Workplace Religious Discrimination and Non-Christian Religions

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 31, 2013 — 71 Comments

On Friday, the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, a secular organization dedicated to combatting religious prejudice, released the findings of a survey on religion in the American workplace. A key finding is that religious diversity is increasing in the workplace, and with it, increasing problems relating to accommodation. RNS-USA-WORKERS

“Overall, the incidence of workplace conflicts and discrimination over religion seems to be a fairly significant issue, according to the survey, with one-third of respondents reporting that they have seen or experienced incidents of religious bias in the workplace. The most frequently cited problems were not interactions with co-workers but instead related to a failure of companies to provide sufficient accommodations for believers, especially non-Christians. Half of those respondents said that their employers are ignoring their religious needs.”

The study pointed out that a key complaint relating to religious accommodation was being forced to work on holy days (24% of respondents had this issue), in addition, atheists, agnostics, and non-Christians tend to feel the most uncomfortable when the topic of religion is brought up.

“More than 4-in-10 (43%) atheist and agnostic/secular workers say they feel somewhat or very uncomfortable when the topic of religion comes up. Nearly 3-in-10 (29%) non-Christian workers say they feel somewhat or very uncomfortable when the topic of religion comes up. Conversely, nearly 9-in-10 white evangelical workers say they are somewhat (30%) or very (58%) comfortable when the issue of religion comes up in the workplace. Strong majorities of Catholics (84%), black Protestants (83%), white mainline Protestants (75%), and non-Christian religious workers (71%) report that they feel somewhat or very comfortable when the topic of religion comes up at work.”

While it is encouraging that such a large majority of non-Christians feel comfortable discussing religion at work, less than half of employers take steps to minimize accommodation issues and religious tensions. Only 44% provide flexible work hours for religious observances, 42% provide materials on company policy relating to religious discrimination, only 21% allow employees to swap holidays, and 14% have programs to teach about religious diversity. On the whole, non-Christians tend to feel more excluded or treated differently than any other group.


“Non-Christian religious workers (13%) are substantially more likely than members of any other religious group, including atheists (5%), to say they have felt excluded or felt they were treated differently at work because of their religious beliefs or views on religion.”

Tanenbaum believes that our workplace is a microcosm for the country we live in, and that shining light on these issues will urge companies to be proactive for their own benefit, and thereby reduce religious conflict as a whole.

“Workplaces are a microcosm of America. They are becoming more diverse and, according to the survey, employees in diverse workplaces experience or witness more incidents of religious conflict. In addition, employees at workplaces with a culture of respect and accommodation have a higher level of satisfaction. In the near future, in order to attract and keep the best talent, companies will need to become more proactive about addressing religious diversity. America will follow. We will need to address religious diversity in order to reduce conflicts and ensure that people of all backgrounds feel at home in the US.”

In the past, The Wild Hunt has documented cases of workplace religious discrimination or bias against Pagans, and with this new data I wonder, do modern Pagans feel more or less comfortable at their workplace? Since this is Labor Day weekend here in the States, it seems like an ideal time to take stock. Have things improved? Do you feel comfortable with your co-workers knowing you’re a Pagan? Does your job give you days off for your holidays? Are you, are we, better or worse off now than in the past? Share your thoughts in the comments, or blog about it, and link back to this article.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Roi de Guerre

    This topic came up at a local witches meet up last week. One person (starting-a-new-job) asked another person (meeting-organizer) how far out of the broom closet they were at work. “Not at all!” said meeting-organizer.

    This led to a deeper discussion of others experiences, all of which included situations where individuals had curtailed their own expressions of belief due to fear of discrimination.
    A common thread in the discussion was a concern that if employers or co-workers knew that an individual was a witch then it would lead to loss of employment or loss of advancement.

    In my experience most organizations have a policy that boils down to “don’t have the religion discussion in the workplace.”. It has seemed to me that the more diverse an organization is the more open and accepting the members of that organization are. Some organizations get this right.

