May 14, 2006

Proselytism in the Workplace

Conn. Considers Bill to Prevent Proselytism in the Workplace | Christian News Online , Christian World News

This bill sounds like an interesting measure to reduce proselytism in the workplace. While this is a worthwhile goal, it is hard to see how this particular bill could succeed. By the way, employer-mandated religious activities do occur. If you don't believe me, come work in the South for awhile.

According to this article, the bill under consideration "would not restrict voluntary, casual conversation among employees or between an employer or employee." But this is exactly where most of the offensive proselytism occurs! It is through casual conversations the "hostile environment" found in sexual harassment law generally takes place. If anyone is serious about stopping proselytism in the workplace, this concept from sexual harassment law could be used as a model. If you repeatedly attempt to convert me despite my clear responses that I am not interested, the beginnings of a hostile environment claim should be present. Because sexual harassment law often goes too far, I'd make the extension to religion a bit more conservative and say that I have no claim until I explicitly inform you that I want you to stop, and you do not. If I refuse to tell you that your conversion attempts bother me, I have no claim.

Is it possible for religious activity in the workplace to create a hostile work environment? You bet! If you are an atheist, imagine yourself in the following situation (if you are not an atheist, imagine people from a different religion doing this to you): Your boss begins every meeting with a lengthy Christian prayer, discusses his Christian values daily, repeatedly invites you to go to church with his family, and hands you evangelical literature regularly. Your boss and co-workers constantly make disparaging comments about non-Christians. When you reluctantly admit that you are not a religious person, you are alienated from all social activities, your co-workers ignore you, bible quotes mysteriously turn up in your inbox, and you suddenly find yourself getting the crap assignments that nobody else wants. Unfortunately, I'm not pulling this out of thin air - this was my ex-wife's job.

Just because the Connecticut bill probably isn't an effective solution for this scenario doesn't mean we don't need one.

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