Three Ways of Thinking about Reasonable Accommodation

Brett G. Scharffs is Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies and Rex E. Lee Chair and Professor of Law for the BYU Law School.  Brock Mason is Student Fellow for the International Center for Law and Religion Studies and PhD Candidate at Fordham University.

Our age is one of increasing diversity. We rub shoulders with those who believe differently, act differently, and look differently. Many countries that historically were religiously or ethnically homogenous have changed. People of every religion, or no religion, live together under common laws and political institutions. This diversity is a strength, but it also produces challenges. One challenge is how to deal with those whose religious beliefs may put them somewhat at odds with cultural and legal norms. For example, real challenges arise, such as when a Muslim woman wants to wear a hijab at work despite a dress code forbidding it, or a Seventh-day Adventist seeks to avoid conscription into a combat role despite a universal military draft. Should such religious accommodations be allowed? And if so, why?

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