Coming Out Atheist, pg 160

Sep 6, 2016

“Your workplace may have policies about how they want their company image to be presented by employees when they’re on the job – policies that might include not bringing controversial topics. And I don’t actually think that’s unreasonable. Just make sure the policy is being applied fairly – to believers as well as atheists. (That applies to relationships with co-workers as well as customers, by the way. If religious employees can wear crosses or other religious symbols, you should be able to wear atheist pins or buttons; if co-workers can post flyers about religious events they’re participating in, you should be able to post flyers about your atheist events. Etc.)
Now, if policies aren’t being applied fairly, you’re going to have to decide if you want to push back. That decision will probably have to be based, not just on how bad the discrimination is and how stubborn you think your employers are likely to be, but on your own personality and situation. (Translation: Do you have the time and energy, the resources and the stomach, for a legal battle with your employer?)
But when you’re making that decision, it’s important to remember: Insisting on your equal rights in the workplace doesn’t always have to end up in the courtroom. In fact, it usually doesn’t end up there. In many cases, simply having a conversation or two with the right people – people in authority who are likely to be supportive, or people in authority who are likely to be supportive, or people in authority who understand the law and care about not getting sued – is enough.”

–Greta Christina, Coming Out Atheist, pg 160


Discuss!

19 comments on “Coming Out Atheist, pg 160

  • Did we not discuss this recently? Anyway, here is what I had to deal with.

    When I was a teacher in the public school system, it was not part of policy but rather understood that religious and political views would not be discussed with students. This would bring down the ire of parents, as teachers could be accused of turning students from their family’s orientation.

    Discussing views among teachers would be of no problem and wearing religious symbols is considered normal these days. However, when looking for an attorney years ago, a bible displayed in the lobby turned me away. He, probably thinking that would be a good selling point, turned out to be a detriment.



    Report abuse

  • It amuses me how when religious people express their faith through symbols or rhetoric, they are just exercising their constitutional right to freedom of religion, and their constitutional right to freedom of expression. But when atheist express our secularism in any form, we are accused of attacking religion, inciting violence, practicing hate speech and any number of other heresies. It is obvious that they refuse to allow a level playing field because somewhere deep inside they know the adults are right.



    Report abuse

  • “Your workplace may have policies about how they want their company image to be presented by employees when they’re on the job – policies that might include not bringing [up] controversial topics. And I don’t actually think that’s unreasonable…”

    Greta Christina makes an observation that seems to express the soul of “reasonableness” in the workplace. But why the wordiness that that obfuscates practical realities? No manager with a modicum of common sense would walk around the office straining to overhear every conversation in order to discipline employees for making brief statements about religious or political preferences provided that such behavior did not escalate into conflicts that disrupt business, morale or customer relations. Informal allowances for human nature must be made within narrow parameters. On the other hand, employers often reserve the right to fire anyone at will [contractually without cause] when “controversial” speech takes the form of [variously unwelcome] proselytizing, political activism, hostile personal confrontations or, more bluntly, shouting matches and food fights in the lunch room. Reducing the subversive issue to a cautionary policy: do not discuss politics or religion with co-workers on the job. Employers expect employees to maintain reasonably cordial, civil and neutral inter-personal relationships facilitating teamwork and productivity.

    Issues of “fairness” regarding workplace exchanges of opposing belief systems, where they arise (they shouldn’t) , must be dealt with in further comments on an individual basis. Crucially for the record, Greta Christina is a third-wave feminist who fiercely attacks any view, including politically incorrect language, not strictly conforming to her ideology. Many modest disagreements hunted to near-extinction in the comments section on her blog have constituted grounds for immediate dismissal -banning and shunning – by a radical feminist who gloats in being the Boss from Hell.



    Report abuse

  • @Melvin #3

    You bring up a good point about adding politics to the list. Particularly during a presidential election season. I would qualify that with “passionate” presidential election season, but frankly they always are.

    But I have to point out Ms. Christina’s feminism is a red herring to the argument. Regardless of her stance in that respect, I don’t think it detracts from her argument on religion in the workplace.



