While the recently enacted Virginia law went too far (until amended yesterday) in granting employees leave without any consideration of the needs of businesses, the principle of religious accommodation is hardly outdated. Businesses should be required to make reasonable accommodations that enable workers to observe religious holidays and traditions, if they can do so without incurring a significant difficulty or expense.

The proposed Workplace Religious Freedom Act -- bipartisan legislation with more than 20 co-sponsors in the Senate -- provides for exactly this type of accommodation. The legislation would allow, for example, a Christian employee to take leave on Sunday to attend church as long as this does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

Such legislation is badly needed, even if Virginia's law went too far.


Legislative Director and Counsel, American Jewish Committee

Office of Government and International Affairs



The brouhaha over Virginia's recent revision of its blue law is a tempest in a teapot [Metro, July 7]. In omitting the laundry list of exemptions from the laws forcing businesses to close on the Sabbath, the General Assembly effectively gave workers a right to choose not to work on the day of rest.

Worrywarts warned that the revised laws would shutter stores on Saturdays and Sundays, showing their lack of faith in the market's ability to resolve the problem. Given the choice between earning more disposable income or exploiting the state legislature's sloppiness, many working Virginians would have chosen the former. What's more, the labor market is not so inflexible that employers wouldn't have been able to find additional workers to replace those who took the day off.

The genius of the market economy is that it gives workers the right to choose and employers the ability to work around foolish laws that at first blush obstruct choice.