Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Muslim woman, Samantha Elauf, who wore a hijab to an Abercrombie & Fitch interview, and was consequently denied the job. Though many see the ruling as a victory for religious freedom, others perceive it as oppressive to enterprise.
The headscarf hubbub highlights America’s litigious lack of foresight.
Constitutional religious freedom, like freedom of speech, applies to gov.—not private business. Because of this, Capitalism and culture carry out the public’s wrath when someone says or does something ‘offensive.’ For instance, if a celebrity—or a ‘nobody’ using a real name—Tweets a racist joke, sponsors, job opportunities, and followers dry up like Folsom Lake. The gov. did not tell the press or public to be hopped up about these incidents; they did that on their own.
Similarly, Abercrombie, like many brands before them, suffered weeks of negative press and boycotting over the dress debacle without Uncle Sam wagging his finger at them.
After all, the girl was not hired—not for her religious beliefs—but her resulting fashion choices. As Abercrombie is a company marketing a specific look, it makes sense they would not want someone as unique or modest as Ms. Elauf to represent them. They peddle a very plain style based on how form fitting or revealing the clothing is—just look at the bags plastered with half-naked boys.
Just as it is right for Abercrombie to sell to the customer they want, it is Elauf’s right to wear the headscarf. Forcing one to accommodate the other would only result in an uneasy work environment, if she were hired. Now she and the world knows where they stand–or, at least, stood.
Before the gov. was involved, this incident was one of integrity. Abercrombie explained their intent, the “look” policy process; Elauf made her case clear, that she loves Abercrombie but not the let-down. The public was able to see the whole thing play out and take sides.
With gov.’s new one-size-fits-all stance, honesty and bigotry only get closeted. Businesses do not get a chance to discuss before they are slapped with a fine, made to hire a person they are not happy with—who they probably are not going to treat all that well—and/or have no way to vent, guilty before proven innocent. This only breeds further resentment towards that person or group.
If you want resolution, you are more likely to find it in the free-market.
If people do not like a business model, they are free to boycott and bad-mouth, get others on the bandwagon through social media and news outlets. If that business wants to stay afloat, they are going to have to reconsider their position, naturally come to the conclusion that a customer is a customer. Someone willing to help keep the store’s lights on, put bread on employees’ tables, and facilitate each person’s lifestyle.
Otherwise, they are going to have to grin and bear the deteriorating reputation, the pin-holed profits.
So why not continue to leave punishing up to the private sector? As fashionable as it is to leave the gov. to find fault with everything, it is an indirect supplement that supports dishonesty.