    I would be curious to hear of example and role-model organizations that get religious diversity (or diversity in general) right? What lessons can those organizations provide, and what attitudes and practices should we bring into our own environments?

    • Franklin_Evans

      My employer gets it right, to the extent that it encourages people to share their religions in a forum and context that promotes (and expects) respectful understanding and rational questioning. I’ve signed up to do so with my personal Pagan path, though I’ve not yet received notice of a date. I don’t mean to imply that some religions get better treatment than others — we must admit, ours is a very small segment of the population — by my employer, I just retain a bit of the “not-at-all!” reaction even while being a public Pagan for over 10 years.

      • Roi de Guerre

        That sounds brilliant. Do you mind providing any links PR references where I can learn more about that approach?

        • Franklin_Evans

          I don’t mean to be coy — I usually refrain from mentioning my employer, there being a complex ethical commitment they demand and voluntarily receive from me and my fellow employees — but the approach is rather simple. Offer a meeting place on the premises (ordinary conference room to common spaces like cafeteria seating) and explicitly brand it as employer-sponsored. The rest is up to those individuals who organize the events.

          I can offer an analogy. We (the employees in general) were invited to present poetry in an open forum of just general interest to us or because we wrote it or found it of personal significance. I chose to present “The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late” from Tolkien’s chapter “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony” in “The Fellowship of the Ring”. I added personal commentary (it being my choice for significant) around the author’s references to “Hey diddle, diddle” as well as the obscure reversal he implied making the Sun feminine and the Moon masculine in the view of the hobbits.

          The point is the openness employees are encouraged to bring and to offer to each other, in contexts that need not bring pressure or tensions to their working relationships.

          I’ll also mention that the most recent presentation was by a Sikh. We also are rather protective of our Muslim fellow employees, though I can state that only from personal witness from a small area in a very large company.

          • Roi de Guerre

            not coy at all. I completely understand as I work under a stack of NDA’s almost as tall as I am. Thanks very much for those examples, they have me considering ways to implement similar discussions using internal social media.

    • harmonyfb

      In my experience most organizations have a policy that boils down to “don’t have the religion discussion in the workplace

      Honestly, I don’t think there should be any religious discussion (of any kind) in the workplace…nor politics, for that matter, unless your company is religiously-or-politically focused. It’s just a way to stir up bad feelings, and it detracts from people getting work done.

      • Roi de Guerre

        I can see how a policy of silence can avoid some distractions and so forth. I also see how silence can allow misunderstanding and misinformation to grow. In many ways the discussion about religion is being forced into the workplace. A federal appeals court in July ruled that corporations have protection for their expression of religious beliefs (hobby lobby vs sebelius), so that now in addition to having the discussion in the workplace we may have to have the discussion WITH the workplace.

        I can envision a future where diversity of religion is welcomed and does not have the potential to cause distractions and I think that would be great. Since we are having the discussion in our courts now I would encourage everyone to be prepared to have the discussion in the workplace, the mall, and on the street corner. Knowing it is a topic du jour allows us the opportunity to provide excellent framing to the discussion.

  • Oididio

    We were just having a similar discussion over on /r/wiccans. I don’t feel comfortable at work with anyone knowing my beliefs.
    Living in a ‘right to work’ state means that I can be fired with no reasons given.

    • Ursyl

      That’s some Right there!

      • Oididio

        You ain’t kidding.

    • The_L1985

      I really do wish that “right to work” was more accurately phrased as “right to fire.”

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    It’s a catch 22. People do not open up about their beliefs because they are worried about discrimination. Discrimination occurs because of misunderstanding about a ‘concealed’ belief.

    In the UK, society revolves around a Christian Calendar. Getting time off over Yule is pretty much impossible for many. I am a firm believer in celebrating the festivals on their proper days. “The nearest weekend” is not good enough when talking about the natural cycles.

    Imagine being told you can’t have time off because your partner is in labour, but you can go to the hospital on the nearest weekend to it. Doesn’t fly.

