Safoorah Kahn is suing the Berkeley, Ill school board for religious discrimination. The Obama Justice Department is siding with her. Wrong call.
In August of 2008, after working as a math teacher for only none months, Ms. Kahn requested three weeks leave in December to go on the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca each Muslim is to make at least once in her life, health and finances permitting. Ms. Kahn understood her religion to mandate going as soon as one can afford, a position that no religious authority supports. She petitioned for the time off, and the school board said no. Ms. Kahn then quit her job, went on the Hajj, and upon her return sued the school board for religious discrimination.
This is bullshit. I teach, and December is crunch time. Getting a substitute teacher to cover for Ms. Kahn would have been disruptive to the students. It ruins continuity, and if she was building toward some goal at the end of the semester, her leaving would have made achieving it next to impossible.
I can understand that people want to scam the system, and how religion—any religion—can be useful when doing so. What I don’t understand is why the Justice Department is supporting Ms. Kahn against the School Board. This isn’t religious discrimination. Ms. Kahn could have saved her hajj money, and worked out a agreement with her school so that she could go on the hajj in a year or two. This would have been respectful of her religion, her job, and her students.
It is wrong for someone to take a job, and then dodge the requirements of that job and seek to avoid the consequences by hiding behind bogus claims of religious discrimination. If an observant Jew takes a job that requires working on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath), and doesn’t tell her employer before she is hired that she cannot work Saturdays, she has no right to take Saturdays off or to complain about religious discrimination. If your religion makes doing your job impossible, go find a different job.
In Buddhism there is the obligation of Right Livelihood. Buddhists are prohibited from doing jobs that cause suffering. I’m not saying that all Buddhists follow their religion, but those that do shouldn’t take jobs that violate it. We should use this as a principle for all peoples: don’t take a job you can’t or won’t do because of your religious convictions. If pharmacists can’t give birth control pills, or doctors can’t perform abortions to save the life of a mother—go teach math. I hear there is a job opening in Berkeley, Ill.