Honolulu Officials Draft New Guidelines that Permit Greater Religious Expression

( [email protected] ) May 11, 2004 10:26 AM EDT

HONOLULU— While the nation continues to face conflicts between religious beliefs and job responsibilities, Christian attorneys have worked together to help the City of Honolulu to issue new guidelines that would allow greater religious expression among city employees, followed by a complaint made by a maintenance worker for the City of Honolulu who was prohibited from placing religious literature in common areas at work and on an employee bulletin board.

According to Rutherford Institute, Honolulu officials apologized for any violation that might have occurred and agreed to issue guidance on the City’s and County’s responsibility to provide reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs and practices in the workplace. Working closely with attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, the City of Honolulu’s Department of Human Resources drafted comprehensive new guidelines protecting religious expression in the workplace.

“We commend Honolulu officials for their willingness to safeguard religious expression in the workplace,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “It is our hope that more employers would show a regard for the rights of their employees and a commitment to upholding the constitutional principles of religious expression and free speech.”

The new guidelines allow City of Honolulu employees to freely express their religious beliefs at work as long as those beliefs don’t harass fellow employees or interfere with work requirements. In addition, the new guidelines limit the power of managers and supervisors to censor religious expression of the employees as they are prohibited from singling out employees for restrictions based on the content of their religious expression or because other employees object to or are offended by the content of the religious employee’s beliefs.

Rutherford Institute attorneys filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii in April 2003 on behalf of Kelly Jenkins, a maintenance worker for the City of Honolulu. Beginning in 1999, Jenkins sought to place religious literature in common areas of the employee recreation center of his workplace for other employees who might be interested, just like other employees who post flyers and share literature that reflect their own personal beliefs.

However, Jenkins’ supervisor informed him that his action violates the “separation between church and state” and that he could not place religious items in the recreation center or in other common areas of the workplace.

In their complaint, Institute attorneys charged that Jenkins’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated, as well as his rights under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human right.