Corporations Cannot Impose Religious Beliefs on Workers

This letter appeared in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on April 1, 2014.

Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

In his March 28 column, "Is religion starting to rule nation," Kingsley Guy demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of religious liberty in America.

The constitutionally mandated separation of church and state effectuated by the Constitution's Establishment and Free Exercise clauses provides all Americans and their religious institutions with the right to practice the faith of their choosing. However, the Founding Fathers never intended these protections as a sword to impose religious beliefs on others.

According to Guy, when a person conducts for-profit business in our pluralistic society, they should be able to deny service based on religion. This means that a Christian business owner could deny service justbecause a customer is a Jew, Hindu, Mormon or Muslim who engages in a practice objectionable to Christians. A Muslim or Mormon taxi driver could refuse to drive a person carrying a bottle of wine. Or a Hassidic Jewish store owner could refuse to serve an "immodestly" dressed female customer.

When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, the phrase "contraception mandate" is a misnomer. If they disagree with the provision, employers can opt to pay a modest tax that is often cheaper than comprehensive health insurance.

But Guy believes that owners of for-profit corporations can impose their religious beliefs on diverse workforces. Since health insurance is employee compensation, should owners also be able to prohibit workers from buying contraception with their paychecks?

Religious freedom and equality for all are two of America's most important rights. In the marketplace, however, religion cannot be used as a license to deny the civil rights of others.


David Barkey 
National Religious Freedom Counsel 

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