islamic-prayer.jpgI’ve written in the past about how religious accommodations were becoming more and more of a contentious issue in U.S. offices and factories, but sometimes cooler heads prevail.

Muslim workers at a plant in Pennsylvania wanted more time to pray, but they couldn’t convey their desire to managers because they could barely speak English.

This from a local newspaper, the Patriot News:

Somali immigrants who quit work at Arnold Logistics in Hampden Twp. because of a “misunderstanding” are back on the job, with accommodation for their daily prayers, a Muslim advocacy group says.

The warehouse and distribution services company has agreed to provide a 15-minute break for Muslim prayer, according to the Pennsylvania office of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

CAIR said 16 machine operators walked off their jobs on Jan. 9 “after a misunderstanding over a new policy which limited personal breaks for all employees to five minutes.”

Madina Hasson of Mechanicsburg, a nurse who volunteers as a community organizer among midstate Somali immigrants, contacted Justin Peyton, director of civil rights for CAIR in Philadelphia.

They met Jan. 11 with Amy Rafferty, human resources director for Arnold Logistics, to explain that five minutes was too short for the daily prayers required of Muslims.

The workers had been unable to make their case because of a “language barrier,” Peyton said Friday.

He said Rafferty “graciously listened” and relayed the workers’ concerns to senior managers, who offered this week to rehire all 16 and provide them time each day for prayer.

It seemed that the workers’ request wasn’t going to disrupt the workplace. But the question still remains — Should religious accommodations be made at all in the workplace?

I address the issue in a past column.

I got a flood of responses to that column.

Here’s a sampling:

Indeed, the issue of “separation of church and state” - the very idea of which is under speculation as it is neither mentioned nor guaranteed in the constitution - seems to be the vortex around which this storm swirls for all religions. When will the United States begin to interpret the Constitution objectively instead of twisting it to fit what a minority group has interpreted it to read to fit their (non)religious beliefs? When will the US begin to seriously revere the rights we fought so hard to protect over the good of commerce, corporate America - giving our lives and rights away to our employers? When will we as a nation be able to honestly say that we really and truly do allow all to practice their religion while respecting one anothers’ religious beliefs and practices? As things sit now, this “respect” and “tolerance” is merely legislated. That’s not authentic respect or reverence.

And..

I enjoyed the “Reconciling Religious Beliefs with Work” article, it was informative and thought provoking. I thought it was unusually news-written coming from you though; it was difficult to sense your position. As an example, I know where you stand on executive compensation, on Chrysler’s new contract with the UAW, on the trade imbalance with China and its impact on day-to-day life, but how do you feel about a religious bearded UPS driver?

And this one…

As I was reading your article I could not help think back to a Bible verse I heard so much in Sunday School. Pray without ceasing, I am now very much sceular in my views and think this kind of work place accommodation is rather wasteful. Not to mention unfair, I as a non muslim (all the accomodations you mentioned in your article are Islamic in nature) have to cover for others to go off and pray? I already get rather ticked when people go missing to smoke. Can you say workplace crusades.
at any rate I wonder if this trend continues I can use my “religious teaching” to “pray without ceasing” to get more breaks?

What’s your take?

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