By Randy Blackaby
Years ago most businesses were closed on Sundays. That included restaurants and gas stations and department stores. In fact, most states had laws requiring businesses and sporting events to be closed (blue laws).
It was recognized that Sunday was a day to go to worship, and a large percentage of people did so.
But today, Sunday is one of the biggest revenue days for many retailers and other businesses seek to increase revenues by keeping their shops running seven days a week. And many professed Christians see little need to attend worship services. Some denominations arrange Saturday evening services to free their members to work or play on the Lord’s Day.
For Christians who take the demands of Hebrews 10:25 seriously (not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together), the cultural changes in attitude toward Sunday work can create great problems.
Is there a solution to this dilemma?
A solution is potentially found in both federal and Ohio civil rights laws. “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing and other terms and conditions of employment. The Act also requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless to do so would create an undue hardship upon the employer. Flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments and lateral transfers are examples of accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs” (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
The federal EEOC specifically states in its literature that “reasonable religious accommodations that employers may be required to provide workers include leave for religious observances…”
Christians should know, however, that these regulations do not necessarily mean that just because you ask for Sundays off, your employer must grant that request.
If an ordinary request has not provided you freedom to worship, according to the directions of scriptures, you will have to file a formal, written request to your employer asking for accommodations and citing the federal or state civil rights codes.
The employer has the right to discuss with you your religious convictions to determine whether this is just your “preference” or whether this is, indeed, a religious “conviction.”
“Reasonable accommodation” of your needs won’t always demand doing things exactly as you might ideally want it done. Employers, generally, should be willing to see if other employees are willing to swap working assignments with you. They are allowed to offer you a lateral job transfer that gives you a shift that accommodates your worship needs. (Such job transfers may not be to your liking, but do constitute an acceptable means of accommodation, according to interpretive information found on EEOC websites.)
The regulations do provide exceptions, if the employer can show that providing you time off for worship would place an “undue hardship” on the employer. Examples of undue hardships include increased administrative costs, higher cost for an employee to take your hours or if giving you the accommodation conflicts with union seniority rules.
What is generally true, however, is that an employee must make some good faith effort to accommodate your religious convictions.
You, however, must be prepared to make some sacrifices as well, to meet your needs to worship the Lord.
It might be worth injecting here that Christians interviewing for jobs would be well-advised to tell potential employers in advance of the need for at least several hours off on Sunday to worship. Make clear that you might be willing to work in the afternoon, if provision can be made for worship hours. Wise employers will see the value of having godly, worshipful people working for them.
It seems neither fair nor honest to withhold this information during an interview—just to get the job—and then suddenly surprise an employer with a demand for time off.
On the other hand, Christians should be aware that federal and state law supports them when the choice appears to be (1) forsake the Lord’s worship; or (2) lose my job.
Too many Christians these days just accept that they have no alternatives to working Sundays and thus missing worship service. This article is intended to show that such isn’t true.
It is not the intent of this article to conclude that every Sunday conflict can be resolved through the civil rights laws. There are times when Christians must simply make hard choices to remain faithful to the Lord.
Randy Blackaby lives in Medway, OH and preaches for the New Carlisle church of Christ. He also serves this congregation as one of its elders. He has preached full-time for about 18 years and part-time for that many more. During the period from 1971 to 1988 he was a reporter and later managing editor of The Xenia Daily Gazette in Ohio. He preached for 14 years in Kokomo, IN and has written a number of newspaper columns as a preacher, including Bible Q&A and op-ed pieces on current issues from a biblical perspective. He is a staff writer for Truth Magazine and writes monthly columns for the New Carlisle Sun, the Knollwood Messenger and this magazine. He has written a host of workbooks on Bible texts and themes, including recent ones on the book of Galatians and the Life of Moses. Currently, he is working on another on what the Bible teaches about “Money and Possessions.” After the fall of the Soviet Union, he made five preaching trips to Lithuania between 1994 and 2000. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.