We should allow religious discrimination in the workplace

This might seem to be a fairly odd position coming from a non-believer with strict SoCaS values. But I’m also a believer in private rights, and after thinking over the issue carefully, I believe that the laws and priorities are misplaced and counter-productive.

To start with the simplest example, there are a number of evangelical business models in which the business itself involves prayer and Christian communion. Customers are free to avoid this approach. But employers can’t discriminate in their hiring: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination by employers with 15 or more workers. Under Title VII, employers: “May not treat employees or job applicants more or less favorably because of their religious beliefs.” It’s not at all clear why 15 or more workers should be relevant to anything (difference between family and business perhaps?) but the point is that if a bank wants to make prayer part of its services, it should be able to. Currently, such businesses have to sort of rely on the hope that non-Christians won’t want the job they offer. But if they do, they are basically stuck with not being to do what they want to do, not being able to say “sorry, but only Christians make sense here” or trying to make the person’s life unpleasant: which is also illegal. If a boss wants to make prayer meetings mandatory among his employees, that’s the sort of business he should be able to run. But current law makes this very difficult, and is very suspicious of it.

As a non-believer, I can’t see myself being treated favorably in a business run by a evangelical Christian. But the fact is, if he doesn’t want me there, I don’t have a right to my job. And if the requirements of my job include religious meetings and evangelism, it shouldn’t be up to my hard-headedness over whether I’m out the door or not.

I’m sure many will disagree with me, even most evangelical Christians! But at the very least, I think the issue is worth taking a careful, nuanced look at. It’s a truly difficult one in our society.

Ah, but you’d go down a slippery slope with that line of thinking.

“If a boss wants to sleep with his employees, that’s the sort of business he should be able to run. But current law makes this very difficult, and is very suspicious of it.”

Anyway, an employee can quit, an employer can fire an employee - or can hire someone else. There are enough ways to resolve this, and the employer is actually in a better situation. Why worry about them?

Why stop there? What if a boss only wants to hire white people? Only men? Only people above 5’8? And hell, if the non-white/female/short people don’t like it, then they can always get a job somewhere else, because we’re just so overloaded with jobs in America. You can’t walk down the street without tripping over a job offer.

Religious institutions are free to discriminate in job hiring, which is why you only see Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis, and why those people all tend to be fairly zealous about their faith. But you’re never going to convince me that mandatory prayer should be part of the practices of a BANK. Anti-discrimination laws are set up to help the people who would be, well, discriminated against. What if a bank didn’t want to hire any handicapped people, because the boss wanted all his employees to run a mandatory five-mile race every day? How is this any different from not wanting to hire the non-religious (or different-from-the-boss religious) because the boss likes to spend his lunch hour praying and thinks everyone else should too?

Seriously, is this a devil’s advocate thread?

Just because the business is owned by the owner (I know, that sounds funny), doesn’t mean the owner is the only person with skin in the game.

Our government supports the business in many, many ways, and in turn our government is supported by individual tax payers and businesses.

Because of this, it makes sense that the law takes into account more than just the position of the owner.

I also think the “slippery slope” is valid here. While your point is good, it is counterweighted by the bad that would come along with it. The civil rights acts restrict some freedom to allow more freedom. If you don’t like the company, or know that they are heavily based on a religion, then don’t apply there. shrugs I can’t see a way around it.

Apos: I’m in the same boat with you. Nonbeliever here, who thinks people should be able to hire whomever they want for whaterver reason. I think it would be a silly business practice in almost all instances, but I don’t think the government should stop people from doing stupid things. We shouldn’t allow the government to do it, but private individuals should be able to do what they want.

So you’d be for legalizing discrimination based on ethnicity or race?

In the private sphere, I’d favor legalizing discrimination based on anything, race included. It’s a pretty standard libertarian position. IIRC, Apos is pretty much of a libertarian, so I’m a bit surprised why he seems somewhat reluctant to take the position he did in the OP.

Completely agree with John Mace here.

A question for the OP and John: How do you feel about Title II of the same act? If differently, why?

John Mace: * Nonbeliever here, who thinks people should be able to hire whomever they want for whaterver reason. I think it would be a silly business practice in almost all instances, but I don’t think the government should stop people from doing stupid things. We shouldn’t allow the government to do it, but private individuals should be able to do what they want.*

As I understand it, though, commercial transactions are treated differently from purely private ones, because commercial activities are encouraged and fostered by the government partly for public benefit.

That is, the government has no business telling you not to discriminate on religious or racial or whatever grounds when it comes to your choice of a marriage partner or a personal friend or a spiritual advisor, say. Those situations truly are individual, private, and personal decisions, where your individual right to autonomy outweighs the public interest in opposing discrimination.

But when it comes to discriminating against customers or employees in your business—business that partly depends on the public roadways and public airwaves and other forms of public support for businesses whose ultimate justification from the public’s point of view is supposedly that they’re serving the public—then I think the public has a legitimate say in the way that you treat members of the public.

