As chair of the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR), I find it necessary to comment on recent incidents of religious prejudice and intolerance that are taking place here in the Sunshine State and across the nation.
While the atmosphere is rife with fear, and political rhetoric is becoming increasingly divisive, I want to remind the community that religious discrimination is in most cases illegal and will not be tolerated. Unfortunately, numerous examples are being played out daily.
Recently, two Muslim women were shot at and attacked as they were leaving their places of worship in Tampa. “Muslim-Free Zone” signs are popping up as part of a misguided attempt to eliminate “perceived” threats. Earlier this week, a college professor, who is Christian, was put on leave for joining her Muslim colleagues in wearing a hijab. While each of these examples has sparked discussions, and at times outrage, the frequency and pervasiveness with which they are now taking place is deeply troubling.
The mission of the FCHR is to prevent unlawful discrimination by ensuring that the people of Florida are treated fairly and have equal access to opportunities in employment, housing and certain public accommodations. Religious discrimination is prohibited under Florida and federal law, and is certainly not in keeping with the founding values of our nation. I want to especially remind the business community of their obligation in protecting their customers and employees from any form of religious discrimination.
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Our nation’s greatest strengths derive from the diversity of its people. We are strongest when we work together, treating each other with mutual respect as we stand united in striving to achieve our shared goals. I am confident that as one people, we will overcome the challenges of this age.
Michael Keller, chair, Florida Commission on Human Relations, Tallahassee