The Supreme Court Has a Chance to Protect Sabbath Observance

March 6 2019

In 1972, at the encouragement of a group of religious-liberty activists, Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia—a member of a small Baptist denomination that observes the Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night—pushed for an amendment to the Civil Rights Act that would require businesses to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious observance. Although the amendment was made law, in 1977 the Supreme Court declined to apply it to the case of Larry Hardison, fired by TWA for refusing a Sabbath shift. Nathan Lewin, who helped to draft the language of Randolph’s amendment, hopes the court will now hear the similar case of Darrell Patterson, and rule differently:

Justice Byron White wrote the court’s [1977] ruling, and he was obviously concerned that the far-reaching interpretation that the court was then giving to the First Amendment’s prohibition against the “establishment of religion” conflicted with an interpretation of the law that could impose costs on private employers to satisfy the religious observances of their employees. White’s majority opinion declared: “To require TWA to bear more than a de-minimis cost in order to give Hardison Saturdays off is an undue hardship.”

First Amendment law was very different in 1977 from what it is today. [Then] Supreme Court majorities seemed to condemn even the most remote governmental assistance to religion. But that attitude was short-lived. . . . The court [in 2000] began an era in which the exercise of religion wins greater judicial respect. . . .

The de-minimis language has, over more than four decades, ruined the careers and employment prospects of thousands of religiously observant employees. There are many reported judicial decisions that fail to apply [the law] as Senator Randolph contemplated it. They permit employers to ban religious practices they dislike and to harm Sabbath observers and employees who have other unusual prescribed religious practices.

But close scrutiny of the Supreme Court’s recent actions raises hopes that these injustices will soon be corrected. . . . In a recent opinion explaining why they rejected a publicized religious-liberty case, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh said they are ready to “revisit” the Hardison ruling. . . . Resounding vindication of Darrell Patterson would correct a decades-long injustice, granting religious Americans the protection they so richly deserve.

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More about: American law, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, Sabbath, Supreme Court

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy