Does Religious Observance and the Workplace Mix?
I argue strongly in a recent paper that it is inappropriate for employers to provide workplace chaplains in the workplace for their employees:
In addition to political speeches, more companies are hiring ministers to serve their workers. Some critics believe that these ministers have another agenda – to convert. Evangelical Christian organizations are offering Christian ministry services for employers to provide to their employees during work hours. Prayer breakfasts, faith-based training and education, and requests for information about employees’ religious affiliations are becoming part of the American workplace.
A number of companies have been formed to provide employer-sponsored religious services to employees, including Marketplace Ministries, Corporate Chaplains of America, Workplace Chaplains, and Chaplains at Work. For instance, Marketplace Ministries, Inc., now has 1700 chaplains and makes on-site visits to 300 companies in 38 states. Marketplace Chaplains U.S.A. employed 1,629 chaplains last year.
While the accommodation of voluntary religious observance in the workplace is certainly not objectionable, this growing corporate sponsorship and encouragement of religious observance creates a significant danger of compulsion. The agencies with which employers contract to provide religious services may also have a deeply held mission that may lead them to borrow employers’ authority over employees in order to gain an audience. Although limits exist on the ability of employers to proselytize in the workplace under Title VII and parallel state anti-discrimination law, the relative lack of cases in this area suggest that employees do not yet feel comfortable fighting back against these workplace practices.
A few days ago, CNN.com had an article on the same topic:
Religion, like sex and politics, once was considered inappropriate watercooler talk. Not anymore. Prayer sessions, religious diversity groups and chaplains like Reece, along with rabbis and imams, have become more common across corporate America in the past decade.
Fifty percent of those questioned in a 2002 Gallup poll said religious expression should be tolerated in the work place while another 28 percent thought it should be encouraged. That’s compared to 21percent who didn’t see a place for religious expression on the job.
I might be in the minority here, but I am as well as far as being part of a minority religion too (Jewish). Perhaps, I see compulsion where others don’t, but I think employers should be very circumspect in encouraging religious observance in the workplace and potentially alienating many workers.