Not too long after 9/11, I began collecting data on discrimination based upon religion. As one might expect discrimination against Muslims increased, but also of those who were perceived to be Muslim such as Sikhs. Sikh men often wear a turban and have a beard. Since that time, we have struggled with how to accommodate those who have clothing or other indications (crosses, yarmulkes, head scarfs) that indicate their faith. As we remember those public safety officers who died in 9/11, we know that public safety agencies have particularly struggled with accommodation.
Countries, because of their constitutions, have taken different approaches. France, defined in its constitution as a secular republic, and a policy of laicism, supports religious neutrality by its public servants. Canada, with its Charter of Rights, has hesitantly at first but regularly sought to accommodate minority religious groups in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Sikhs in the 1990s and now in 2016 Muslim women who wish to wear the hijab (head scarf). One of policy reasons for accommodation is that the RCMP needs to have officers who represent the different publics. The United States has taken a different approach, one that involves the courts. In Kimberlie Webb v City of Philadelphia (2009), the court ruled the city didn’t have to accommodate a Muslim police officer’s desire to wear a head scarf while on duty. Allowing her to wear it would affect the appearance of neutrality and impartiality and the ability of the public to identify her as a police officer. Beards on male officers have caused equal controversy. The courts in the United States have ruled that safety outweighs any religious accommodation. Religious wear cannot harm the employee’s own safety or others. It’s a matter of common sense.
Whether you think more about including or excluding definitely depends upon circumstances, but in public organizations, we need people who speak different languages, are of different ethnicities and races and of different religions. Employers who think more about a faith-friendly workplace think more about inclusion than exclusion. It’s part of what David Miller describes as the "faith at work” movement. Miller characterizes the faith at work movement as a quest for integration of work and faith. Because the people of the United States are some of the most religious people in developed countries, many employers see the value of religion as creating a strong work ethic, moral grounding and a platform for business ethics that will help guide decisions in the workplace rather than a legal issue.
Does that sound reasonable to you? For assistance in devising a workplace that is accommodating, consult Management.Vision
For more information
RCMP allows Muslim women Mounties to wear hijab http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rcmp-diversity-policy-hijab-1.3733829
See my work on religious diversity
“Religious Diversity in the Workplace” Handbook of Work and Quality of Life: Ethical Practices in Organizations, edited by Nora Reilly, M. Joseph Sirgy, and C. Allen Gorman; New York: Springer Publishers, 2012.
Approaches to Religion in the Workplace and Quality of Worklife: Religious Expression in the Workplace The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society
"Policing In A Westernized Arab Country: Comparisons With the United States" NEASCU Clipboard. (Spring 2010).
“Accommodating Islam in Law Enforcement.” Law Enforcement Executive Forum. May 2005.
“Diversity in Religious Practice: Implications of Islamic Values in the Public Workplace.” And Akhlaque Haque. Public Personnel Management. 32 (June 2003): 315-331.
“Accommodating Islamic Religious Practices in the Workplace.” And Akhlaque Haque. PA Times. November 2003, p. 5.