Religious freedom at the airport?

So, how far backwards do we really have to bend to accommodate “religious freedoms”?

If that looks like an attempt to provoke, well…keep reading.

If you drink, some cabbies won’t drive
By Keith Oppenheim

About three quarters of the 900 cabbies serving the [Minneapolis] airport are Muslim, and many have been regularly refusing passengers carrying beer, wine or liquor.

In the past five years, 5,400 would-be taxi passengers at the airport were refused service for this very reason, said the Metropolitan Airport Commission, or MAC. Last May, passenger Bob Dildine says he waited for 20 minutes, and five cab drivers would not give him and his daughter a ride. He was carrying wine he bought on vacation. (Story.)

So, does the cabbie who picks you up at the airport have a right to refuse service because you’re packin’ likker? Let’s carry it a tad further, because if they do, then that means they can discriminate on the basis of any interpretation of their faith, and there are plenty of ways in which a non-Muslim violates that faith. Like, what if I’m not carrying booze but clearly tipped a couple on the plane? Can they refuse to drive me to the Radisson if I’m eating a ham sandwich? What if I’m a practicing witch? What do they do if, en route to the Marriott, I get mad at somebody on the phone and bust some choice profanity at him/her? What if I’m reading a book on the ride that some imam or another has deemed heretical?

Listen, this is America, and “we reserve the right not to serve anybody for any reason or none at all” is cherished. If I own a restaurant and I don’t want you in my place, I can call the law and have you tossed. So in the true spirit of what free enterprise means in the US, these cabbies are well within their rights. Right?

Or is driving a cab different? Well, I don’t want you in my restaurant, that’s between you and me. But at the airport you’re holding up a line and disrupting the lives of people who are doing whatever they’re doing within the good faith rules of public behavior. Do you have a right to disrupt travel in this way?

And what about this angle – cabbies are licensed to provide a service and the rules of that industry are tightly defined and those working in it are regulated and monitored. That license – that’s a governmental privilege, and if the cabbie is allowed to refuse service for religious reasons, can’t we construe that as a governmental sanction of religious dogma?

But if we make them carry a liquored-up sales manager down to the red-light district, aren’t we using legal force to discriminate against them on the grounds of religion? (Never mind that the affront is – literally – that we’re discriminating against their religious right to discriminate on the basis of religion.)

“The Metropolitan Airport Commission is discriminating against us Muslim drivers,” says Abdulkaddir Adan, a Somalian-American who’s been driving a cab in the Twin Cities for two years.

From the back seat, I asked why Adan would object if I were carrying alcohol.

“The one who drinks, the one who transports, and the one who makes a business of it, they have the same category,” he said.

“So, by my transporting my alcohol in your cab, you are sinning?” I asked.

“Sinning to God, yes,” he replied.

Head hurt yet?

Think I’m agitating against Muslims?

Well, if so, let’s be clear about something. I file this in the same drawer with Christian pharmacists who won’t fill birth control prescriptions. And my feeling is the same for both: if performance of the routine duties of your job (and we’re referring to things where that job is regulated and/or where there is a natural need for and expectation of “secular” behavior) violates your religious beliefs, fine – go get a different job. Lots of religious women think it’s wrong to strip. The answer is simple enough: they don’t strip. It’s not like they have a right to be strippers and use religious freedom as leverage to force strip club owners to let them work the firepole while fully clothed. (If it’s something like offering a 10% Jesus Discount at your furniture emporium or placing a cross over the door at your lunch counter or something else unregulated and non-captive, I really don’t care – that simply lets me know that I need to take my business somewhere else.)

But there is no mandate that a municipality, state or nation align everything to suit your narrow dogmas.

You’re a cabbie? Good. Shut up and drive.



9 thoughts on “Religious freedom at the airport?

  1. Oh, golly. I did an entry on this awhile back when it was big news in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Those cabbies have also refused to drive disabled people with companion dogs on the basis that the dogs are dirty. There have also been allegations of refusing to drive homosexuals. At first they proposed to give them special lights on top of the cab signifying which ones would drive people with liquor, but they’ve scraped that idea.
    If these people (pharmacists/cabbies) can not do their job because it violates their religious beliefs, can I get a job in the slaughterhouse and then refuse to kill animals because I am against killing animals?

  2. Oh, and I should add that a couple weeks after this story first broke, a Metro bus driver requested not to drive buses advertising for Lavender magazine, the GLBT magazine up here. The ads said, “Unleash your inner gay,” and he wanted to be exempt from driving buses on which the ads were placed at the rear of the bus. Metro Transit granted this request.

  3. Taxicab Confessions
    Being a non-drinker, I’m the last person to argue for the right to booze yourself into oblivion, but what’s better for the community at large–for the taxicab driver to make some money ferrying a tipsy customer home to sleep it off, or for said tipsy customer to risk driving or walking home?
    Here in D.C., many cabbies will go out of their way to avoid driving through Dupont Circle, as it has a very high LGBT population. It’s almost comical to watch them frantically find other routes that don’t go through Queerville, so afraid they are of catching TEH GHEY.
    I’m sure many a Muslim cab driver dislikes being considered a terrorist–if that’s the case, they should extend the same courtesy to their passengers, and not judge based on preconceived (and most likely ill-informed) biases.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s