Delta Clarifies Policy on Screening Passengers for Religious Affiliation

After months of criticism from various religious groups, Delta has issued a formal commitment stating its policy toward screening passengers for religious affiliation, something the airline vows it does not and will not do.

The news comes after it was reported in June that American Jews would not be allowed to fly on Delta to Saudi Arabia due to an alliance with the Middle Eastern kingdom's national carrier, Saudi Arabia Airlines.

One of the most vocal critics of the report, which was later proven to be false, was Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center headquartered in Los Angeles.

In June, Cooper wrote a scathing letter to Delta over concerns that the airline would comply with Saudi Arabia's alleged policy of asking passengers to disclose their faith.

A Delta spokesperson's response to Cooper's letter, which was made public, failed to quell concerns and protests.

Executives from the company stepped forward last week and met with Cooper at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The visit was followed up by a letter from Andrea Fischer Newman, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for Delta.

In her letter, Newman explained, “Delta employees do not currently and will not in future, request that customers declare their religious affiliation.”

In the letter dated Aug. 22, Newman also informed Cooper that "(Delta) would also not seek such information on behalf of any SkyTeam partner or any airline.”

After it was announced in June that Saudi Arabian Airlines would be joining the SkyTeam Alliance of airlines, which includes Delta, public uproar ensued.

Consumers expressed fears that Delta would participate in Saudi Arabia's alleged religion screening policy.

Saudi Arabia has denied having any such policy, although the country does not issue visas to citizens carrying Israeli-issued passports, which some critics interpret as an anti-Semetic stance.

The U.S. Department of State has acknowledged complaints from American travelers who say they have been denied a Saudi visa because their passports revealed travel to Israel or indicated that they were born in Israel.

The Saudi kingdom also does not allow non-Islamic religious items into the country, such as Bibles, crosses, and the Star of David.

Although Delta has made it known that it will not screen flyers on such grounds, consumers were still wondering if the airline was still not somehow complicit in Saudi Arabia's domestic policies regarding other faiths.

Saudi Arabia, a nation governed by Islamic law, requires all citizens to be Muslims. Apostasy is punishable by death.

The public practice of non-Muslim religions is strictly prohibited, although non-Muslims worship in secret.

The state department issued a travel warning on Aug. 5 for Americans considering visiting Saudi Arabia, but it warned against an "ongoing security threat" related to the "continued presence of terrorist groups" in the country who may target Westerners.