A broad coalition of religious and civil liberties experts are hailing a directive issued by President Clinton on August 14 protecting religious rights in the federal workplace. But legal representatives of some faith-based organizations fear the guidelines will create more confusion than they resolve.

Drafted primarily by the Christian Legal Society's (CLS) Center for Law and Religious Freedom and the American Jewish Congress, the new Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace have the backing of groups such as the National Council of Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of Scientology International, the National Sikh Center, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and People for the American Way.

The directive declares that personal religious expression "to the greatest extent possible" applies to "all civilian executive branch agencies, officials, and employees in the federal workplace." The rules affirm the right of those 2 million civilian employees to read Scriptures during breaks, share beliefs with "receptive" coworkers and invite them to church, be excused from working on Sabbath or holy days, wear religious clothing and jewelry that is central to their faith, have equal access to an office conference room or cafeteria for lunchtime Bible study, and be excused from a work assignment that is "religiously objectionable."

DO'S AND DON'TS: The guidelines will be enforced by each agency's general counsel under a "strict adherence" admonition from Clinton. Included are numerous commonsense approaches to hypothetical scenarios. For example, a supervisor may post a flier on a bulletin board about a church event with a handwritten notice inviting coworkers, ...

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