Friday, September 29, 2006

Jewish Policemen

Sometimes I just scan through the stations while driving, to see whether there's something interesting, beyond the stations I have "preset". Today, I happened to come across our former Chief of Police, Ed Norris, on his regular talk-show on WHFS (105.7 FM). Happened to be that the topic they were discussing at the time was (as described on

"A Towson University police officer is in a battle with the school over his off time. He became an Orthodox Jew in 2000 and has asked for the Sabbath off. The school at first said ok, and no is saying no citing unfairness to other officers and unneeded overtime costs and more. Are his religious rights being violated? Why should and employer be forced to allow employees time off for religious functions?" [sic]
I listened to this for awhile, until I got to my meeting and had to get out of the car. Now, I've heard his show before, and often agree with what he says - he's no dummy - and I guess I can concede that this could be a somewhat complicated issue. But Ed drew an analogy with which I have a big problem.

He said that this is akin to any other situation where someone is simply not capable of meeting the requirements of the job. His position was that if the guy can't do the job - for whatever reason - then he needs to find a different job. He compared it to someone who can't lift 50 lbs. wanting to be in a job where he needs to be able to lift 50 lbs, and that political correctness has robbed our country of good sense.

The problem is that, according to this line of reasoning, just about anyone should be allowed to discriminate against Jews (or Muslims, or others for that matter) on religious grounds, for just about any job. Let's explore some possible jobs that could be affected:

Stock Boy: Now surely an orthodox stock-boy wouldn't have a problem, right? Well let's see... What if, once a quarter, all the store employees are required to work over the weekend to check inventory. But this poor guy can't work on Friday night and Saturday... What would Ed say? "Oh well... I guess he's just not able to do the job. He'll have to find something else to do."

Lawyer: Now there are lots of Jewish lawyers out there, so this shouldn't be a problem at all. Some even work for large firms! They're working on a big case, and this one particular Orthodox Jewish lawyer is the one of the leads. The judge decides to hear arguments this Monday (Oct. 2, 2006) - Yom Kippur. Hey - Monday's a work day, right? And they need him on the case, but the judge isn't hearing any of it. He says, "You have other attorneys who are familiar with the case. Put one of them on it." Now, his boss says he needs him to be ready for trial because this is a big case for the firm. Look, the judge is a jerk, but that's the job. And what would Ed say? "Oh well... I guess he's just not able to do the job. He'll need to find something else to do."

This same logic can apply to just about any job where he's not the boss. From the staff-doctor at the hospital to the guy who sweeps the elephant dung at the zoo. If his religious beliefs don't adhere to those of the Christian Majority in this country, Ed seems to believe that he (or she, of course) can be discriminated against. To hell with religious freedom! To hell with the Constitution! This country was created by Christians, damnit, and if you don't like it, git back to where you came from... right, Ed?

The problem is, I also understand where Ed's coming from. There are terrible abuses of the system. There was the wheel-chair bound college kid who sued his school because he wanted to take dance, for example. (Don't ask me when or where - it's been so long, I don't remember.) And there are countless examples of things like that. People suing companies for jobs they really can't do, because "they're being discriminated against."

I don't know the answer to this problem. I'm not even sure that this Jewish policeman should get to keep his job. Ed might be right, in this case... or he might not. What I am sure of is that Ed's reasoning is shortsighted.