MCHR Diversity Spotlight - Religious Freedom
Missourians are able to participate in a diverse array of religious celebrations and observances throughout the year. Alban Arthan, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, and Bodhi Day are just a few of the holidays observed in the month of December. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations and the celebration of International Human Rights Day on December 10. The theme for 2013 is “20 Years: Working for Your Rights” with an emphasis on the future and identifying the challenges that lie ahead.
Human Rights Day is observed throughout the world in various ways, including educational programs and cultural events with dancing, music, drama, and art. The Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) hosted the 2nd Annual International Human Rights Day celebration on December 6 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Jefferson City.
In Missouri, we enjoy protection from religious discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodations through enforcement of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA).
Under the MHRA, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate based on a person's religious beliefs or practice when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay levels, promotions, job assignments, layoffs, or any other terms or conditions of employment. The MHRA also requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs. For example, an employer may be required to allow an employee to change shifts to observe a religious holiday or make exceptions to its dress code policy to allow employees to wear religious garments. The MHRA also prohibits harassing a person because of religion or religious beliefs.
The MHRA makes it illegal for housing providers to refuse to rent, deny that an open unit is available, or offer different rental terms and conditions because of one’s religious beliefs. In addition, the Act prohibits property advertisements from attempting to induce people from certain religions to move into the area, such as advertising promoting a home that is for sale “near St. Mark’s church.”
Providers of public accommodations (stores, gas stations, banks, etc.) are also prohibited from discriminating against individuals because of their religious beliefs. It is illegal for providers of public accommodations to deny or offer inferior service to anyone because of his or her religious beliefs. For example, it would be illegal for a store to ask a customer to leave the establishment for wearing religious dress. Those who believe they have been treated differently because of their religious beliefs can take this online assessment to determine if it may be considered discrimination, warranting the filing of a complaint with the MCHR.
Here are a few additional ways to celebrate cultural and religious freedoms during the month of December:
- As you drink hot cocoa around a campfire, listen to the stories of American soldiers at Christmas during the Civil War as part of the Civil War Christmas Lantern Tour at Smallin Civil War Cave, 3575 North Smallin Road, Ozark. You will also be treated to a lantern-light tour of the cave. This event will be held on December 14, 21, and 28 at 7 p.m. For more information, call 417-551-4545 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City for their Bagel Bash on December 24, starting at 8 p.m. at Gusto Lounge, 504 Westport Road, Kansas City. Described as a homecoming for many, a reunion of friends, and a celebration in its own right, the hosts encourage you to come for the Vaad-supervised food, open bar, and dancing with a live DJ. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 913-327-8100.
- The Historic Daniel Boone Home & Heritage Center, 1868 Highway F, Defiance, presents Christmas Candlelight Tours on December 13 and 14, with gates opening at 5:30 p.m. The theme for this year’s event is “Lighting the Path to History.” There will be thousands of candles creating a soft glow illuminating the path into 1820, where residents on the Missouri Frontier prepared for the holiday season. Enjoy wassail, cookies, and more! Call 636-798-2005 to reserve tickets early or for more information.
- Enjoy the Holiday Haberdashery on December 14 at the Peck Brothers Dry Goods and Hardware store at the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site in St. Charles, located at 200 S. Main Street, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. The Peck Brothers staff invites you to do some shopping by candlelight for some 1820s-period holiday offerings. Browse items that residents on the Missouri frontier would have shopped for in the Peck Brothers store. Don't miss this rare and fun shopping experience for some one-of-a-kind items. For more information, call 636-940-3322 or e-mail email@example.com.
- On Sundays in December from 1 to 4 p.m., enjoy family programming at the St. Louis Art Museum, One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park. Family Sundays: Winter Celebration includes multicultural winter festivities featuring art activities, performances, scavenger hunts, and special treats from around the world. For more information, 314-721-0072.
- Garden Glow, a holiday light extravaganza at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, is open now through January 4. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m. through December 19, with extended nightly hours from 5 to 10 p.m., December 20 through January 4. Garden Glow is closed December 24, 25, and 31. For more information, call 314-577-5100.
- Gardenland Express, a holiday flower and train show, delights visitors of all ages each year with G-scale trains from different eras traveling along 900 feet of track through a miniature holiday landscape made of festive decorations and thousands of fresh plants, accented by beautiful poinsettias and flowers. This year’s exhibit, Gathering for the Feast, showcases popular plants we eat during the holidays each year. From wild beginnings to the massive agricultural scale of today, your understanding of fruits and vegetables will be forever changed! Enjoy the show at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, now through January 5, daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 314-577-5100.
- Now through January 5, you can enjoy a Victorian Christmas at the Tower Grove House, open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See the country home of Missouri Botanical Garden founder Henry Shaw decorated for the holidays in true Victorian style at 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis. Enjoy storytelling on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. Don’t miss the special activities for children! Closed December 25. For more information, call 314-577-5100.
- On December 27, from noon to 4 p.m., the contemporary African-American holiday of Kwanzaa will be celebrated with a Festival of the First Fruits at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis. This event honors African traditions and history with symbolic candle-lighting ceremonies accompanied by storytellers wearing traditional costumes and playing authentic African drums. For more information, call 314-577-5100.
- Experience Deutschheim Weihnachtfest, a 19th century German Christmas celebration at the Deutschheim State Historic Site, 109 West 2nd Street, Hermann, on December 14, and 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Pommer-Gentner House, circa 1840, will be decorated with greenery and lit by lamplight; its historic rooms featuring Christmas trees decorated with authentic German ornaments. Sample traditional German Christmas cookies including springerle, Lebkuchen, and zimmerschied. Learn how the Christmas customs of the German immigrants became American traditions celebrated yet today. A special Weihnachtsfest gift shop will have springerle molds and rolling pins, recipe books, imported German pop-up cards, and a selection of unique books for your Christmas gift giving. For more information, call 573-486-2200.
- Visit the virtual Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to read about the first World Conference on Human Rights, held in 1993 in Vienna, Austria, the 20 most important Human Rights Achievements over the past 20 years, and other related information.
- Discover the celebration of the Dongzhi Festival, also known as the Winter Solstice Festival, observed this year on December 21. Today, people mark the occasion in northern China by eating Chinese dumplings, while the southern part of the country puts on a much bigger celebration, second only to Chinese New Year for many families.
- The U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom provides information about their mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. Learn how they monitor religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommend and implement policies in respective regions or countries, and develop programs to promote religious freedom.