FRC reaction to Clinton's religious freedom workplace guidelines
Samuel Martin Ventola
samuelv at IX.NETCOM.COM
Fri Aug 15 10:22:35 PDT 1997
I pass along without comment the following PR Newswire story on the
Family Research Council's reaction to President Clinton's federal
workplace religious freedome guidelines.
Does anyone know where one could get the Clinton guidelines themselves?
FRC/ Guidelines for Federal Workplace Could Muddy the Waters for
Source: PR Newswire
WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 /PRNewswire/ via Individual Inc. -- President
Clinton's introduction Thursday of new guidelines on religious freedom
in the federal workplace "should clear up some current misconceptions
about our religious freedom, but may also raise more questions," Family
Research Council Legal Policy Director Cathy A. Cleaver said Thursday.
"The guidelines also are unenforceable, and it would be tragic to see
them used to squelch further efforts to provide real protection of
Official discrimination in the workplace often results from an
ignorance or misunderstanding of the law, and the new "Guidelines on
Religious Exercise and Expression in the Federal Workplace" represent
an attempt to educate people about federal employees' religious freedom
rights and dispel some harmful misconceptions. Nevertheless, while the
guidelines clarify many of the misunderstood rights and protections
under the First Amendment religion clauses, their problematic wording
could actually work to water down these rights in practical effect.
For example, the guidelines state: "So long as they do not convey any
governmental endorsement of religion, religious messages may not
typically (italics added) be singled out for suppression." And, with
regard to the wearing of jewelry and religious medallions, they state,
"typically, (italics added) these expressions are personal and do not
alone (italics added) constitute religious harassment."
"What would an 'atypical' religious message be? What about when someone
wears a cross and has a bible on his desk -- would that constitute
'religious harassment?' The guidelines leave much room for
discrimination based on the employer's judgment," Cleaver said.
As to employee interaction, the guidelines admit that employees may
urge a colleague to participate in religious activities, "but ( ) must
refrain from such expression when a fellow employee ... demonstrates
that it is unwelcome," thus placing the employer in the role of
"protecting" one employee from being "bothered" by the religious
expression of another. "With decision-making authority given to the
employer and no real enforcement mechanism, the guidelines could be
cited as authority to restrict religious freedom," Cleaver said.
"Federal departments and agencies may abide by the provisions of the
guidelines, but what if they don't?" Cleaver continued. "Let's say a
federal agency forbids an employee from wearing a crucifix around his
neck on the grounds that he is somehow harassing his coworkers. To
whom can the employee complain? The agency's general counsel. In other
words, the employee's only recourse for a violation by his employer is
to complain to his employer."
FRC will be sending communication to the Administration raising their
concerns and seeking clarification.
SOURCE Family Research Council
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