Students explore accommodating religion in the workplace

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:
Jordan Edwards | Phone: 202-544-4226 | jedwards@BJConline.org

September 4, 2015

WASHINGTON – An essay exploring accommodation for religious garb at a popular clothing retailer is the winner of the 2015 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest, sponsored by the Religious Liberty Council of the Washington, D.C.-based Baptist Joint Committee.

This year’s essay contest topic asked students to discuss if an employer should be able to dictate an employee’s attire. Students could use the situation in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, in which a Muslim woman was not hired because of her religiously mandated headscarf.

Almost 500 students from 44 states and the District of Columbia entered the contest, as well as students from Italy and Puerto Rico.

The grand prize winner is Zoe Almeida of San Antonio, Texas. In her essay, titled “Balancing Act: On Compromise Between Businesses and Workers,” Almeida argued that the burden of Abercrombie to accommodate the wearing of a headscarf was not “undue hardship.” She also acknowledged the vagueness of the accommodation law and wrote, “Balance is key to keeping our country a free society: between private practices and public interaction, between private business and individual rights.”

The daughter of Michael and Yvette Almeida, she received a $2,000 scholarship. Almeida’s prize also includes a trip to Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the BJC board meeting in October. Almeida is a senior at Antonian College Preparatory High School and attends Blessed Sacrament Church in San Antonio.

The second place winner is Cassie Froese of Savage, Minnesota. She received $1,000 for her essay, titled “To Wear Or Not to Wear: Forging a Mutually Beneficial Approach to Religious Freedom in the Workplace.” She supported company dress codes as long as they did not discriminate against any institute of religion and cited the best approach as negotiation between employer and employee. Froese is a home-schooled senior who is taking PSEO courses at Normandale Community College. She is the daughter of Karl and Ruth Froese.

The third place winner is Meghan Cahill of Louisville, Ohio. She received a $250 scholarship for her essay, titled “Employers Must Honor Religious Attire.” She argued that restrictions against religious garb, unless for reasons of safety or company integrity, were discriminatory practices and hindered diversity. Meghan is a graduate of Louisville High School who is now attending Ohio State University, majoring in International Studies with a minor in Arabic. She is the daughter of Kristin and Joe Cahill.

The Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest was established in 2006 to engage high school juniors and seniors in church-state issues. A panel of judges issued scores based on the content of each essay and the author’s writing skills. For more information, visit BJConline.org/contest.

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The Baptist Joint Committee is a 79-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization that works to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, bringing a uniquely Baptist witness to the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.