Arguing the validity of the expressing freedom of religion in the workplace

Note: I help my sister write this article when I was still in law school. This was presented in the category for oral argument in the A.C.E international student’s convention (Accelerated Christian Education) This piece won 10th place out of several countries taking part in the contest.

Ladies and Gentleman, Honorable members of this committee I am appealing in behalf of my client, Mr. Robert Smith, respectfully praying that the directive of the human resources director be reversed based on the following grounds:

First, Religious freedom is guaranteed by our constitution. It is explicitly provided for in the 1st amendment that “no law shall be passed respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Religious freedom involves the freedom to believe and the freedom to act on one’s belief. Further the 1st amendment provides that no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech. Religious speech must be treated the same as any other speech. Former president Bill Clinton recognized the importance if this fundamental right and said “Religious freedom is at the heart of what it means to be an American, and at the heart of our journey to become truly one America . . .”

Secondly, There was failure to observe due process on the part of the HR director. The observance of due process is a fundamental principle in this land. The 5th amendment of the constitution states “that no person shall be deprived of his liberty without due process of law.” Due process is simply defined as “A law that hears before it condemns.” It is simply “giving a man his day in court.” The HR director violated this basic principle by ordering my client to remove his Jesus Saves screen saver and to stop talking to other workers about religion, without prior notice and without giving my client the opportunity to be heard.

Thirdly, While it is true that every person has the right to complain if he or she is being harassed by another person through the sharing of the latter’s religion, such holds true if the “harassment” is actual and not hypothetical in nature. In this case, a co-employee of my client has lodged a complaint based on “overhearing a conversation about religion with another employee.” She also complains of being offended by my client’s screen saver every time she passes by his cubicle. The aforesaid action of my client does not constitute harassment. Harassment only applies if the person, whom he directly speaks with, complains of such. While the GUIDELINES ON RELIGIOUS EXERCISE AND RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN THE FEDERAL WORKPLACE applies only to federal government agencies, but the general principles of which articulates the same guidelines that court’s use in determining whether there has been a violation of discrimination laws. It provides that “Employees should be permitted to engage in religious expression with fellow employees, to the same extent that they may engage in comparable nonreligious private expression, though agencies are entitled to regulate such employee speech based on reasonable predictions of disruption, they should not restrict speech based on merely hypothetical concerns, having little basis in fact, that the speech will have a deleterious effect on workplace efficiency.” It also provides that . “Employees are permitted to engage in religious expression directed at fellow employees, and may even attempt to persuade fellow employees of the correctness of their religious views, to the same extent as those employees may engage in comparable speech not involving religion.” The person who claims to be “harassed” even if she was not the one being directly being spoken to, can prevent being offended by averting her eyes she has as she walks by and take a seat in the lunchroom where she cannot overhear my client. Further, the fact that another person is “offended” is not a reason to interfere with religious speech. The fundamental law guarantees my client’s expression of religious views.

Fourthly, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically provides that it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to his privileges of employment, because of such individual’s religion. Directing my client to remove his “Jesus Saves” screen saver and to stop talking to other workers about religion, constitutes discrimination. In the case of RONALD RITCHIE, vs. JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided in favor of complainant. The latter had been ordered by the administration of his office to remove displays of religious materials. However the E.E.O.C decided that his employer in so doing has “discriminated” against him. The same holds true in the case of MARILYN J. JUHL v. JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. Numerous jurisprudence can be cited on this matter and the E.E.O.C always decides liberally in favor of religious freedom as long as it does not give undue hardship to the employer as provided for in title VII. If such is the case, then it would be illogical not to decide in the same line of thinking that the E.E.O.C would. For if ever this honorable committee does not grant our request we would not hesitate to appeal before the E.E.O.C.

Lastly, let us remember how the founding fathers valued the freedom of religion, which is one of the very foundation upon which this great country is built upon. Thomas Jefferson once said “We have solved the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet, as well as the comfort which results from leaving everyone to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.”

Wherefore it is most respectfully prayed that this honorable committee reverse the directive of the HR director and grant that my client continue to exercise his freedom of religion and the freedom to express what he believes in. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS AMERICA.

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