Veganism = Religion?

veganandreligion

Spencer Lo

When one considers the idea of ‘veganism,’ the notion that it is a religion—one relevantly similar to traditional religions—may strike some not only as obviously false but also absurd. Isn’t veganism (obviously) a diet at the very least or a philosophy at best? What does it offer on the ‘big questions’ usually associated with religion, such as those pertaining to the origin of the universe, the after-life, supernatural beings, and the human soul? Most people I’m sure, including vegans, do not consider veganism to be a religion as such, even though it may be required or encouraged by certain religions.

However, as illustrated in a recent lawsuit in Ohio, it turns out that veganism could qualify as a religion under federal anti-discrimination law. Professor Sherry F. Colb explained the ongoing case in her recent piece. Sakile Chenzira, a former customer service representative at a hospital, refused a mandatory flu shot (produced in chicken eggs) because it conflicted with her convictions as an ethical vegan, which resulted in the termination of her employment. She then sued the hospital alleging that the firing constituted religious discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer…to discharge any individual…because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”). In a ruling denying the hospital’s motion to dismiss, the federal district court judge held that Chenzira’s claim may actually have merit. Read More