  • thelettuceman

    First: “48% of white evangelical Christians report seeing or experiencing religious bias.”

    Only 48%? The evangelicals are usually the ones who claim that they’re being persecuted THE MOST whenever a minority actually gets semi-equal treatment.

    Secondly: I’m pretty much all for a firm secularization of the work environment. It’s too dangerous for an individual employee to be at the whim of the bigotry of a private company, especially when they’re in the private sector. I feel that people should be able to ask for religious holidays off with no further inquest, period. Is the risk for abuse SO high that everyone has to be scrutinized?

    I’m currently waiting to be clamped down on for my tattoos, though, because they’re all religious symbols reflecting my spirituality and personal religion. And when that happens, we’re going to have some religious issues with the company.

    My job doesn’t give holidays off, ever. You can request specific days off, but since we work shitty retail, we’re open 365 days of the year, and only close early on four days. Two of those days are the only two days we get any kind of holiday pay, and that’s only time and a half on Thanksgiving and Giftmas. I’m actually benefited by adhering to Pagan holidays, since I can request (with two weeks or so notice) a specific day off, because of a rotating schedule. Nobody will question it, and nobody will make the connection.

    • Celestine Angel

      I had to wonder about that number for evangelical Christians myself, though my thought process went something like: “Bah, I wouldn’t trust that; evangelical Christians think being forced to respect someone else’s religious beliefs amounts to discrimination.”

      … that’s probably a bias.

      • Dan FitzGerald

        The bit about Evangelicals doesn’t surprise me. The culture wars’ slash-and-burn strategy have left such scars on American society that I can easily imagine people looking down on an out E.C. that works in a white collar science/engineering job, or who works in academia.

        • thelettuceman

          That’s more than likely a minority issue though. I mean, whenever someone with an agenda gets in to the point of being a power tripping administrative warlord, anything can happen. The only times this would happen would be people having an issue as anti-theists, I’d think.

          But, one of the big benefits of Christian Privilege is that they don’t often have to validate their faith or their spiritual life. If they say “I’m religious” or “I am a Christian” there really isn’t any more in depth discussion on the matter.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Unfortunately, as long as unemployment lags behind the recovery of the stock-market economy, workers will be at a disadvantage relative to their employers in negotiating accommodation.

  • Meical AbAwen

    I live in Texas, a ‘right to work state’, and I am totally out of the closet. However, that is only possible because I work in a small consulting company and go way back with the owner. I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable being out in a large company in Texas as. All too many of the VPs here are active Christians and actively discriminate.

  • Jim Horn

    Religion is a sensitive subject in any venue, and can be problematic in the workplace. I have worked as an HR professional in a number of varied cultures and have written about this in my book which you can find by going to and in the search box, typing in the words: religion, workplace, horn.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      It shouldn’t be problematic, Jim.

      How many holidays do Pagans ask off a year? 8? 20-21? Compare that to the 52+ that Christians ask off.

      • Franklin_Evans

        Um, not meaning to be snarky, but can you name 12 of those 52+ other than the obvious (Good Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas) for which Christians get paid time off outside of their allotment for vacation?

        I understand you are probably referring to Sunday, but I don’t accept your stretch with that.

        In the US, except for union bargaining making them paid time off holidays for the entire shop (some school districts routinely schedule around the Jewish High Holy days), non-Christian holidays are routinely allowed paid time off as personal or vacation days (those two being specific terms in employee benefits lingo).

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I am not asking for paid time off. Just time off.

          Here, in the UK, people get 28 days holiday (based on the presumption of full time work – 40 hours per seven day cycle).

          That 28 days statutory holiday allowance includes any national/religious holidays. Yup, that means that Christmas and Easter are often forced holidays, even for those that do not celebrate it.

          Other than the Sunday working exemption that many Christians insist upon, there is a whole raft of specific festival/holy days.

