700.
    I know you are a busy fellow, but the sooner you could make time for Robinson’s essays, the wiser you will be.
    That is a compliment of a sort; as I have been convinced for some time Bonson Barnes would salute your venture in carrying on a grand tradition.
    I commend it to our friend in Warm Springs. FDR would be proud of him for reading it.

  2. The article referenced quotes a Seventh Day Adventist, James Standish, as saying:

    “If we raise our daughters to be Seventh-Day Adventists….how can we know they won’t be discriminated against?”

    The constitution doesn’t qaurantee that I won’t be discriminated against for practicing my religion. It guarantees that the government will not compel me to participate in any religion against my will nor deny me the right to practice my religion.

    This act is just another attempt by the federal government to intrude where it has no business.

    Mark Ogatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  3. Well said. WRFA is not the answer to the problems we have incorporating free expression into the workplace, while also insulating the employer from the workplace becoming a sanctuary. IMHO, the ’64 Civil Rights Act speaks well enough to accomodate & protect. As society moves along, there will be more questions of integration. Let’s hope the Congress doesn’t begin to put faith under the microscope again.

  4. I want to reiterate my endorsement of Marilynne Robinson. I reread her essay The Tyranny of Petty Coercion last night and feel even stronger this essay can help all the folks I listed in my first comment.
    Not only me, but she comes with the recommend of Fisher Humphreys and his wife Caroline (Charles Marsh’s aunt) and Samford Proff of the year Rod Davis.
    I am having an intense conversation about Hillary and Obama and all the aspects thereof with some friends. I promised them a tip on Marilynne at this blog as the last two in particular are particularly noteworthy.

    On a side note, I don’t think my friend Baptist aint right will mind me outing him as a signer of the Memphis Declaration.
    Point being, thinking Baps like David Gushee, Ben Cole and now Ryan Hale are coming around.
    Even Adrian Rogers son David appears to be lighting up on inerrancy a little with his enchantment with the Lausanne Covenant.
    I’m drifting; do read Robinson asap.

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