You know it’s going to be interesting when you have the US federal government and FOX News lined up on the same side of an argument!
Here, as reported in this Associated Press piece carried in The Washington Post, the US Dept. of Justice is suing a school district in Illinois over the district’s refusal to grant a Muslim teacher leave to take part in the Haj. The case is, as they say, ‘fact specific’. US law requires employers, including state employers, to ‘reasonably accommodate’ employees’ religious obligations. Here, that means the teacher’s request for leave to fulfill her duty to perform Haj. The core of the matter is that the school district’s contract with its teachers union requires accommodation for many reasons, but not religious reasons. The DOJ (and FOX News) want to see that changed.
The case itself is a bit messy, though. The teacher was asking for 19 days of leave. That’s a significant amount of time and perhaps beyond what could be considered ‘reasonable’. Haj itself is only a five-day event. Finding a substitute teacher for that period is not trivial, but it may (or may not) be considered ‘reasonable’. That’s what the court will have to decide.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government sued a suburban Chicago school district Monday for denying a Muslim middle school teacher unpaid leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a central part of her religion.
In a civil rights case, the department said the school district in Berkeley, Ill., denied the request of Safoorah Khan on grounds that her requested leave was unrelated to her professional duties and was not set forth in the contract between the school district and the teachers union. In doing so the school district violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to reasonably accommodate her religious practices, the government said.
As is often the case, Volokh Conspiracy, notes the case. The comments to the post are a mixed bag. A little Islamophobia, a lot of ignorance about Haj, and some very acute observations about the law. Some do point out that whether one attends Haj in a particular year is also determined by the Saudi government, in its issuing of visas. Eugene Volokh, in the post itself, notes that religious accommodation laws have benefited Christians far more than any other religious group in the US.