Friday, March 16, 2007

Workers Say "Hands Off" to Pork

Will employers let religious devotees bring home the bacon?

According to the Star Tribune, there is a debate among orthodox Somalis as to whether it is appropriate to handle pork products in the course of one's job. For instance, should a cashier be able to scan and bag the bacon that a customer is buying? At least one cashier answered no, asking that a customer scan-and-bag the bacon in question. The incident also provoked a rather lengthy discussion on MNSpeak. This got me thinking: why stop at prohibiting scanning-and-bagging? If you're banned from touching pork for ideological reasons, and plastic packaging doesn't adequately insulate you from the questionable material, then maybe we need more drastic measures...

Let's follow the supply chain backwards to figure out which other jobs this religious interpretation prohibits. Ok, obviously the cashier work is out of the question. What about the stockers? You know, the folks who restock the shelves in the middle of the night when all good folks are asleep in their beds (thanks to the magical glowing butterfly)? If you can't scan bacon, you certainly can't put piles and piles of bacon packages in the cooler. Obviously you can't work as a butcher (!). What about driving the delivery truck that carries the bacon to the store at all? That kind of depends on whether you feel that the steel separating you (in the cab) from the bacon (in the trailer) is sufficient. Who am I to say that this is satisfactory insulation? What if you work in a bank and a client makes money trading pork futures on the Chicago Merc? Is his money tainted? What if you're a pharmacist and your client needs gastrointestinal drugs to calm the effects of eating too much bacon? Are you feeding (pun intended) his habit in contradiction of your avoidance-of-pork? What if you go to school with a classmate whose tuition is paid for by his father, a pig farmer? How far does the taint extend? If there any safe place in which a person can follow this principle?

I'm pretty sure that there is no reasonable way to accommodate this extreme perspective, and that the underlying agenda behind folks who preach it is to encourage the division of radical believers from the rest of the population. Thankfully, we're still in America, a country where we try to learn from each other's different cultures and backgrounds and find ways to get along. At least, I hope so!


Anonymous G said...

I've thought a lot about this, especially after the ongoing issue with religious pharmacists not wanting to give out birth control, for example.

I pretty much think the personal ideology (and that is what religion is, sorry, you may be born into a religion, but it's your choice as an adult to stay) should be treated with even less latitude than the ADA gives people with disabilities, since it is a *choice* and not a permanent condition. Even the ADA only allows for reasonable accommodations and if you are unable to perform a certain percentage of your job description, oh well.

As a vegetarian, I do not feel I deserve I deserve special allowances for performing major aspects of my job. I worked as a waitress serving meat, which I am opposed to.

I do not get the idea of people taking social or religious stands who then do not want to accept the consequences that come with it. There is a price that comes with being different. It's not exactly heroic or honorable to take a stand but then expect others to accommodate for you so it's easy.

And as for your levels of insulation, that makes me laugh, because that kind of idiocy exists among a small portion of vegetarians as well. Gives us a bad name.

11:38 PM  
Anonymous Bonnie Erickson said...

Interesting. I once had a Moslem woman client who had to check with her religious leaders regarding whether she could pay usury (interest). If she was not allowed to pay interest then she could not get a loan to buy a house. It ended up there was a loop-hole. The religious leaders told her that if she wasn't paying usury through her mortgage that she would be indirectly paying usury through her rent check which the landlord used to pay usury.

10:41 PM  

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