Religious Accommodations for All?

Our double standards became evident a few weeks ago as social media raged against the Pope for visiting Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk while simultaneously raging against suspension of Charee Stanley, a Muslim flight attendant for ExpressJet. Do we want religious accommodations only for those with whom we agree? Religious liberty only if it’s my religion?

As my daughter was growing up, I taught her the phrase “truth is in the middle.” Now she has coined the phrase, “ode to complexity” which is her better way of saying the same thing I was trying to articulate . Amidst the complex, difficult things to solve in life, she and I believe we must offer each other listening ears. Both sides of the story have something to say. Both sides are our neighbor.

In early September, Stanley was suspended from her job for one year because she sought an accommodation to her faith. As a Muslim, her faith requires she not serve alcohol. Quoted in USA Today, Lena Masri, an attorney with the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said no one “should have to choose between their career and religion. Employers must…provide a safe environment where employees can feel they can practice their religion freely.”[1]

What does that mean for Kim Davis? She is an elected public official, yes, but can she too experience a safe environment and practice her religious belief? I do not agree with Kim Davis’ beliefs or theology. I believe God loves all people and all people should be allowed to enter into marriage. But I cannot support reasonable accommodation for Charee and not for Kim.

According to the Department of Labor, “Title VII requires federal agencies to reasonably accommodate employees whose sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances conflict with work requirements, unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship.” The Department of Labor also defines the need for religious accommodation occurring when “an individual’s religious beliefs, observances or practices conflict with a specific task or requirement of the position or an application process.”[2] Sounds like Kim Davis to me.

We live in a culture full of deeply divisive rhetoric. Do you want your children to learn to be quick with a retort? Not able to consider alternative viewpoints? To treat people differently? Douglas Laycock, one of the nation’s leading authorities on law of remedies and religious liberties says “The only way we can have the rights of all Americans protected is to seriously consider the objections of both sides. Each side thinks the other’s concerns count for zero. They both have to count.”[3]

I think we want a life better than constant bickering producing little results. I am asking you to consider if you are quick with a retort. I’m asking you to check yourself, to slow down. Consider the other side before you add to the flame. This does not mean we should not stand up with courage for our convictions. It means we need to self-examine. When would you want a reasonable accommodation for your religious belief? When someone is different than you, or believes differently than you, are you willing to offer the same accommodations that you want? Do you want your elected officials to heed their moral conscience? After you reflect, write your elected officials and ask them to check themselves.

Make this your ode to complexity. Make it your journey to finding the truth that is in the middle. Make it your love of all neighbors, even the ones you don’t like and with whom you disagree.