          I was raised in the Anglican religion and spent a fair amount of time inside churches. Not every festival was significant enough to merit a day off, but they still observed not working on Sundays. (Ironically, as my stepfather is a priest, that’s actually a pretty busy day for him.)

          • Franklin_Evans

            I apologize: My reply caught me forgetting where you live.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It’s okay. Cultural differences are more numerous than a casual observer would presume.

          • The_L1985

            Yeah. Here in the US, I believe it is up to the company. There is NO legal mandate requiring workers to have any vacation time whatsoever, paid or unpaid, in the US.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Ah, the American Dream…

      • Jim Horn

        Your line of logic is bewildering. I didn’t say a word about pagans. Why did you go there. Do you have a pagan agenda?

        Mohammed killed every pagan in the Arabian peninsula before he died. Is that tolerant?

        The “secular” constitution of Bangladesh allows for 177 holidays depending on one’s faith, and a person can select any ten days to celebrate, no more

        I ask only for the ten legal (law of the land) USG acknowledged holidays which includes holidays based on our established based heritage – that provide a day off. I don’t demand “Christian” holidays.

        When I lived in Japan, I accepted days off that were prescribed by the Japanese government, and didn’t whine or bitch about anything. It was the law of the land there. If I didn’t like it, I could leave.

        So, other than bitching about your seemingly preferred paganism, clarify your position.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          This is a Pagan news/blog site, Jim. That would be why I ‘went there’.

          However, I did not suggest you said a word about Pagans. I merely responded to you in the context of the article you are replying to.

          I do not know why you seem so defensive.

          The only relevant thing, to you, that I said would be that religion should not be problematic in the workplace in a modern, secular society.

      • The_L1985

        Aww, how cute. You think that Christians in low-wage jobs get Sundays off work.

        When I was still Christian, the best I could get was later hours on Sundays so I could go to church before work. I went to Mass in my fast-food uniform, then went straight to taking orders and counting change. And this was in a local company, where the managers were very accommodating to workers’ schedules and (where applicable) other jobs.

        I’m sure one of the reasons that many Christians don’t go to church regularly is that Sunday work hours interfere–especially for folks who have to work 60-80 hours just to make ends meet!

        I almost respect CFA for being closed on Sundays–at least that ensures that all of their workers get a day off every week, even if they don’t use that time for church as the company originally intended. Then I remember that it’s CFA.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I’m in the UK. They do get Sundays off, here. Not to mention restricted opening hours of most places on Sundays, too.

  • Pagan Educator

    We had a priest from our Temple who was fired from his government job with the county because they found out he was pagan. They made no bones about the fact that this was the reason. Still, you can’t really prove anything unless they write it down or you get them on a recording. Otherwise it’s a he said she said situation.

    Last Thanksgiving I was laid of from my college teaching position after 7 years there with excellent evaluations because a wealthy, white fundamentalist 18 year old Christian woman found it offensive that I, as an openly Pagan man, should be allowed to teach in at a public college. She complained directly to the school’s Board of Directors, completely by-passing the long-established appropriate path to file a complaint. The president of the school (a wealthy, white, conservative Christian man) immediately put out the message that I was to be “let go”.

    Both of these cases are local to my region, and both occurred in a Right to Work State (meaning, they can fire you for ANY reason and there is nothing you can do about it not matter how long you’ve worked there nor who excellent your evaluations are).

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      “Right to work” seems to be arse backwards.

      • Raksha38

        It’s part of the grand Republican tradition of naming things the opposite of what they are.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Yeah… Not a fan of doublespeak.

        • AnantaAndroscoggin

          It’s just one of the steps in the Republican strategy to kill-off the labor unions, and to keep wages and benefits as low as possible so the big boys can keep their bonuses high.

          • Jim Horn

            The richest of the rich is a Democrat, as is the second richest, and the third richest, and they all are Bilderbergers.

            I am one of the 49% who actually works and pays taxes and I deeply resent people who believe they have a right to suck off of me.

