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Not Christian, but Nonetheless Qualified: The Secular Workplace - Whose Hardship?

Gwendolyn Yvonne Alexis, Monmouth University

Abstract

This paper examines the uneven history of the U.S. as a haven for religious freedom and links it to the challenges being confronted today in incorporating into U.S. society the influx of immigrants from non-Christian, non-Western cultures. Focusing on the workplace, the author argues that non-Christian employees are at a disadvantage in the so-called secular U.S. workplace because it in truth represents a bastion of secularized Christianity. That is to say, an institutionalization of Christianity in the civil laws and public institutions of the U.S. has allowed religiously embedded practices to masquerade as secular norms. To overcome the Christian presumption in the U.S. workplace, the author argues for making religious accommodation a "fundamental right" that can be denied by an employer only upon a showing of business necessity. Thus, the "business necessity" standard would replace the "undue hardship" standard currently applied in religious accommodation cases -- a standard that the author argues allows the employer too much discretion in terms of its ability to ban bona fide religious practices, such as the wearing of religious garb, from the workplace.

Suggested Citation

Gwendolyn Yvonne Alexis. "Not Christian, but Nonetheless Qualified: The Secular Workplace - Whose Hardship?" Journal of Religion and Business Ethics 3.1 (2012).
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/gwendolynyvonne_alexis/1