May 9, 2011

Is prohibiting religious beliefs within the workspace considered discrimination?

I glimpsed a TV show today tittled "What Would You Do?"  and basically what they do is that they cause different scenarios, and they are capturing different people's reactions on what they were seeing. The episode I watched today involves some applicants being interviewed for a job in a restaurant, only not being accepted because they were wearing something that their religion is prohibiting them to be unworn. So, is that discrimination? Here's my take.

First of all, the Federal law thinks that this is discrimination. According to Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act, it is illigal to discriminate individuals on their association with particular race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Employers are "prohibited from treating applicants or employees differently based on their religious beliefs or practices." The TV show quotes.

 Unlike with the other things listed above, no one is born with a religion. You might think a Christian couple will automatically have a Christian child but that is simply wrong. A person will establish his/her religion when he/she is old enough to realize what he/she believes in. Yes, it is often that what his/her religion will be what his/her parents' religion is, but a person's religion can always change. It can be a choice, or in my case, as an atheist, it is a realization.

I also think that these religious "beliefs and practices" has contributed a lot to slow down the progress or innovation of the entire human race. Take evolution for example. A lot of people have still not accepted this scientific fact because it wouldn't fit with their beliefs. Churches in my home country also prohibits the use of contraception to eliminate the problem of overpopulation. These examples of beliefs and practices do not solve anything. In fact, they cause problems. In our case today, they hinder the opportunity of an individual for being accepted into a job.

So on the TV show there is this woman who is applying for a job in a restaurant. She wears a "Hijab" which is a headgear that covers her head, and removing so would be against her religion. The employer said that she couldn't work there if she didn't remove the attire. I mean it is a little thing. It's just a head dress. I wouldn't be scared or offended if I see someone wearing it and serving my food.

But what if the job requires modeling, for example. What if that woman needs to model different dresses? She can't possibly still wearing her head dress right? So is it still discrimination for an employer to not accept her?

I think it is not a discrimination. See, unlike sex, color, race, or national origin, religious practices are easy to be changed. Changing your sex, color, race, or national origin would cost you a lot of time and money if you ever wish to change them. But for religion, changing it is the easiest on the list. It also doesn't cost you anything, and you will end up earning money because you got accepted to a job because you are willing to discontinue a religious practice.

So yeah. I think of religious practices as bad habits. For example, you have a bad habit of drinking, thus not qualifying you to any jobs. If you discontinue drinking, you will get qualified.

That sounds just fine, right? But why a woman wearing a hijab that can't get any jobs sounds otherwise? A woman on the TV show said, "What if a religion's practice is to dress naked? Is it discrimination to not accept that person?"

PS: Like many other blog posts from the past, I couldn't get this one to work properly. I have deleted many paragraphs. I don't know. Something is not working for me today.

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