The goal of this post is to clearly state the principles which informed my position in the last post.
As a reminder: the last post discussed a Muslim flight attendant who was in danger of losing her job. She had refused to serve alcohol on flights, as such service would go against her faith.
My position was that her sincerely held religious beliefs ought to be protected, but the airline also had a right to operate without undue hardship. This calls for a careful consideration of the claims of each party, to see whether both concerns can satisfactorily addressed. The solution I proposed was this: the flight attendant ought not to be forced to serve alcohol, but she must make up for this in taking up other duties, so that the net effect on the airline is negligible. Whether or not she CAN make up for it determines whether this accommodation ought to be accepted: for instance, if she were a bartender instead of a flight attendant, clearly she would not be able to make up for not serving alcohol, therefore the accommodation would not work out, and I would fully support the business in firing her. However, since serving alcohol is a minuscule part of a flight attendant's job, it would be trivially simple to shuffle around the duties so that she does something else while another flight attendant serves the drinks. Thus, she should be accommodated.
I was furthermore against the simplistic idea that "if she can't do her job, she ought to be fired". To say that the business has an absolute power to fire an employee for not doing a part of her job - even if that part is a minuscule portion of the job description - would mean that the business could fire any imperfect employee. That is to say, it could fire any employee, period. This would simply be a case of the business trampling over the employee with its power, with no regard for balance, fair play, or the rights of the employee.
So, let's extract the principles involved here, and explicitly state them:
I believe that people have a right to the free exercise of their religion. This is actually only a small slice of a broader principle: that people have a right to live according to their identity.
Conversely, it is wrong to require people to violate their conscience, their gender, their sexual orientation, their people's history, or other such categories that form one's core identity.
I believe that the many - whether it be a large corporation, society at large, or simply "the majority" - also has a right to impose order and insure its own smooth operation.
Conversely, it is wrong for an individual or a minority group to disrupt the workings of the majority to satisfy their own needs.
I believe that, in case of a conflict, a balance should be struck. We should take the concerns of all parties into account and weigh them together to achieve a fair solution.
Conversely, I am against one side simply imposing its will on the other. I will oppose actions whose chief goal is to forcefully restrict the freedom of others, whether it comes from the minority or the majority.
I believe in cooperative, common-sense solutions characterized by nuance and empathy.
Conversely, I am against ham-fisted, absolutist, or antagonistic decision making processes.
Of course, we will not always find perfect solutions that perfectly satisfy all these principles. But especially in such cases, I believe that we should take special care not to favor the strong over the weak, the large corporation over the individual employee, the majority over the minority, or profits over personal rights.
I believe that my position on the issue of the flight attendant embodies all of these principles. I sincerely hope that these principles are things we can all agree on. It's only common sense and basic decency.
Also note that I'm not particularly concerned about the law of the land. Human laws derive their legitimacy from natural laws - in our case, from what is right and wrong as established by moral principles. If we understand the principles well, the implementation of their particulars in our laws will be straightforward. That is why I'm primarily concerned with the principles for now, in this post.
But in the next post, we will begin that next step, of implement these principles in other scenarios beyond the case of our Muslim flight attendant. We'll start off easy, then gradually increase the difficulty.
You may next want to read:
Religious freedom and religious accommodations (Part 3) (Next post of this series)
History, moral progress, and moral perfection (part 1)
Key principles in interpreting the Bible
Another post, from the table of contents