Muzzling Freedom of Religious Expression

Vacation Bible School

In 2001, the city of El Cajon, California, ordered the Foothills Christian Fellowship to take down its banner advertising summer Vacation Bible School because it didn't have a special permit, yet allowed the display of other temporary banners throughout the city without requiring any special permits. The only three citations given for violations of the ordinance were against Vacation Bible School banners. "The City of El Cajon is quickly deserving a reputation of outright hostile discrimination towards local ministries," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which undertook the legal case for the school.

Discrimination in the Workplace

A social worker wanted to use part of his lunchtime break to hold prayer meetings in an empty conference room at his office at the Tehema County Department of Social Services in Red Bluff, California. His superiors not only denied him permission, they also instructed him verbally and in writing not to have his Bible and other items of faith in public view at his cubicle. Further, he was asked not to discuss his religion in the workplace. It's important to note that the department imposed no similar restrictions for non-religious activities or expressions, and it repeatedly permitted other employees to hold non-work-related meetings and events at its offices. The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) argued that the county social services had violated the worker's rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides that employers may not discriminate against employees on the basis of their religion. "When the County allows other employees to hold birthday parties, baby showers, card games, and other non-work-related meetings to take place in the workplace," said PJI in a press release, "it must allow employees wishing to pray together a place to meet as well. Forbidding the latter amounts to religious discrimination that cannot be tolerated."

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