The nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America — reacted with disappointment to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear an appeal from a Muslim woman who was pressured by her employer, Alamo-Rent-A-Car, to stop wearing her head scarf. Ms. Zeinab Ali sued Alamo for this violation of her rights, but her case was rejected by federal trial and appellate courts. The UOJCA and other religious and civil rights groups urged the high court to review this case. Today, it declined to do so.
The issue of securing greater protections for the religious needs of employees has been an issue the UOJCA has devoted a great deal of time to by participating in lawsuits and seeking federal legislation to redress the problem.
Nathan Diament, director of the Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, issued the following statement in reaction to the Court’s denial of review:
On this, the first Monday of October, the Supreme Court has undermined this nation’s “first freedom” – the Free Exercise of Religion. For too long, the Supreme Court has undercut the provisions of federal civil rights law which had required employers to reasonably accommodate the religious needs of their employees. The Court began down this road as long ago as 1973, and today it has again demonstrated that it insensitive to the pressures that can be faced by Americans of all faiths if forced to choose between their career and their conscience. This problem has befallen American Jews and Muslims, Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists. The Court has shown that it will not protect the religious rights American workers; this is a setback for protecting religious diversity in America and we will now call upon Congress and the President to act to remedy this problem. A bipartisan, multi-faith coalition has supported legislation – the Workplace Religious Freedom Act — to address this issue in the past. Now, at a time when the United States’ sensitivity to religious diversity is heightened, we must pass this legislation and protect the religious liberties of all working Americans.