November 13, 2005


Test of faith: A bill to protect religious freedom in the workplace gives Democrats a chance to change their image. But first they’ll have to agree it’s a good idea. (Amy Sullivan, November 13, 2005, Boston Globe)

ONE OF THE enduring mysteries of the 2004 presidential race is why John Kerry failed to highlight, or even mention, one of his major Senate initiatives: legislation to protect the rights of religious individuals in the workplace. Kerry first introduced the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, or WRFA, in 1996-long before the Democratic Party started to worry about ''values'' voters-after two of his Catholic constituents were fired from their jobs because they refused to work on Christmas Eve. [...]

Now, WRFA is back-and gaining momentum. On Thursday, a House subcommittee held a hearing on the legislation for the first time in the bill's almost decade-long history, an indication of the renewed enthusiasm for WRFA on the part of its congressional sponsors, which now include other unusual pairings such as Republican Senator Sam Brownback and Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton. Santorum is trailing badly in his 2006 reelection campaign, and could use a win on a bill that reaffirms his appeal to religious conservatives. For his part, Kerry-who told the Globe after the 2004 campaign that one of the main lessons he had learned was the need to reach out to religious voters-is no longer reluctant to promote the bill.

There's just one problem. This time, the primary opposition to WRFA comes not from conservatives, but from liberals. After raising no objections during the first eight years of the bill's life, abortion rights and gay rights organizations are now pressuring congressional Democrats to oppose the bill, and they're having some success. Their involvement creates the first serious showdown between those Democrats who want to reach out to religious voters and the advocacy groups that have traditionally been among the party's strongest supporters.

If Democrats do come out en masse against the legislation, it will be an odd ending to a year in which they have struggled to gain some footing in the area of faith and values. After the 2004 election, the Democratic Party had a ''come to Jesus'' moment. Party leaders realized that they had been ignoring religious voters, allowing Republicans to corner the market. They resolved to change this, and in the past year have hired a religious outreach coordinator for the Democratic National Committee, placed religion consultants on campaign staffs, held caucus meetings on the topic, and tried to inject religious rhetoric into their messages.

Even so, a late-August poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the percentage of American voters who think the Democratic party is ''friendly'' to religion has actually dropped significantly over the past year-from 42 and 40 percent in 2003 and 2004, respectively, to just 29 percent in 2005.

This is how you figure out what parties truly care about. The GOP is willing to force a regulation on its business allies because the faithful support it. The Democrats are, for the only time in human memory, unwilling to impose upon their business enemies because the heathen are opposed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 13, 2005 9:56 AM

Howard Dean reacted like a vampire to a garlic-covered crucifix Sunday morning on "Meet the Press" when questioned about the Democrats' apparent aversion to faith and values. He rambled on and on about the values part with talking points like the Republicans are trying to cut school lunches, but tried to turn Russert's mention of Jesus into an affront to Jews and attempted to brush aside the idea that values had any connection at all to religion.

Posted by: John at November 13, 2005 11:34 AM

People who want religion in the work place must realize that this is designed for Muslims who will need two chapels, one for men and one for women, where they can prostrate themselves pray five times a day as will schools who institute this ridiculous idea.

The devote can pray silently anywhere at all. They need no special license or directive, so why this initiative?

Posted by: erp at November 13, 2005 12:04 PM

Because faith is central to life.

Posted by: oj at November 13, 2005 1:27 PM

The proposed law will also protect the rights of Wiccans not to work on Halloween. The law is dangerous because the First Amendment is understood to prohibit the courts from deciding whether a proposed religious tenet is valid. All they can decide is whether the belief is sincere. Lots of Americans believe lots of nutty things about religion, especially when it comes to whether they have to work on the holiday.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 13, 2005 1:51 PM

The First only protects the Abrahamic faiths.

Posted by: oj at November 13, 2005 2:05 PM

Not according to Congress or the Supreme Court.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 13, 2005 2:26 PM

Um, isn't this about the pharmacists?

Posted by: b at November 13, 2005 2:35 PM

My religion requires me to whoop naked through the halls once every 2 hours.

