Food Allergies: What are your civil rights? allergies are sparking a spirited discussion about values this week. At issue is a possible U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) ban on serving peanuts on airplanes. (Scroll down in the right margin to see earlier posts and comments.) Readers’ opinions range from outrage—to complete support of a ban. Behind our discussion are serious questions about civil rights.

DOT’s consideration of the ban arises from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Are food allergies covered by the ADA? Yes, says the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “In both the ADA and Section 504, a person with a disability is described as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or is regarded as having such impairments. Breathing, eating, working and going to school are ‘major life activities.’ Asthma and allergies are still considered disabilities under the ADA, even if symptoms are controlled by medication.” (Section 504 refers to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment and education in agencies, programs and services that receive federal money.”)

A minority of Americans suffer peanut allergies and an even smaller percentage have peanut allergies that are so severe that they choose to not fly on planes because of peanuts. Isn’t this a violation of civil rights?

Perhaps it’s the small numbers that make so many opposed to the idea of a peanut ban. Maybe it’s the “peanut lobby” (if there is such a thing). But isn’t this what America is all about? Isn’t one of our strengths a willingness to protect the civil rights of minorities, no matter what makes the group a minority?

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(Originally posted in

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