Trucker demands religious accommodation for refusal to haul alcohol, tobacco

Age of accommodation, cont’d: “in Reedy v. Schneider National, Inc. (E.D. Pa. filed Oct. 15, 2010). Vasant Reddy says that he has ‘a sincerely held religious belief that he cannot consume, possess, or transport alcohol or tobacco,’ and that he informed Schneider National of this. …Nonetheless, he says, he was ordered to transport a load with alcohol, and was fired because he refused to transport it.” [Eugene Volokh] (cross-posted at Secular Right).


  • Reddy should get a job where only alcohol is transported. He would never have to work a day.

  • It is unfortunate that there has never been a meaningful consideration of how much accommodation should be required from the employee.
    There are certainly trucking firms that must specialize in hauling limited cargo (tanker trucks for an oil company?) for which he could perform his chosen trade in a situation that would result in no conflict or burden for either party.
    Funny how his belief system works. Driving a truck is essentially a fungible activity; whether he drives the forbidden goods himself, or he takes another load leaving another driver free to haul his load, he has facilitated the load of that which is to him forbidden. The only way out of this dilemma is to join another company that meets his ethical standards.

  • Well, we’ve got Muslim cab drivers who refuse to transport blind people who have guide dogs…

  • The belief system may look funny, but it’s pretty common in many Islamic nations. I’ve had drivers who simply refused to carry (either in the vehicle or by hand) pork or alcohol and would leave a room if either were present. The tobacco thing is somewhat newer, but conservative imams (and liberal, power-drunk American politicians) believe that if it’s bad for the body, it should be forbidden.

    As far as the ‘facilitating’ goes, that is not generally a concern within Islam. Keeping track of one’s own behavior should be enough. Of course, there are exceptions, particularly in countries like Saudi Arabia where you find religious enforcers.

  • In college, since I didn’t own a fridge, I stored my beer in the fridge of my Muslim hallmate who had one.

    So there doesn’t seem to be any universal consensus among Muslims against passively possessing or transporting booze, as opposed to consuming it.

    I’ve also ordered pizza with Muslims, where there was ham on my half of the pizza.

    There are apparently Jewish pig farmers who don’t eat their product.

  • Suppose he were a Hindu or Buddhist and abhorred meat consumption. Would he be free to refuse to haul it? Could a Mormon refuse to carry coffee, tea or caffeine-containing soft drinks? Could an Orthodox Jew refuse to haul bacon? Could a Jehovah’s Witness refuse a cargo of flags?Isn’t the proper remedy not to work for the trucking company if you don’t like what they carry? When will this idiocy cease?

  • Black Death: In principal, yes. Religious beliefs have to be accommodated if they can be accommodated readily and cheaply. Sometimes, the person would be better off looking for a different job, granted. But a sincerely held belief, even if held only by a single person, has weight. An employer has to demonstrate that the cost of accommodation is not trivial.

    That’s not actually hard to do, but it has to be done honestly. An employer does not have to shut down a production line because an employee or two needs to break for prayer.

  • I cannot understand why this does not violate the establishment clause. Religious beliefs compete with each other, and the belief that one should never eat peanut butter competes with the belief that one should stop work to pray at home when one feels the need. By conveying secular benefits on those who hold the latter belief but not the former, laws like RFRA burden religious beliefs like the former.

    How can “you may get secular benefit X if you sincerely hold religious belief Y but not if you sincerely hold competing and contradictory religious belief Z” not violate the establishment clause?

    Also, courts tend to be very reluctant to find a religious belief sincerely held where the belief advances the petitioner’s pecuniary interest, sometimes explicitly saying that this is an appropriate reason to be suspicious. That is nonsense. People are much *more* likely to sincerely hold beliefs that benefit them than those that do not — the barriers to adoption are lower.

    For example, this is why there is no mainstream religion that holds that members of all other religions go to heaven while their adherents all go to Hell. This is why it’s much easier to convince someone that you owe them $10 than that they owe you $10.

    Most people have no difficulty acquiring, and then sincerely holding, religious beliefs that provide them a pecuniary benefit. Those who go to religious schools, for example, do so daily.

  • Mr. Schwartz has managed to convince me of this: religious beliefs are largely personal delusion created by the individual to justify their personal biases that they are worth more or owed more than would be justified by cold hard objective analysis.
    By successfully arguing that folk’s beliefs stem from personal bias you have reinforced the Court’s skepticism regarding beliefs with benefits.

  • Keep in mind that if the individual stated at the timeof his job interview that he would not carry either alcohol or tobacco and thecompany refused to hire him on that basis, he could sue for discrimination. Once again, the company cannot win.

  • Volohk writes: “Maybe it’s bad for federal law to impose such an obligation on employers”. Why? The establishment clause applies to the federal government, not to States and certainly not to private employers.

    An employment contract is a private matter, and accomodation of religious beliefs should simply be part of the negotiations. If an employee cannot in good conscience carry out his assigned duties, he should not have accept the job. If the job changes in a substantial manner, then perhaps a new employment contract should be negotiated.

  • I found it both somewhat amusing and bemusing in the one SCOTUS case quoted, the Court said “Thomas drew a line, and it is not for us to say that the line he drew was an unreasonable one.”

    If it is not for the Court to say, why bring the issue to them at all?

  • gasman: The Court’s skepticism is over whether or not the beliefs are sincerely held, not over the motivation for acquiring them. The Court’s argument is that beliefs with benefits are less likely to be sincerely held, which is the reverse of the truth. People very easily acquire religious beliefs which benefit them and show no difficulty sincerely holding them. The Court’s argument is basically an argument from personal incredulity.

  • It might be easier to sincerely acquire/i> a self-serving belief, but a belief which goes against a person’s self-interest is highly likely to be sincere. Thus, the requirement that a person abstain from both food and water from dawn to dusk during a hot Arabian sun suggests that that people didn’t adopt Islam because it was easy. For that matter, it probably wasn’t the half-hearted Christians who got thrown to the lions.

  • Malcolm Smith: Your analysis would be valid if they people had the freedom to choose whether to adopt Islam or not. However, given the severe penalties for failure to conform, I think sincere belief actually was self-serving. At best your choices were sincere belief or faked belief. The former seems more pleasant, at least to me.

    In any case where a judge is deciding if an idea is self-serving or not, someone is asking for an accommodation based that belief. The Court’s reasoning assumes that it is at least somewhat difficult to acquire, and sincerely hold, self-serving beliefs. In fact, for many people, it is quite easy. People who seek a religious education with an eye to a job in the clergy do it every day.

  • […] [cross-posted from Overlawyered] […]

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