In one case it was a refusal to allow packages containing alcohol in the cab. In another it was a refusal to allow a blind woman's guide dog in the cab. (Alcohol is forbidden, and dogs considered unclean, in Islam).
In the case of the blind woman and her dog (London), the driver was fined for violating British laws forbidding discrimination against the disabled. In the case of the alcohol refusal (Minnesota), officials at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are considering making Muslim cab drivers identify themselves by placing a different colored light atop their taxi (to avoid future problems or confrontations).
Travelers are upset:
"They're really kind of imparting their religious views on the public," said traveler Katie Patterson of McKinney, Texas.I'm not sure that's correct, however. Is it forcing your beliefs on another to simply ask that yours be respected? Are they practicing the freedom of religion that the Constitution promises them? Or are they practicing a form of reverse discrimination?
You are used to seeing signs in restaurants and retail shops saying, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." How far does that concept go, and on what basis can a business refuse a customer without violating anti-discrimination laws?
Obviously, if the Muslim business owner were ejecting every Sikh customer, regardless of alcohol, animal, or other impurity, it would be a clear-cut case of discrimination. But if the business owner welcomes people of all faiths, nationalities, creeds, and ethnic backgrounds, but asks that they not carry a religiously banned item, it's far less clear.
There is no constitutional right to carry alcohol on (or in) somebody else's property. The guide dog situation is a bit trickier, but as long as a business owner is willing to make some sort of "reasonable accommodation" and is willing to provide service to the blind or disabled, I'd question whether there's an absolute right to bring the dog in any particular cab.
To force either of these situations would create a situation where the Muslim cab drivers would have a good argument for a discrimination complaint of their own. You can't force people to perform acts (or sell services) that are against their religious beliefs.
Making Muslim cab drivers identify themselves by colored lights on their cabs is also crossing a line. It would allow passengers to openly discriminate against riding in their cabs, whether or not they have alcohol or dogs with them.
Really, what is the difference between making Muslim cab drivers shine a colored light, or making Jews wear yellow arm bands? It is singling out one group to be identified as "different" than any other citizen or legal resident.
Now let's talk about being fair with this precedent. If you cannot force a Muslim taxi driver to perform services that are against his religion, what about a Catholic druggist?
As a good "liberal" I have probably complained about pharmacies that refuse to carry birth control items on religious grounds. Am I a huge hypocrite, or does health care require an exception?
I'm thinking that I'm a hypocrite, and that as long as birth control is available elsewhere, no discrimination or deprivation of rights has occurred by a refusal to carry them by a single pharmacy.
I don't like it. I think it's a public health and safety issue to make birth control available as widely as possible.
But, I'd have to say, you can reserve the right to provide products or services that are against your religion.
You can't force a Muslim cab driver to accept alcohol or dogs, you can't force a Catholic druggist to supply birth control, and you can't force a Jewish medical clinic to stay open on the Sabbath.
Tags: Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, religious, discrimination, disabled, rights, constitution, taxis, cabs birth control