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NAACP Chapter Claims That It's Illegal for Jewish-Owned Medical Clinic to Close Saturdays:

So at least it appears from this news story; I'm trying to get my hands on the exact complaint, but so far I haven't gotten it. (If anyone knows more about this, please let me know.)

The [Spring Valley, New York] chapter of the NAACP has filed a complaint accusing the Ben Gilman Medical and Dental Clinic of religious discrimination for closing on Saturdays.

The complaint, filed Sept. 6 with the state's Division of Human Rights, alleges that the clinic's practice of remaining closed Saturdays in observance of operators' Jewish Sabbath, unlawfully imposes their religious beliefs on others....

Willie Trotman, president of the Spring Valley branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the purpose of the complaint was to have the clinic open on Saturdays.

Those who work -- more than 80 percent of the clinic's clientele are Hispanic or black, according to a letter the clinic sent to the Human Rights Commission earlier this year -- would find it convenient to visit their doctors on a Saturday when they had the day off, Trotman said yesterday....

Because the complaint is confidential, [county Human Rights Commissioner S. Ram] Nagubandi could not comment on its specifics. However, he confirmed that a complaint had been filed by the NAACP and said his office -- acting as an agent for the state's Division of Human Rights -- would investigate the matter....

In a copy of the complaint provided by the NAACP, Hoffman, Milner and the clinic were said to "invoke their religion" in order to engage in "disparate treatment" of people of different faiths. It also alleges that the respondents failed to accommodate other religious beliefs....

If the complaint is as the newspaper describes it, then it's quite legally unfounded -- in fact, its theory is itself religiously discriminatory.

Some religious discrimination laws likely do bar clinics from discriminating against patients based on the patients' religious beliefs. Some of them (though not the relevant federal and New York laws) might require clinics to take steps to accommodate patients' religious beliefs, by exempting patients from clinics' generally applicable rules when the rules violate the patients' religious beliefs and the exemption isn't that burdensome on the clinic. (For instance, if a clinic requires patients to be photographed for their files and a patient has a sincere religious objection to such a requirement, the clinic may be required to exempt the patient from that objection unless there's a really important reason for the photograph.) But closing Saturdays neither treats patients differently because of their religion, nor requires patients (as a condition of getting service) to do something that violates their own religious beliefs.

Moreover, clinics are entirely free to close Saturdays just because the doctors (like people in other businesses that are closed weekends) want the day off. And if they're free to close Saturdays for secular reasons, they're equally free to close Saturdays for religious reasons. Allowing clinics to close for secular reasons but not religious ones (on the spurious grounds that closing Saturdays "unlawfully imposes their religious beliefs on others") would be discrimination against religion, since it would treat religiously motivated conduct worse than identical secularly motivated conduct.

Nor does the fact that the doctor's office gets federal funds, which the story also mentions as a basis for the NAACP chapter's complaint, change the analysis. The federal government might be able to require that offices that get federal funds remain open six days a week, regardless of their motivation for closing, and this might lead to a religious accommodation demand on the part of the doctors, likely citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But in the absence of such a requirement, doctors remain free to close whatever days they please, whether they want to close Wednesdays to play golf, Saturdays or Sundays to play with their kids, or Saturdays to observe the Sabbath.

Thanks to Joel Grossman for the pointer.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Jewish-Owned Clinic's Decision to Close Saturdays Interferes With Religious Freedom --
  2. NAACP Chapter Claims That It's Illegal for Jewish-Owned Medical Clinic to Close Saturdays:
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Jewish-Owned Clinic's Decision to Close Saturdays Interferes With Religious Freedom --

The Law Should Force Them To Open Saturdays: Yes, that's the legal theory of the Spring Valley (N.Y.) NAACP, which argues that the clinic's closing Saturdays (because the doctors who run it observe the Sabbath) "stifle[s the NAACP's] efforts towards the equality, diversity, and religious freedom to encourage tolerance in our society." Uh-huh.

The NAACP's complaint (which I just got and posted here) outlines the group's theory. I had said more about the legal problems with the theory Friday, based on a newspaper account (which proved to be quite accurate). Here, let me just note a few key excerpts from the complaint:

  1. The Spring Valley NAACP's theory is that closing Saturdays is "invok[ing] their own religion to discriminate [against] the patients who practice any religion other than Hasidic Judaism ... by (a) engaging in disparate treatment of people who believe in a religion other than Hasidic Judaism and (b) failing to accommodate other religious beliefs." No word from the NAACP about whether stores of all sorts that close Sundays are breaking the law as well, or about why it's "disparate treatment" to be available the same days for Jews and non-Jews.

  2. "The willful closing of the clinic on Saturdays serves no other business purpose than to impose the extremity of their own religious beliefs in Hasidic Judaism on the community it serves which consists of predominantly African Americans and Hispanics." No word about whether complying with one's own religious beliefs about when one chooses not to work is a legtimate "business purpose" — or about why closing Saturdays because of one's religion is any worse than closing Saturdays because one wants to go home for the weekend (something that I take it even the Spring Valley NAACP wouldn't oppose).

  3. "By following the customs as set by rabbinic authority, the respondents are intentionally targeting the Christian employees and patients in general and in particular." An odd definition of "intentionally targeting," it seems to me, and again one that leads one to wonder why a Christian's closing Sundays isn't equally "intentionally targeting the [Jewish] employees and patients."

  4. "While the above named aiders and abettors have the right to follow their own moral values but they should not use their beliefs as a platform to promote religion on the members of our organization." Hard to see how there's any "promot[ing]" going on here — it's hardly that the Jews are trying to get non-Jews to convert to Judaism. It's also hard to see how the Spring Valley NAACP is serious about acknowledging the doctors' "right to follow their own moral values," since they're seeking to use the law to force the doctors to violate their moral values.

The Spring Valley NAACP also alleges employment discrimination by the clinic, and deliberate racial segregation of patients; that would be illegal, if proven, though the complaint notes no evidence of this. (The Spring Valley NAACP has also been pushing to get the Clinic "to hire a diverse staff"; to the extent this calls for race-based hiring, this might, under certain plausible circumstances, be itself a call for illegal discrimination.) But those objections from the Spring Valley NAACP are separate from the ones I note here.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Jewish-Owned Clinic's Decision to Close Saturdays Interferes With Religious Freedom --
  2. NAACP Chapter Claims That It's Illegal for Jewish-Owned Medical Clinic to Close Saturdays:
59 Comments