Religion in the Workplace

Marty Hamrick
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Religion in the Workplace

I worked for one TV station back in the 80's and 90's that ordered it's workers to "leave their religion and politics at the door". At the time, political correctness was coming into vogue and everyone from gays and lesbians to Born Again Christians was feeling persecuted and paranoid. Yet, religion is one of those things that can't really be "left at the door" because most religious scriptures teach that it is to permeat every aspect of your life and being ( "be filled with spirit" ). Can this be done without offending those of other or no faith? Can a workplace maintain an environment fair to all without infringing upon the rights of religious free expression?

It may surprise some of you, but I've actually gone out on a limb to defend the rights of fundamentalist Christians in the workplace, often putting my own reputation on the line. Back int he early 90's, news anchor Lee Webb was working for a TV station in Jacksonville, Florida. Lee was a PCA Presbyterian Christian who often publicly spoke at various church functions on his off time. It was never an issue until a newspaper reporter was present at a meeting of an organization called Christains in the Media where Lee was invited to speak and Lee made some off the cuff remarks that were taken out of context and it turned into media drama the next day. Lee was suspended for violating the company policy of not speaking publicly without company aproval. Jacksonville is a Bible Belt town, and the station earned it's wrath. Phone lines were jammed for days until Lee returned on the air. After he went back to work, the more political forces sought to bring Lee down. I think it had more to do with getting someone cheaper than Lee's strong religious convictions. When I started working for the station in 1987, I worked directly with Lee for two years before I even knew he was a Christian. I knew he was a top notch journalist and a good family man, but I learned nothing about his religion or politics in those two years, it just never came up.

Basically it boiled down to a couple of producers and executives who didn't like him for personal and monetary reasons and they gunned for him. They set him up to fail on several assignments which didn't make him look good in the eyes of management and consultants and when his contract was up, they chose not to renew it. Long story short, when the story went national, Lee was offered a job as news anchor with The 700 Club making more than he was at the station.

The irony is, here I am an atheist and I sympathize with a fundamentalist Christian who got shafted by the man, which is something that can happen to ANYONE. I felt that Lee was treated unfairly and I'm happy for him that he got a better job with an environment better suited to him.

Christians, how easy is it for you to "leave your religion at the doorstep" of your workplace? Do you feel that your workplace is also your ministry and how do you balance that in today's PC environment?     

"Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings."

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Very good post, Marty. In my

Very good post, Marty. In my view, reasonable employers should use a reasonabaility test. If an employee is having issues with what is going on at their workplace because of their faith, then the employer should look at whether a reasonable allowance can reasonably made (ie. an accomodation of some sorts which satisfies the employee but does not unreasonably inconvenience the organisation or antagonise other employees).

I wonder what you think of this case here where a town clerk in New York is refusing to sign marriage licences for same-sex couples:

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I think it is a case by case

I think it is a case by case thing. Where I work, I only object to it when they try to suggest I be silent about my position. I cant stand every Sunday they play religious music in the kitchen. BUT they never stop me from saying I am an atheist.  I think when you have a good work ethic, you can get along with anyone and it overrides those kinds of differences.

I'd say it is impossible, but 3 rules should always apply.

1. Dont let it interfere with work. First and foremost.

2.Don't discuss it with customers unless they start the conversation. Even then don't say anything that could potentially turn them away from the business.

3. Let it all in, or keep it all out, but do not favor one and not let someone else do the same.

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
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