            In previous incarnations I was a Teamster, a card carrying UAW member, and more. Those were the days when unions looked out for workers, not for ways to screw over them, as Trumka did when he helped Obama arbitrarily shut down over 900 auto dealerships who contributed to Republicans, and to hell with the 200,000 workers who lost their jobs in that Democratic coup.

            I respect unions who support their good, decent, loyal, competent workers. I detest unions that protect the inept and incompetent (teacher unions that ruin the public’s trust in all teachers).

    • Jim Horn

      So, if he was proselytizing his paganism, he deserved to get fired.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol


        In fact, why presume that he was proselytising Paganism (you’ll find almost everyone here would laugh at the concept, by the way) at all?

        The statement was fairly blank:
        “…a priest from our Temple who was fired from his government job with the county because they found out he was pagan.”

        There is no mention of proselytism there, simply the very fact that he was Pagan was enough to get him fired.

    • RevEllen

      Right to work laws do not trump the Federal anti-discrimination laws. Specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This makes it illegal to discriminate on the the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. I know our HR manager watches very closely for bias in terminations. She doesn’t want to open up my organization to lawsuits. As policy, my org keeps religion out of the work place. The attitude is we are there to do a job, not create divisions due to religion. I do know they take this seriously, because I found a christian tract in my mailbox from a church in the area, but no one else’s. I don’t hide my religion, but I don’t display it for all to see either. This tract took me totally by surprise and hurt. I am friendly to everyone. I brought it to my supervisor, he took it to HR. A memo went out the next day about respecting the beliefs of the other employees and anyone creating a hostile environment will be disciplined up to and including termination. As a matter of disclosure I work for a non-profit and in Connecticut. But the federal law applies to all of the US.

      • The_L1985

        But that doesn’t prevent your employer from making shit up.

    • harmonyfb

      I suggest purchasing a small digital pocket recorder for employer discussions – it’s surprisingly useful for negotiations.

      meaning, they can fire you for ANY reason and there is nothing you can do about it

      Right-to-Work does not mean that employers can discriminate against workers for federally-protected classes (religion is considered one of those, race is another).

      • The_L1985

        Not openly. They can fire you for being Pagan, list the reason in the paperwork as being something else, and you have no recourse.

        • harmonyfb

          You do have recourse, if you have kept careful documentation (especially if the management has a history of such things – and they usually do.)

          Same with discriminatory firing for any protected class.

    • Franklin_Evans

      Harmony points in an important direction here. Right to work is pre-empted by federal statute but only for protected classes. The place to research this complex regulatory environment is (ahem, are you sitting down) the government website for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

      They keep the most important and IMO least examined set of statistics publicly and freely available. They track all EEOC claims by protected class and by disposition, and they do it with exact numbers, not statistical estimates.

      They are, unknown to many, our pro bono advocates in employment disputes. They gather the information from all parties, determine validity, and will pay for legal costs right up to and through court proceedings.

      I’ve had reason to cite their information many times as an advocate of Affirmative Action. Truly, a situation where the numbers don’t lie.

  • Julie Richard

    I’m an open Pagan in the South and have, surprisingly, only run into one or two occasions where it has been an issue. I had one co-worker advise me not to let anyone know that I was Pagan. I thanked her, but as I don’t have a broom closet, I don’t intend to hide in one. Most of the time, folks seem to just ignore it. I interviewed at my new job while wearing my pentacle and it didn’t seem to have any negative effect. I know I’m one of the lucky ones, and I’m very grateful for it!

    • Celestine Angel

      I’m another lucky one, Julie. I’m really rather amazed that I haven’t experienced anything worse than a frowning head-shake directed at my pentacle.

  • Charles Cosimano

    Religion has no place in the workplace and should not be accommodated period. No flexible hours, no religious holidays off.

    • Faoladh

      So, everyone should be forced to work on Saturdays and Sundays? Seven-day work week?

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I’ve done plenty of shift work in my time and there are various shift patterns that mean you do not get the same days of every week.

