Monday, June 24, 2024

Which of the Ten Commandments allows for a reasonable accommodation?

"What do you say to teachers who don't share your religious views?"

 "Don't look at it."

That was the exchange between CNN's Boris Sanchez and Louisiana State Representative Lauren Ventrella, co-author of that state's new law which mandates the display of the Ten Commandments in every public-school classroom.

First Amendment issues aside (and there are BIG First Amendment issues here), what happens when teacher of a faith that doesn't believe in the Ten Commandments or who is an atheist objects to the display in their classroom and asks for a reasonable accommodation under Title VII?

In broader terms, is an employer required to consider a reasonable accommodation that would alter a legal requirement imposed on the employer?

In such a case, the employer must consider whether it can make a reasonable accommodation without compromising the legal requirement itself. In this case, that will be difficult to accomplish. According to the Louisiana law that imposed this Ten Commandments requirement, "Including the Ten Commandments in the education of our children is part of our state and national history, culture, and tradition." Thus, the law deems the hanging of this document in every public-school classroom as essential to education of every public-school student in that state and therefore essential to the mission of the employer.

It's difficult to envision an accommodation that wouldn't compromise that legal requirement. (I'd love to read your suggestions in the comments.)

Sadly, for many "freedom of religion" means "freedom … as long as you agree with my religion." Otherwise, unless you can do your job with your eyes closed all day, you're out of luck.