Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization and a leading member of the broad and diverse Coalition for Religious Freedom in the Workplace – strongly criticized the American Civil Liberties Union for its opposition to the bipartisan Workplace Religious Freedom Act, currently pending in the U.S. Senate.
The Workplace Religious Freedom Act [“WRFA”] would reinstate religious liberty protections in federal civil rights law which encourage employers to accommodate the religious needs of their employees. Examples include allowing individuals who wear religious clothing such as skullcaps, turbans or headscarves to work; and allowing for flexible scheduling arrangements in order to accommodate time off for a religious holiday.
WRFA is supported by an incredibly broad and diverse coalition of American religious organizations including the Union as well as: American Jewish Committee, Southern Baptist Convention, National Council of Churches, Sikh Mediawatch, National Council of Muslim Women, Family Research Council, National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Jewish Women, Union of Reform Judaism, the Interfaith Alliance, and many more.
It has garnered broad bipartisan support in Capitol Hill. WRFA’s lead sponsors are Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA); other cosponsors include Senators Hillary Clinton, Norm Coleman, Joe Lieberman, Orrin Hatch, Barbara Mikulski, Gordon Smith, Jon Corzine, John Cornyn, Chuck Schumer, Arlen Specter and Ron Wyden.
Nevertheless, the ACLU has announced its opposition to this consensus piece of religious liberty legislation by distributing a memo on Capitol Hill yesterday asserting that WRFA would threaten the rights of religious and racial minorities, women and gays. Leaders of the Coalition supporting WRFA have offered detailed responses to the ACLU memo demonstrating its assertions to be baseless.
Nathan Diament, the UOJCA’s director of public policy stated in reaction to the news of the ACLU’s action:
We are deeply disappointed that an organization which is supposedly dedicated to the protection of civil liberties has decided to oppose consensus legislation which will bolster the very liberty this nation was founded to champion – religious liberty. We are confident this baseless attack will be quickly repudiated by people of good will and that this important legislation will be enacted.