To the Editor:
In "When Putting On a Head Scarf Is All It Takes to Get Fired" (news article, March 8), you featured the stories of four women — Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Catholic — persecuted for their faith by the ban on religious garb for government employees, and in other professional settings, in Quebec.
Forcing these women to make an impossible choice between their faith and their livelihood is an affront to human dignity. Governments have no business forcing citizens to hide or abandon their faith in some ill-conceived effort to create a "neutral" state in which people are all the same.
Thankfully, laws in the United States protect our diversity and allow women (and men!) to remain true both to their religious beliefs and their desire to serve their communities. Our laws protect religious exercise and expression, even for government workers.
The Quebec article reminds us of what our world would look like without such protections. Women worried they'll be blocked from promotions? Forced to put dreams of a career as a prosecutor aside? Moving across the country to flee discrimination? That sounds like a pre-suffrage existence, in which women's inalienable political rights were denied.
There is one place in the United States where the Constitution's protections are not yet realized on the question of religious garb, and a spirit of intolerance like that in Quebec persists.
Pennsylvania still has an anti-religious-garb law — originally passed in 1895 and renewed decades later in 1949 — that bars public school teachers from wearing religious dress in the classroom. Though rarely enforced, Pennsylvania's law stands as a symbol of the religious intolerance from which it was born.
We should take Quebec's law as a warning sign of the injustice inflicted by a society that shoves faith behind closed doors and stop the imposition of secularism as a government-sponsored religion.