Religion and the Market Place

Via the Carpetbagger Report, a story what happens when a clerk or a taxi driver won’t provide service to customers because of religious convictions:

Some Muslim cashiers at Target refuse to handle pork, setting off another debate over the place of religion in society.

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The Twin Cities area has become a hotbed for such conflicts because of its burgeoning population of Somali immigrants, many of whom are orthodox Muslims. Last year, Somali cabdrivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport attracted national attention when some refused to carry passengers toting alcohol.

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Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for a person’s religious practices if it doesn’t impose an undue hardship.

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The cashiers’ example holds a similar legal ground to pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control or morning-after pills, a practice that has led to differing legal opinions in some states as many legislatures decide to take on the issue.

“It gets a little more difficult in the pharmacy world if you’re dealing with a 24-hour pharmacy and the only pharmacist on duty is refusing to fill prescriptions,” said Stephen Befort, a professor at the University of Minnesota College of Law.

There are versions of African beliefs that to some extent require alcohol for certain purposes. If the only clerk at a store refuses to sell alcohol to such an individual, either because they cannot touch alcohol, or (more problematically?) because they feel such rituals are the work of the devil, what happens? Either way, someone’s freedom of religion gets trampled.