Posted by: WRFA goofball at November 13, 2005 2:46 PM

I thought Dennis Kozlowski was out of work.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 13, 2005 3:11 PM

Let's just make sure that this law applies to the gov't and business equally. Far too often the Feds will impose a mandate which they then declare they will follow "voluntarily" themselves. It's only much later that you discover that they apply it to themselves very selectively — when it furthers the local bureaucrats political agenda. If it doesn't, or gets in the way, it can be ignored. (I learned this from my dealings with the National Park Service in the '80s and '90s when it came to things like ADA enforcement and "wetlands mitigation". )

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 13, 2005 3:14 PM

My devotion to the Goddess Nicotina requires I be allowed to smoke at my desk.

Posted by: carter at November 13, 2005 3:15 PM

I just got a tattoo of Bacchus on my beer belly. I'm thinking that's got to make me some sort of priest.

Posted by: joe shropshire at November 13, 2005 3:24 PM

At the risk of being repetitious, the devout can pray anywhere, anytime. No act of congress is required. This law is stupid and dangerous and the idiots supporting it have no idea of the ramifications.

Moslems have already put in dibs for a national holiday to celebrate the end of Ramadan. I'd rather see all religious holidays removed from the calendar and have generic holidays spaced evenly throughout the year.

Either we have separation of church and state or we dont.

Posted by: erp at November 13, 2005 4:03 PM

Gonna work on Christmas and Thanksgiving too? you can't hate Muslims more than you love your own traditions.

Posted by: oj at November 13, 2005 4:45 PM

I demand Darwin's Birthday off.

Seriously, should all hospital emergency staff be given the option of taking Christmas off? What about the police and military? How you gonna fill up your gas tank on the way to granny's house if they're all closed?

We have religious freedom and economic freedom. Noone can stop you from taking any holiday you want off. Likewise, noone should tell you as a business owner what hours or days you can or cannot do business or what requirements you make your employees follow, within reason. If your employer requires you to work Christmas, and your faith requires you to stay home on Christmas, then it is your choice which of these two you value more, your faith or your job.

But I'm not aware of any Christian faith that requires its adherents to take Christmas off.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 13, 2005 5:49 PM


Posted by: oj at November 13, 2005 5:54 PM

The person who objects to Thanksgiving for religious reasons is probably the same person who thinks "Frosty the Snowman" is a Christian religious symbol. More likely they are just looking for new and better ways to display their ignorance of, and contempt for, American society.

I object to the idea that gov't offices are closed on Sundays just because it's the Xian holy day of the week. Now there's an obviously discriminatory Establishment of Religion that must be corrected by the Federal courts.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 13, 2005 6:34 PM

Except that Thanksgiving is a religious holiday and Frosty isn't a religious symbol.

Posted by: oj at November 13, 2005 7:11 PM

The value of the bill is the discomfiture is occasions to those people on the other side.

Posted by: Lou Got at November 13, 2005 8:19 PM

oj. for such a young guy, you can be hidebound.

The different holidays will be interspersed throughout the year. The one in late autumn can be called Turkey Day. In fact let there be a special day every month to coincide loosely with the old holidays. The various religions can observe them as they always have.

What difference is it when Christs birth is celebrated. There is no reason to believe he was born on December 25th and although there is more reason to believe the dates for Easter and Passover are somewhat accurate, the fact is, what difference does it make if the dates arent exact.

I'm tired of incessant arguing about trivialities that can be solved easily. Lets get on with it.

Posted by: erp at November 13, 2005 9:43 PM

Traditions matter.

Posted by: oj at November 13, 2005 10:00 PM

Thanksgiving is a national holiday, not a religious holiday.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 15, 2005 10:40 AM

General Thanksgiving
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America


WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houfes of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and affign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of thefe States to the fervice of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our fincere and humble thanksfor His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the fignal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpofitions of His providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to eftablish Conftitutions of government for our fafety and happinefs, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are bleffed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffufing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleafed to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in moft humbly offering our prayers and fupplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and befeech Him to pardon our national and other tranfgreffions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private ftations, to perform our feveral and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a bleffing to all the people by conftantly being a Government of wife, juft, and conftitutional laws, difcreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all fovereigns and nations (especially fuch as have shewn kindnefs unto us); and to blefs them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increafe of fcience among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind fuch a degree of temporal profperity as he alone knows to be beft.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand feven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789

Posted by: oj at November 15, 2005 12:37 PM