Alaska Airlines’ Prayer Scare: News Roundup

In the news this week: Alaska Airlines apologizes after a “prayer scare,” retailer Belk runs afoul of Title VII, the National Day of Prayer comes under fire, and more.

Prayer Scare
Alaska Airlines is apologizing to its passengers after it treated three Orthodox Jewish men engaged in ritual prayer (including wrapping tefillin) as a security concern.
 
“The men began praying out loud in Hebrew shortly after takeoff on Flight 241 from Mexico City. Flight attendants alerted the flight deck, which then called the tower and alerted law enforcement. When the plane arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, it was met by the FBI, Customs and Border Protection and airport police.” (CNN)
 
It was ultimately determined that the men were not a threat, but only after they were questioned and their baggage searched.
“"Alaska Airlines embraces the cultural and religious diversity of our passengers and employees. We apologize for the experience these three passengers went through after landing in Los Angeles as well as for any inconvenience to our other customers onboard," Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said.” (CNN)
 
The Airline also said it plans to offer staff training on religious diversity, and has reached out to the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for assistance. (Alaska Dispatch)
 
The Case of the Santa Hat
Retailer Belk has settled a religious discrimination lawsuit, agreeing to pay out $55,000 to an employee was who terminated after she refused to wear a Santa hat during the Christmas holiday season. (Charlotte Observer)
 
“On Nov. 27, 2008, [the employee] refused to wear a Santa hat and apron, saying that as a Jehovah's Witness, she is prohibited by her religious beliefs from recognizing holidays, including Christmas. She was fired the same day.” (Charlotte Observer)
 
“No employee should be forced to choose between her faith and her job,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District, which includes the EEOC’s Raleigh Area Office, where the charge was filed. “This case demonstrates the EEOC’s commitment to combat religious discrimination in the workplace.” (EEOC Press Release)
 
Challenging the National Day of Prayer
The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) is suing Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, charging that it was unconstitutional to declare last May 6th and January 17th to be Days of Prayer in Arizona. (Chicago Tribune) FFRF is seeking an injunction to prohibit her from creating any more state days of prayer, claiming a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. (Nonprofit Quarterly)
 
Governor Brewer made January 17th a Day of Prayer for Arizona's Economy and the State Budget, and declared May 6th to be a Day of Prayer in line with the National Day of Prayer, which is typically proclaimed by the President of the United States on the first Thursday in May. (Nonprofit Quarterly)
 
“Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said his boss is on firm legal ground.”Public call to prayer is an honored American tradition dating back to George Washington," he said. "We invite Americans of every race, background and creed to voluntarily come together, if they choose, to pray for guidance, wisdom and courage."” (Arizona Daily Star)
 
In other news:
  • Religion can be a fertile ground for Mideast peace   Ha’aretz
  • Adventists’ back-to-basics faith is fastest growing US church   USA Today

Photo by shyb.