Religious accommodation in workplace leads spring Great Plains Research

Released on 04/18/2011, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., April 18th, 2011 —
Cover of the spring issue of Great Plains Research
Cover of the spring issue of Great Plains Research

Do state constitutions provide greater possibilities for workplace religious accommodation than is currently available to religious minorities under federal law?

Two researchers at the University of Nebraska at Kearney approached this question by examining a case study of the controversy over religious accommodation for practicing Muslims employed at a meatpacking plant in Grand Island. Their findings are featured among other articles in the spring issue of Great Plains Research, a publication of the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

UNK political scientists Peter J. Longo and Joan M. Blauwkamp presented their study in five steps: summarizing the facts of the Grand Island case; looking at federal requirements for religious accommodation; noting how such accommodation was shaped by news media and public opinion; examining two competing constitutional frameworks for resolving tensions between economic interests and fundamental rights; and considering whether Nebraska's state constitution provides a suitable framework to secure religious liberty. Longo is Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Professor, and Blauwkamp is associate professor and chair of political science.

Cody Newton of the University of Colorado at Boulder uses Euro-American hunting data to assess western Great Plains biogeography from 1806 to 1835. Historic accounts from 19th-century travelers to the western Great Plains contain significant information on the animals they saw or hunted. Using data derived from these accounts, Newton presents a quantitative assessment of the hunting successes of the Pike, Long, Glenn and Dodge expeditions and an analysis of the condition of the species encountered.

UNK political scientist Diane Duffin analyzed the political consequences of population consolidation in Nebraska. To discern a relationship between population migration and political outcomes, she compared the six open-seat races for U.S. senator that have occurred in Nebraska since 1976. "Counties with more rapid rates of growth exhibit more support for Democratic candidates. Shrinking counties exhibit more support for Republican Senate candidates," she said.

In "Cottonwood Riparian Site Selection on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation," researchers Julie A. Thorstenson, Diane H. Rickerl and Janet H. Gritzner developed a model for the restoration of cottonwood trees on tribal lands in South Dakota. Construction of the Oahe Dam began in 1948, resulting in the loss of 104,420 acres by the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. Legislation in 1999 transferred land back to the tribe to establish wildlife habitat restoration. Rickerl and Gritzner are at South Dakota State University, and Thorstenson is the director for the Lakota campus of Presentation College in Eagle Butte, S.D.

A team of UNL researchers led by Julie Huddle asked, "Do invasive riparian woody plants affect hydrology and ecosystem processes?" In their article, the authors answered the question by providing an overview of the ecological status and hydrological role of riparian vegetation in the northern Great Plains. They also presented information compiled from published studies on water consumption of native and non-native species, evaluated the ecohydrological outcomes from removal of invasive woody vegetation, and considered the economic costs and benefits of such removal with suggestions for making those decisions.

In "Estimation of Land Surface Evapotranspiration with a Satellite Remote Sensing Procedure,"Ayse Irmak and her team of researchers from the UNL School of Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., and the University of Idaho utilized an evapotranspiration mapping model in Great Plains environmental settings to understand water use in managed ecosystems on a regional scale.

Utah wildlife biologist Dustin Schaible and South Dakota State University biologist Charles Dieter teamed up to determine whether seasonal and habitat changes are implicated in the health and fertility of white-tailed jackrabbits in South Dakota by examining the changes in their kidney fat. The populations of the white-tailed jackrabbits have been declining for the past decade. A suggested reason for this population decline was habitat changes. The authors say their study indicates the stress of reproduction during the extreme heat of the summer may result in low kidney fat in the jackrabbits.

Eastern Illinois University geographer Christopher R. Laingen looked at historic and contemporary trends of the conservation reserve program for ring-necked pheasants in South Dakota. The pheasant was introduced to the state in 1909 and subsequently has become an economically important species and cultural symbol. The pheasant population has fluctuated as a result of complex interactions between human and natural systems.

Great Plains Research is available for purchase or subscription from the center at (402) 472-3082 or in the Great Plains Art Museum gift shop, 1155 Q St.

WRITER: Linda Ratcliffe, Publications Specialist, Great Plains Studies, (402) 472-3965

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