In Missouri, citizens have the freedom to celebrate their own religious holidays during the month of December. However, around the world, many are not able to enjoy this same freedom. But through the work of the United Nations, there have been advances in international human rights, giving us another important reason to celebrate United Nations Human Rights Day, also known as International Human Rights Day, held annually on December 10. To commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this day was formally instituted after the United Nations General Assembly voted to adopt this “Magna Carta for all humanity” on December 10, 1948. The Declaration was created in large part as a way to promote peace in the aftermath of World War II and was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” in the areas of political, civil, social, cultural, and economic rights.
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) invites you to celebrate International Human Rights Day with us on December 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Double Tree Hotel in Jefferson City, 422 Monroe Street. For more information or to register, call 573-522-1024 or e-mail Deborah.Sarber@labor.mo.gov.
In Missouri, we enjoy protection from religious discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodations through the enforcement of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA).
Under the MHRA, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate 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 so he or she may observe a religious holiday or make exceptions to its dress code policy to allow employees to wear religious dress. The MHRA also prohibits harassing a person because of his or her religion or religious beliefs.
The MHRA makes it illegal for housing providers to refuse to rent, deny that an available unit is available, or offer different rental terms and conditions because of a person’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 that a home is available 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 service 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 only because he or she is wearing religious dress. Persons who believe they have been treated differently because of their religious beliefs can take the online assessment to determine if it may be considered discrimination and file a discrimination complaint with MCHR.
Here are a few additional ways to celebrate our cultural and religious freedoms during the month of December:
- Visit the Missouri Botanical Garden at 4344 Shaw Boulevard in St. Louis for a season filled with holiday spirit. Included in the planned events are flora, toy trains, holiday crafts, and plenty of holiday decorations. Gardenland Express, a holiday flower and train show, is open now through January 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with early closings on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and an all-day closing on Christmas Day. A traditional Jewish holiday celebration of Chanukah: Festival of Lights will be held on December 9 from noon to 4 p.m. and will include the ceremonial lighting of the menorah, traditional and folk dances, and musicians and choral group performances. On December 28 from noon to 4 p.m., the contemporary African-American holiday of Kwanzaa: Festival of the First Fruits will honor African traditions and history with storytelling and music to celebrate the feast before the dry season. Symbolic candle-lighting ceremonies are accompanied by African storytellers using traditional costumes and percussion music. For more information, call 314-577-5100.
- On December 13, bring your mother or daughter and enjoy a traditional North African celebration of Chag HaBanot—Festival of Daughters, held during Hanukkah, at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center at 2 Millstone Campus Drive. The celebration has special resonance for women who, according to some legends, did the work of rededicating the Temple with unusual zeal. For more information, call Simone Picker at 314-442-3166 or e-mail email@example.com.
- Celebrate Kwanzaa at the St. Louis Art Museum at One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, on December 30 beginning at 1 p.m. Explore the Galleries on a seek-and-find adventure and create a Zawadi (Swahili for "gift") to take home with you. For more information, call 314-721-0072.