        • Faoladh

          Oh, don’t I know it! However, it is a very common pattern for businesses to work Monday through Friday, with Saturday and Sunday off. While this may be considered to be a “secular” pattern, the fact is that it became such because of the demands of Jewish and Christian workers.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Yup. Personally, I used to love a ‘midweek weekend’. Then I had kids…

    • Raksha38

      Arbeit über alles! You are not a human being, you are a Worker! If you are not willing to sacrifice everything else about yourself to put Work first, you do not deserve to be employed!

      Yeah, no. I’d prefer a model of employment that’s acknowledges it’s only one (and not the most important) aspect of a person’s life.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        In the pre-industrial period, the average ‘peasant’ worked, perhaps, twenty hours a week and got something in the region of six months off a year.

        Work was there to ‘top-up’ people’s living standards, not define them.

        The idea of the industrial revolution was to increase productivity so that people would need to work less.

        Nowadays we are being sold the concept that being in full time employment is necessary and that being unemployed is a ‘bad thing’.

        It also incorporates the urban lifestyle, where the majority do not have enough space to grow the majority of their own food.

        You want to address this situation, you need to address the fundamental fabric of modern, urban-centric society.

  • Khryseis_Astra

    I know I personally feel a lot less comfortable… I was living & working in MA for almost a decade, where it was no problem being openly Pagan. Now I’m back in PA in a heavily right-wing area, and my company has bible verses in its presentation materials and the CEO regularly quotes scripture, in person and in company emails. (And no, we’re not a religious business by any means.) Everyone assumes you’re Christian, or that if you’re not, that Christianity is entitled to a certain “deference” and respect from the rest of us.

    I’m not as “out” as I used to be, though I don’t hide it or pretend either. I guess I’m “quietly out”… I wear my religious jewelry, but try to ignore/avoid any religious (or political!) discussion whenever possible.

    The “War on Christmas” season is my worst time of year, because that’s all I hear about for the 3 months leading up to it… how the poor Christians are oh-so-persecuted by not being able to force their religion on the rest of us. There is religious Christmas music played at work and I have to work all my holidays (usually with massive amounts of overtime) so they can get the day off for theirs.

    I’m already anticipating hearing people gush adoringly over Sarah Palin’s upcoming book “A Happy Holiday IS a Merry Christmas” and cringing in my cubicle. LOL

  • Ivyfree

    I work in a religiously-owned healthcare organization and I am out with my religion and my coworkers, if they have any problem about it, don’t say anything to me. However, a chaplain once came to me with a question, “Are you still doing that Wiccan thing?” and after a few exchanges of remarks (perfectly polite remarks on both sides) I asked, “Are you still doing that Christian thing?” She looked deeply offended and explained that every year, she certifies that she is still “in the faith” which strikes me as indicating that the pastoral counseling service doesn’t trust its counselors. I occasionally wonder if she understood what I was doing when I asked if she was still doing the Christian thing, but I’ve never asked her. Honestly. Would she approach a Jew and say, “Are you still doing that Jewish thing?” Of course not, because that’s a “real” religion.

  • Sphinxring

    My workplace has a mix of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. There are maybe a few pagans besides me, but religion becomes complicated, sol is an avoided as unprofessional. A few people know I’m pagan. A Christian lady once whispered: “Be careful, there are witches everywhere!” Gee…

  • Henry ‘Ashka’ Biddle

    I have been blessed to work at a workplace that not only accepts me for who I am (a pagan man) but actively defends me as well.

  • Morgan Solskenn

    I don’t get time off for my sabbats, but nor do I get the day off for holidays either unless the client says they don’t need me. I work as a home-health aide, and these people need me to visit otherwise they wouldn’t be given the hours.
    I feel comfortable wearing my pentacle(s) into the office to turn in my time-sheets or pick up my check but I don’t wear it to visit the clients. Because, while my boss won’t fire me over my belief, the clients might feel uncomfortable with them and request a different provider.

