October 22, 2014 · 28 Tishrei

Join Us

Key Topics

Give

Statement by Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, on the Workplace Religious Freedom Act
Rabbi Saperstein gave the following statement at a Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) Press Conference noting, "The Workplace Religious Freedom Act will restore the original intent of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requiring employers to “reasonably accommodate” the religious practices of employees insofar as doing so does not impose an “undue burden” upon the employer."

March 17, 2005
Press Conference
U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC

Contact: Alexis Rice or Eric Gold

202.387.2800

Today we celebrate the reintroduction of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA). This vital legislation would protect religious expression by requiring employers to accommodate the religious needs of employees. Stories of Jews being fired for refusing to work on the Sabbath, Muslim women losing their jobs over their request to wear a head-scarf, and Sikh-Americans being fired for wearing turbans are regrettably all too common in our society. 

Today, however, due to a narrow interpretation of the current law by the United States Supreme Court that ignored the clear intent of Congress, religiously observant employees too often are forced to make needlessly wrenching decisions about their religious beliefs in order to accommodate their employers.  The Workplace Religious Freedom Act will restore the original intent of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requiring employers to “reasonably accommodate” the religious practices of employees insofar as doing so does not impose an “undue burden” upon the employer.

Some of our friends and coalition partners in the civil liberties and civil rights community have raised concerns that the passage of WRFA will be a refuge for discriminatory actions and unwelcome proselytizing in the workplace under the auspices of abiding by one’s religious principles.

We hear those concerns and we understand them. But, in the main, these fears, although based on concerns about critical issues on which we share their views, are misplaced. Where legitimate concerns exist, the legislative process through which WRFA will move, allows for such concerns to be addressed. 

Most importantly, as a representative of American Reform Jewry,  long-time defenders of these same civil rights and liberties claimed to be put in jeopardy by this bill, I believe that WRFA itself provides a solid framework in which to address these concerns.  It does not resolve claims but requires a balancing test between valid interests.  This is not just a theoretical hope since we already have a test run with the state of New York (as religiously a diverse state as one can find), which passed a law modeled after WRFA. In the words of NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, “New York’s law has not resulted in the infringement of the rights of others, or in the additional litigation that the [critics] predict will occur if WRFA is enacted.”

WRFA has broad support from Republicans and Democrats in addition to support from all strands of the American faith community. Today I stand here alongside a coalition of faith groups including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Gobind Sikh Society, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the National Council of Churches and the Southern Baptist Convention to say that it is time for Congress to incorporate these vital religious protections into law through the passage of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act.

We applaud Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and John Kerry (D-MA) and Representatives Mark Souder (R-IN) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) for their leadership on this issue. Let us work together to ensure that we see the fruits of our labor during this Congressional session. We urge every Member of Congress to support this effort to protect religious freedom in the workplace.


###

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.



Chai Impact Action Center
Take action on these top issues!

 

 
Travel Justly, Social Action Prayers, Program Bank, Holiday Guides Travel Justly Social Action Prayers Social Action Program Bank Holiday Guides
© Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, 1996-2013
View our Privacy Statement
URJ CCAR