Friday, April 26, 2013

Job Discrimination and Religion

Just last week we were discussing how much government should or should not interfere with private businesses. Of course we all expect the government, the representatives of our community, to uphold laws that protect each citizen and that treats everyone equally and justly. However, what does that mean when we ask private and religious business to do things that conflict with their religious morals?

Carla Hale, a physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Clintonville, Ohio got fired after her name appeared in her partner’s obituary. Mind you, Hale’s partner had just died and then she got fired from her job after working there for 19 years. The media spread this story quickly, and then the district finally released a statement saying that Hale was not fired for being “gay” she was fired because “her relationship was publicized in the newspaper.”

Before I go on I’m going to try to unpack that last part of that statement because I am confused by it. Does this mean that their employees can be LGBTQ+ identified but are not allowed to be out, even in something as intimate as her partner’s obituary? Don’t Ask Don’t Tell much? Or, if she didn’t get fired for being gay does that mean that if this had happened to a heterosexual couple the consequences would have been the same? I don’t think so.

To what level are we allowed to be ourselves and have dignity?

It seems to me that some governmental agencies and some private businesses, like the military, have taken some steps to stop discrimination against LGBTQ identified people but our government has taken little to no steps to stop employment discrimination overall.

This week the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was introduced to congress once again, but according to John Gallagher’s article on Queerty the ENDA bill seems to be dead already. There is very small support for the bill. Fortunately this bill does mention protection for transgender people, however, as Gallagher put it, “It has a religious exemption large enough to drive a truck through.”

We constantly hear in the media and around us that LGBTQ rights somehow abridge someone else’s religious freedom. How is this even a thing? How can we possibly allow discrimination to happen as long as it’s done in the name of religion? When do we ever get to make that choice about anything else other than sexual orientation and gender expression? Couldn’t the same be done to people with different religious beliefs? A Muslim won’t hire a Christian because the Muslim does not approve of the Christian lifestyle? Actually no, this can’t legally happen, because discriminating a person with different religious beliefs is prohibited. Can the same be done to women? Can an employer choose to not hire a woman because he believes women should be housewives?

Why should the government pick and choose what type of discrimination is okay? How is what happened to Carla Hale ever be okay? Apparently in this country the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” only applies to economics and not people’s lives. 

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