    • The_L1985

      I wear a stylized Mjollnir and a discreet triple-moon ring sometimes, but only because they’re less recognizable by non-Pagans as being religious symbols. They’re just pretty earrings, among the other unusual earrings I wear to work.

  • Ali Art

    I get discriminated against for being gay way more than I ever have as a pagan. I am an out college instructor and I have never been required to work Samhain (of course requesting that day off specifically for religious readons 3 months ahead of time also helps. Just like in GLBTQ community the more people who come out of the closet the more accepted a monority religion will become. If you do not live out loud as a pagan you should feel uncomfortable when religion comes up at work as hiding major portions of one’s identity tends to have that effect

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Do your Christian compatriots have to book Christmas off, three months in advance?

      • The_L1985

        Not in academia, because Xmas is already a holiday, but in other fields of employment, YES.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Again, not in the UK.

          Christmas and Easter are both national holidays here.

    • The_L1985

      College instructor? May I ask which state? I’m tempted to bring this up, except that the president at my college is an older person from the South–and probably quite politically conservative, from what little I’ve heard.

  • Celestine Angel

    “I wonder, do modern Pagans feel more or less comfortable at their workplace? ”

    I’m a rather lucky Pagan. I live in the Southern U.S., and I’ve never been particularly secretive about my beliefs or practices. I don’t, however, advertise them. When I have told people, or when I’ve publicly worn a pentacle, I have had almost no backlash, and the couple of occasions I can remember were nonviolent and the people involved basically just walked off. I’ve managed to somehow avoid experiencing any strong opposition or violence in relation to my religion.

    As I said above, though, I don’t exactly advertise. If someone asks if I’m Christian, I’m honest and say no. Sometimes I feel the need to say so without being asked, if I’m in the company of someone on more than one occasion who consistently acts as though they believe everyone they will ever meet is Christian. After saying “I’m not Christian,” if someone asks what I am, I’ll be honest and tell them I’m Pagan. So far, it’s gone pretty well.

    Most people at my work place probably suspect I’m not Christian (except for those oblivious people who always assume and are always shocked at reminders that other religions do, in fact, exist), but few of them know I’m Pagan, because few of them ask.

    I wouldn’t hide it even if my supervisor asked, and you can bet that if I lost a job immediately after, I wouldn’t take it lying down.

    I’ve also been lucky in the past seven years to have a fairly good system of paid leave available, and a supervisor who is pretty cool and laid back about allowing me to take it. As long as the work is done, she’s fine with me leaving early, or taking a day off, and doesn’t ask questions. And until recently, I was never much of a practitioner as far as the holy days go anyway. Now, all that with my job about to change, and we’ll see how it goes.

    To wind this long story down: I haven’t experienced many problems, but that’s a combination of luck, being out but non-advertising, and having been lax in my practice.

  • Dan FitzGerald

    Every time I think about coming out of the broom closet at work, I think back on how I (when I was agnostic) would perceive a Christian touting their religion at work. The answer is that I would have been annoyed, so I don’t do it loudly. I’ve got a copy of the Witches’ calendar at my desk, and I discreetly wear my Tree of Life necklace, but I wouldn’t do anything like post a Pagan Coming Out Day sign on my office door May 1.

    My company is very flexible when it comes to holidays. The only religious holiday we get off is Christmas (probably because its a federal holiday). To cover the rest, they give us five “personal choice holidays” to use at our own discretion. I think most people would be ok with my being an out Pagan at work, but I keep quiet because I don’t want to potentially risk my job interactions with anybody. I also don’t want management to find out lest some small minded manager use it as an excuse to not like me.

    That’s not to say that I don’t come out to select people at work. I wouldn’t, for instance, tell my current supervisor who has pens from one of the local pentecostal churches on his desk, but I have told direct coworkers that are my age (late twenties). And two years ago I told my then-current supervisor after I found him at the local rock and gem show stuffing his hand into an amethyst and talking about its energy. I begin my studies with him on Tuesday :-)

  • Franklin_Evans

    I have both rational and personal objections to the quoted statistics about the discomfort atheists feel, epitomized by the section in the main graphic “[n]early 6-in-10 atheists agree that people look down on their beliefs.”