“I don’t think the government should stop people from doing stupid things” is IMHO a suicidally, insanely laissez-faire approach to take to the problem of individual rights and government regulation. Certainly, I agree that the government shouldn’t always stop people from doing stupid things. And I think that there are certain personal realms where we should guard our right to practice stupidity, free from government interference, very fiercely.

However, I think there are also a hell of a lot of stupid things that the government does have a legitimate claim to stop people from doing, and I think enshrining bigotry and discrimination in public commerce is one of them.

Say this happens, and all the business owners in a small Southern county decided they were only going to hire whites. (Aside: not saying all Southerners are racists, but come on, it would be most likely to happen there.) There are no minority business owners in that county. What are all the non-white workers going to do, if they don’t have the resources to leave? (Which they wouldn’t, if they couldn’t get a job to save up money to move somewhere else.)

Oh… you’re a libertarian. Then letting people rot away from hunger is just dandy to you.

Eh, that’s harsh, c_e. No, IME libertarians do not consider it “dandy” when a laissez-faire libertarian system allows the prejudices and irrationality of some individuals to damage the well-being of others and the overall efficiency and prosperity of the society.

It’s just that their belief that the property rights of the individual are always paramount locks them into accepting the possibility of such outcomes as preferable to permitting any government regulation.

This is a counterproductive moral dilemma that should make us non-libertarians grateful that we don’t have to be trapped in it, but IMO it shouldn’t lead us to condemn individual libertarians as fundamentally immoral.

As long as they have the choice! :rolleyes:

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I prefer a “vision” of mine, in which we cut through the bullshit, and people are hired or fired according to competence and willingness to work. Some things, to my way of thinking are simply none of the boss’s business. He pays you to do a job. He is not paying you to go to his church, or belong to his country club etc. If he is, then you are on the job 24 hours a day, not 8. So, he better be willing to triple your pay and fork over for the other 16 hours. Otherwise, what happens if the boss doesn’t like blacks, Jews, left handed people, tall people, short people, or whatever?

That’d be nice, and that is pretty much how it is today.

We step into the Way Back Machine and go to 1905

Then they’re dicks. But they aren’t obligated to supply jobs to anyone.

If it is a moral imperative that these poor discriminated people that can’t move be supplied with the resources to move, or supplied with jobs, then that moral imperative CANNOT fall solely on the racist business owner. If you think that it is MORAL that they have jobs, then it applies equally well to you as to anyone else. If it is a right, then at least let the government tax everyone equally and pay for it that way instead inexplicably of putting the full burden on the business owner to make it happen. Moral duties CANNOT apply just to single people, and ensuring general, positive rights are a collective, not a singular, duty.

The main reason I’m reluctant is that a) the outcomes would be unfortunate and b) I’m not a committed libertarian. Personally, I don’t think there is a legitimate account of the origin of ownership, and without that, libertarianism basically becomes a set of rules ready-made to benefit those that happened to be on top of the coercion game when the rules came down the pike. The powerful don’t much worry about laws against sleeping under bridges, and such. But this is an issue for another thread, not this one.

Unless I’m mistaken, bosses are currently free to discriminate against left handed people, short people, tall people, people with tatoos, people without tatoos, and people with the wrong political opinions. Most employers don’t, obviously, but there is nothing in federal or state law preventing them from doing so, as far as I’m aware.

It also seems to me (though I’m acting as devil’s advocate here; I’m not convinced the OP is correct) that a reasonable case can be made for some bussinesses engaging in religious discrimination. Can a kosher or halal deli require its employees be Jewish or Muslim? Can a Christian bookstore require its employees believe in what they sell? Can a private pastoral counceling practice require it’s pastoral councelors subscribe to a belief system? Suppose there is a market (and there probably is) for investment advice obtained by sprinking goat entrails over the pages of the Wall Street Journal while reciting ancient Druidic chants. Can I require that the financial advisors I hire to staff my new venture at least claim to believe this practice works? Can I require them to be Druidic priests?

I have no idea which (if any) of the above forms of religious discrimination are currently allowable under federal and state laws, but I don’t find any of them obviously worse than a temple requiring its rabbi be Jewish.

Businesses also pay for those public roadways and should be able to use them irregardless of their hiring practices.

Why does it change when I want to hire someone to help run my shop? Starting a business is as much a private matter as getting married. I shouldn’t have to associate with any of the various groups in our society if I don’t want to just becuase I started selling widgets.

Public resources are a different story. I have no problems with forcing companies who use public resources to not discriminate in hiring practices. The same with mandating government agencies not discriminate along with companies that recieve government contracts.

If there is a systematic problem in discriminatory hiring I don’t have objections to to a protection law. At this point in our country I am not sure if there are any groups that are being systematically discriminated against. I am sure gays are the front runners but I would have to see numbers before I decided. The problem with these laws is that they require companies to go to great lengths to document reasons for firing lest they find themself the target of a discrimination suit. Not to mention the frivilous ones employees would file to try and get a few bucks or for revenge.