“Clinton Joins Democrats’ Values Push,” by Luiza C. Savage, New York Sun Times, 8 April 2005, http://www.nysun.com/article/11894 (from Democratic Underground).
Senator Clinton, having discovered religion…
“Religious liberty is one of the most important issues on the world’s agenda today,” Mrs. Clinton told the Religious Liberty Annual Dinner of the Seventh day Adventist Church.
Freedom of conscience is often “a bellwether for human rights,” she said.
The senator’s religiously themed speech comes as Democrats seek to identify anew with the “moral values” that were said to play a role in the Republican victories in November’s election.
… joins a bi-partisan coalition to extend religious rights in the work-place… and with enemies and denunciations like this it has to be good!
The senator’s strong endorsement of legislation that is opposed by some abortion-rights and gay-rights groups is likely to add to speculation that she is moving to the political center ahead of a potential 2008 presidential candidacy. But the issue of religious liberty is one she has championed consistently since arriving in the Senate.
Elected in 2000, Mrs. Clinton has been one of only a handful of bipartisan co-sponsors of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which would require employers to accommodate their employees’ religious observances when reasonably possible. Critics say the law could enable religious zealots to discriminate against or harass gay workers or interfere with women’s access to birth control or abortion.
The bill was introduced again last month by Senator Kerry of Massachusetts and Senator Santorum, a Republican of Pennsylvania, and Mrs. Clinton is again a co-sponsor. Senator Schumer, too, has come to back the bill.
“We think the bill that Clinton is a co-sponsor of is too broadly drafted and could have consequences that could make it difficult for employers to stop people from proselytizing on the job or hanging up anti-gay Biblical quotes on their cubicles,” the legislative director of the gay-rights advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign, Christopher Labonte, said.
But the meat of the beast
The Seventh-day Adventists are a Protestant Christian denomination that follows the literal meaning of the Bible. They number 14 million around the world and one million in America.
Adherents celebrate the Sabbath from Friday evening until Saturday evening. The church wants stronger legal protections for employees who do not want to work in those hours.
Mr. Standish said that on an average day, three Seventh-day Adventists in America lose their jobs for observing their faith.
“Senator Clinton has not only had compassion for these men and women, but she has had the courage to stand up for them,” he said.
And here’s the problem. The bill will help the faiths in the short-term. But what will be the long-term effects for religion? Or freedom in general? The problem comes from the unique nature of work.
Work is essentially a horizontal relationship. Neither party may use force, and either party may quit. No party has the right to legislate the actions of the other. But because a company can absorb the loss of an employee easier than an employee can absorb the loss of a company, the bargaining positions are never “equal.” A company has the ability to absolutely control workers’ lives for a substantial portion of their day, unless the employees find a different employers. This is compounded by workplace regulation and activist judges. Because of fear of lawsuits, companies often default to Left-Authoritarianism (very politically correct, and very hierarchical).
So on balance I think Clinton’s bill is a good one. But a much better solution would be to rollback the power of lawsuits. Religious freedom is important. But so is freedom of contract.
Kerry, Clinton, and Santorum should focus on the real problem — activist judges. But until they do, this is a step more good than bad.
Update: MyDD and the Human Rights Campaign hates it, so it has to be good.