[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]
Now let me start by saying that in my life I have faced discrimination. It pisses me off, then, when others are subjected to it. I support fully laws like the ADA and certainly the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I even support the notion that employers and government entities should be required to provide reasonable accommodation to the religious practices of employees, as required by law.
But some applications of this principle are ridiculous. Let’s start with this example:
The menu selection at Theo Lacy [Jail] apparently didn’t please [Malcom] King, 38, when he was booked into the jail on drug charges in April.
They serve salami there. And that didn’t quite fit in with the fitness buff/gym clothes model’s lifestyle.
So King, who is also suspected of being in the country illegally from Liberia, asked for kosher meals.
That was not because of his religion, but because they were healthier – and the 5-foot, 8-inch, 180-pound King wanted double portions to maintain his physique, said his attorney, Fred Thiagarajah.
Judge Derek G. Johnson signed off on the high-protein double-portion kosher meals for King.
That didn’t sit well with the Sheriff’s Department – which pays for the food. Kosher meals are more expensive than the regular jail fare – and are reserved for those with a religious need.
The Sheriff’s Department interviewed King about his religious leanings in May. When asked what his religion was, he answered “Healthism.”
“He’s healthy so he said health and added an ‘ism,’” said Thiagarajah, who acknowledged to the county and a judge and to The Watchdog that it was a farce.
You get that? This man, who was convicted of drug possession is a health nut. Hey, if you want to stay healthy, why don’t you quit the drugs?
Oh, but it gets better:
Judge Johnson pulled King’s lawyer and the prosecutor aside and said he needed a religion to put down on the order to make it stick, explained Thiagarajah.
“I said Festivus,” said Thiagarajah. The order was granted – three non-salami meals a day.
Now a less risible case comes from the Department of Justice yesterday, which announced that it filed suit against the Berkeley (Illinois) School District for religious discrimination against a Muslim woman. You can read the complaint here, via Volokh.
You see Safoorah Khan asked to take off time to perform the Hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime trek to Mecca required by her faith. So from the complaint:
By letter dated August 19,2008 and addressed to Dr. Joseph Palermo (“Dr. Palermo”), then Superintendent of Berkeley School District, Ms. Khan requested an unpaid leave of absence from December 1, 2008 to December 19, 2008 to perform Hajj, a pilgrimage required by her religion, Islam.
The school refused and she quit. And now the DOJ is suing, asserting that this is discrimination, on her behalf.
Now if you happened to go to the school’s website, you can see the school’s calendar that year in .pdf form. And what do you learn? You learn that if she took off those days that would have been out through the entire month of December. You know, when things like final exams occur.
And bear in mind, it’s only this way that particular year. As noted by Wikipedia:
Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the Western world, the Gregorian date of the Hajj changes from year to year.
So literally if she waited one year, she could have presumably returned from the trip on December 8, and been present for final exams. If she waited two years, she could have returned before the end of November, a much more reasonable request.
So why couldn’t she just wait two years? The closest she comes to giving an answer in her complaint is this:
By letter dated October 15,2008, Ms. Khan notified Defendant Board of Education that, based on her religious beliefs, she could not justify delaying performing Hajj[.]
But why the hell not? I am aware of no doctrine in Islam that tells you when to do it, only that you must do it once in your life.
Further, you learn something else from that Wikipedia article:
The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar.
So the actual Hajj requires her to be there for five consecutive days. So why does she need a full 18 days to do this? I mean, let’s be generous to her and give her two days to deal with jet lag, coming and going—why can’t she just get it all done in nine days?
The answer, one suspects, is that she will either see relatives and/or do a little tourism.
And lost in all of this is that these students are being deprived of their teacher at a crucial time in the semester. Where are they in her self-centered little world?
The fact is that accommodations—whether they are designed to accommodate faith or a disability—must not impose an undue burden. That’s a legal requirement. And allowing a teacher to take her time off right before exams seems self-evidently an undue burden. Certainly the school cannot say she can never take off for the Hajj. But it can say, “not during finals. Do it another year.”
Under our rules of civil procedure, there is little that can be done to prevent this from coming to trial. But this claim should not have been brought. And it has the distinct stench of global politics, of Muslim outreach, about it.
And it’s certainly hard to justify prosecuting such a dubious case after throwing the game in the slam-dunk case involving the Black Panthers.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]