US Supreme Court Gets Pagan Organizations off the ADA Hook But That Shouldn’t Be An Excuse

US Supreme Court Gets Pagan Organizations off the ADA Hook But That Shouldn’t Be An Excuse January 12, 2012

US Supreme Court unanimously agrees that religious organisations don’t have to comply with ADA employment regulations. (New York Times)

On one hand I’m for the division of church and state. On the other the ADA is a very important piece of legislation to protect disabled citizens from discrimination. Being a diverse and inclusive community will continue to be in the hands of Pagan participant, Pagan organisations and their employees without the enforcement of US law. Of course are coordinators really doing the moral thing if they are threatened with a lawsuit and make their festival accessible? Or if a Pagan organisation doesn’t accommodate an employee after an accident or serious illness? No. We need to rethink if it is moral to define gatherings of hundreds as “private” then not offering accessible options or using our religious non-profit status as an excuse rather than a mandate to minister to everyone.

The majority of large Pagan organizations that put on festivals or conferences:
1. Are uneducated about accommodating participants.
2. Assume there aren’t enough participants who need assistance.
3. Claim they don’t have the financial or volunteer resources to provide access.
4. Are unwilling to provide more complex access such as ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters or wheelchair access to buildings since they assume registered federal non-profit status shelters them from ADA (Americans with Disabilities) law. (Staff of Asclepius post Overcoming Obstacles: Conscious Dialog about Responsibility for Access)

For smaller groups, or for events such as Pagan Pride day which is a loose group of local coordinators, it is difficult to find space that is accessible. They do have limited funding and often face discrimination in renting facilities.

What our community needs is a two way dialog between organisers and participants with disabilities or developmental differences. That includes seeking each other out by including accessibility questions on planning surveys etc. and members of the disabled community joining in leadership roles.

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