Tuesday, April 17, 2007

MAC puts hammer down on cabbies

One of the Muslim accomodation issues I wrote about last month has reached a resolution of sorts.

On an 11-0 vote Monday, Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) members voted to crack down on drivers refusing service, making Minnesota the first place in the country to decide how to treat Muslim cabbies who decline to transport alcohol- toting riders on religious grounds.

Starting May 11, any airport taxi drivers who refuse riders will face 30-day suspensions. Drivers will have their licenses revoked two years for a second offense.

This isn't a full resolution because some cabbies are considering suing on the grounds of religious discrimination.

One might ask what's the big deal, especially because the problem is rather small: Just 27 refusals of service out of 120,000 total rides during the holiday travel season. Why not just use the existing rules, in which a cabbie who refuses to accept a fare must go to the back of the taxi line and wait all over again?

The answer lies in another number: 75 percent, which is how many airport cabbies are Somali Muslims and thus likely to refuse an alcohol-carrying fare.

In some ways, this is the reverse of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College situation in the earlier blog entry. And the logic is the same: a minority can often reasonably be accomodated; but a majority must be watched lest it impose its views on the rest of us.

In the MCTC case, providing a footbath for Muslims is reasonable because it benefits everyone and Muslims are such a small minority of students that it cannot reasonably be argued that they are imposing their views or practices on nonMuslims.

In the taxi case, however, Muslims make up a strong majority of cabbies. Allowing them to discriminate against passengers carrying alcohol benefits only the cabbies and could make it very difficult for such passengers to get a ride, which makes it an unreasonable accomodation.

I suspect, however, we'll get to find out what a court thinks.

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Blogger The Activist said...

The foot bath situation is wrong. If the college spent money accommodating Christian students, there would be howls of protest. The standard should apply equally to all religions, whether minority or majority.

4/17/2007 10:45 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

I agree that reasonable people can come down on either side of the foot bath issue.

You see it as a simple "no religious accomodation of any kind" rule. I laid out my standard: reasonable accomodation of minority beliefs is fine; a majority insisting on accomodation for itself is not.

The key, to me, is to remember the purpose of the separation doctrine: preventing a religion from establishing itself through state power. A minority religion is pretty much incapable of doing so, and thus the majority deciding to extend minor accomodations does not pose a problem.

An example is the decision by many schools through the decades to have fish for lunch on Fridays -- an accomodation of Catholics. As long as everyone can eat fish, no big deal.

4/17/2007 11:07 PM  

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