Religious Discrimination is now OK

If you feel that you just must discriminate against someone publicly, I suggest you choose a religious group. While certain types of bigotry are loudly and forcefully opposed (as they should be), today’s “guardians of culture” in the media and elsewhere seem content to ignore religious discrimination.

The latest example?

A recent excerpt from the book, The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by highly respected author Michael Lewis. The book is about the friendship between Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, but a reprinted excerpt in Slate focused on how Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is using behavioral economics to “revolutionize the art of NBA draft picks.”

The bombshell revelation that NO ONE in the media (or elsewhere) is talking about? Morey is quoted in the reprinted excerpt as saying that Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander illegally asked him about his religious beliefs during Morey’s job interview, presumably with the intent of not hiring a religiously observant person.

In his own job interview, Morey was reassured by Alexander’s social fearlessness, and the spirit in which he operated. “He asked me, ‘What religion are you?’ I remember thinking, I don’t think you’re supposed to ask me that. I answered it vaguely, and I think I was saying my family were Episcopalians and Lutherans when he stops me and says, ‘Just tell me you don’t believe any of that s–t.’”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to ask me that” indeed. It’s not “social fearlessness” to ask that question, it’s illegal and discriminatory. In the U.S., it’s forbidden to inquire about a candidate’s religious practices during a job interview.

Imagine the uproar if Alexander had asked Morey to express derogatory views about African-Americans or homosexuals! But despite the popularity of Slate and Michael Lewis, no one is talking about Alexander’s discriminatory query (don’t take my word for it, try a Google search).

Several prominent basketball journalists and sports personalities were alerted to this potential story via Twitter, including Bill Simmons, Ramona Shelburne, Mark Jackson, Rachel Nichols, Zach Lowe, Amin Elhassan and Josh Levin. Deadspin and Sports Illustrated journalists were also contacted.

None of them responded, despite the fact that several of them have taken up social/political issues in the past.

Why do prominent media people/journalists often seem to ignore religious discrimination? I can think of three possible reasons:

  1. As Western society becomes increasingly secular, it seems that a not insignificant amount of people believe that religious people are dumb for believing in a Higher Power. Many educated and supposedly sophisticated media members have no time or patience to defend such simpletons (and in fact agree with those discriminating against the religious in some cases).
  2. Sports writers and TV personalities are overwhelmingly left-wing/liberal: “If you’re a Republican or conservative, you feel the need to talk in whispers,” one conservative ESPN employee said. “There’s even a fear of putting Fox News on a TV [in the office].” Religious people in the U.S., contrarily, are increasingly affiliated with the right-wing.
  3. It’s easy for journalists (like people in any profession) to become lazy and fall into identifiable tropes. Certain groups are more likely to be painted as the victims, while others are portrayed as the victimizers (followers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are certainly familiar with this dynamic). The press will occasionally bring attention to alleged Christian coercion (religious people as victimizers) in the locker room, or discrimination against Muslims, but seem to largely ignore potential prejudice against other religious groups.

All types of discrimination should be equally condemned. An NBA owner bad-mouthing African-Americans in private created a huge media storm (and led to his eventual ouster). It’s notable and unfortunate that Leslie Alexander’s behind-the-scenes comments about a different segment have been totally ignored…

About the Author
Eric Danis lives in Modi'in, Israel with his wife and three cute kids. Whenever possible, he tries to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes about Israel and Judaism.
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