    Allow me to be as clear as possible: I’ve spent my entire working career directly or indirectly involved with employment regulations and discrimination violations. Under the law, and I personally assert by any rational standard, thoughts are not discrimination unless they can be proven to be the primary motivation for discriminatory actions. Behavior is on the cusp. I can be offended by a Christian’s public defamatory and false declarations about my beliefs, but those declarations are not discrimination unless they bear a causal link to actions taken against me or from which I suffer harm.

    Pagan Educator was a direct victim of discrimination. Khryseis_Astra is not (yet, one hopes not ever). If we are to rightly criticize Christian claims of persecution for essentially inconveniences, we must look to restrain ourselves from making similar claims subject to similar criticism.

    • Khryseis_Astra

      Being married to an atheist, I’m sure he would disagree with the survey assertion that he has “religious beliefs” to be looked down upon. He would describe it as a lack thereof. These surveys themselves are already biased in favor of a monotheistic religious view, as most of them are.

      I’d agree with you that I’m not currently a victim of “discrimination” (though unfortunately I have been in the past), but at the same time, I feel my workplace inappropriately pushes one religious view to the exclusion of all others. And in a place where that is allowed to occur unchecked, harassment and “hostile work environments” can easily follow.

      To use your example, a Christian co-worker can certainly believe whatever he wishes. However if he continually targets another co-worker with his religious rants, defamation and false declarations, especially after said co-worker has made it clear that they’re not interested in hearing about it and has asked them to stop, it becomes harassment.

      And IMO, repeated proselytization after a polite “no thank you” is also harassment. The 1st Amendment gives us freedom of speech and freedom to express our religious beliefs; it does not give us the right to force either upon another person. Their rights end where mine begin and vice versa. You have the right to speak, but if you read the fine print, you don’t have the right to force anyone to listen to you except for your government.

      Workplace discrimination isn’t just about being fired… it’s also about making your work environment so intolerable that you will quit on your own to escape it, thereby saving the company the trouble of a lawsuit. Being fired is one of the more severe forms of discrimination, but as with any of the others is extremely hard to prove.

      • Franklin_Evans

        You cover the spectrum from inconvenience to actionable violations very well. A “hostile work environment” or “atmosphere” has become a common term applied to legitimate (from the EEOC point of view) claims. It apparently (from my brief, recent reading) is also the most contentious and most likely to fail mediation or arbitration and go to civil trial.

        I don’t know what to say about the atheists’ point of view. I would be grateful for real-life examples (willingly shared, this is not a challenge) that support the notion that they are also targets of harassment. The statistical representation in the linked article set off immediate alarm bells for me. Statistics is my life, as it were, as a software engineer for a very large data universe. I find it difficult to let such things slide without comment.

  • harmonyfb

    I’m lucky. I work in a small-town library and I’m fairly open – mostly, I only hear positive comments from patrons (generally Pagan ones). Once in a while I get a smart-ass remark which I address with my best peering-over-the-glasses look until they apologize. My employers could not care less about my religion, and I can rearrange my (part-time) schedule to accommodate whatever holidays, so long as I request it in advance.

    In the past, though, I’ve worked places where the bosses scheduled mandatory meetings and then tried to force everyone to sit through bible study immediately after, places where the company president had everyone bow their heads and pray ‘to Jesus Christ’ at company meetings, places where coworkers went behind my back to say awful things about my religion, etc. It’s been a long row to hoe, but it does seem like the current climate is getting a bit better.

  • Eran Rathan

    Another folk here who is not in the hammer shed (as opposed to the broom closet), but not advertising either.

    My workplace is very small, so we’ve got an atheist (who is married to a Wiccan), a Russian Orthodox, a Methodist, a Heathen (me), and a Unitarian/agnostic. Religion very rarely gets talked about (because we’re here to work, not socialize).