    Report abuse

  • I detest libertarianism and do not support private business owners being allowed to practice discrimination with regards to clients, customers, or employees; but an employee, I think, is different than a customer or client; if I had a “boss” who told me to take of an atheist pin off and a co-worker was allowed to wear a cross, I am not sure that that would be unfair. I can quit if I don’t like it. I would probably take it off. Nose rings and other facial piercings are not permitted at many places of work. An aesthetic issue. Ear rings are accepted everywhere. There might have been a time when the cross was seen as bad for business. A Hillary or Trump pin at Macy’s should not be allowed, I don’t think. A Jewish star or some other religious symbol is another thing. The bottom line is that that a feeling of having been treated unfairly may not be based on a legitimate, bona fide legal grievance; nor would any reasonable attorney automatically regard all instances of discrimination in the work place as such.

    It can (and should in most cases) remain between the employee and the employer, as Christina said.
    Work it out and stop giving your employer a hard time. If he or she is an asshole than quit. If he is really attacking your what you feel are your rights and your dignity in a legal sense then sue him or quit. Either that or shut up. Be sensible.

    Tough question. Consult an attorney, if you feel your rights are truly being violated and if can can afford one. Don’t listen to me; what do I know? —But I think an employer is well within his rights to say: “take off that damned ‘A’ pin.”

    Look before you leap.

    “An atheist pin is not a religious symbol. And it’s confrontational and off-puttin’. I don’t wanna lose no customers, like Mrs. Benson over here.—Why, she’s been a loyal customer for – oh I would say – fifteen years… An upside down cross or a pentagram are religious symbols… Now I wouldn’t want no satanists or witches advertising their religion in my lil’ ol’ store or some atheist advertising his opposition to religion in a nice Christian community like this, now would I? Not in my store, not in the one my daddy started. We cater to ‘spectable people here, you understand?”

    Is that wrong?



    Report abuse

  • If religious employees can wear crosses or other religious symbols, you should be able to wear atheist pins or buttons; if co-workers can post flyers about religious events they’re participating in, you should be able to post flyers about your atheist events. Etc.)
    Now, if policies aren’t being applied fairly, you’re going to have to decide if you want to push back…

    Our culture accepts the display of religious symbols, notably the cross and less frequently the star of David usually by way of a necklace or a pin. (The hijab or headscarf worn by Muslim women is also becoming more visible in the American workplace). Certainly, atheists have the right to wear a symbol depicting, for example, the Darwinian parody of the Christian fish sporting evolved legs. Legible clothing and accessories pose far greater problems. A devout Christian who wears a shirt imprinted with the message, “Jesus is the Answer” should be sent home for a change of clothes and likewise an atheist who wears one that reads “Good Without God.”

    If management and workers are comfortable with a bulletin board where people can post announcements of religious or secular events in their community, then fine. If such postings express inflammatory partisan rhetoric or otherwise result in employee altercations, the employer would be wise to ban such postings entirely consistent with legal prohibition of solicitation on private property.

    The courts must ultimately sort out these complex sensitive dilemmas. For now, I understand that employers have considerable rights for limiting employee speech. The workplace does not provide a marketplace for the unchecked exchange of ideas, belief systems, political and ideological views or even “opinions” that can reasonably be shown to harm or disrupt business. After sounding “reasonable” in her opening two sentences, Ms. Christina goes on to make the implicit case for transforming offices and shop floors into a “fair and balanced” forum for religious vs atheist debates. To be sure some employers, mostly in the Bible belt, may attempt to impose their religious (Christian) beliefs on the workforce while suppressing those of non-believers. Pious employers do so at their own legal peril while threatening the reputation, integrity and productivity of their own enterprises. ( Under legal and social pressure, businesses like public schools have progressively moved away from religious advocacy.)

    What eludes Christina is the progressive policy of functionally eliminating interpersonal religious, ideological or political conflicts from the job site. To reiterate, employees will inevitably have informal conversations about religion and politics at lunch or on coffee breaks but once these discussions carry over into loud, abusive, arguments on company time, employers must demand that the expression of personal beliefs on controversial matters be virtually silenced in favor of maintaining civil, respectful, courteous, congenial, cooperative, tolerant, and, above all, job-oriented relations in the workplace.

    A note for Vicki: I am not criticizing Christina’s feminist ideology as personal belief per se; I’m referring to her blatantly authoritarian practice of censorship and mean-spirited shunning of commenters on her website.
    She is the consummate bigot ( you’d have to review her blog posts to see for yourself.) The sentiments expressed in her paragraph above are pure hypocrisy.



    Report abuse

  • Note: The first 4 lines of the comment above represented in italics are quoted from Christina’s paragraph. The rest
    represents my own words. Apologies for fumbling the “italicize” button that left part of my own words in italics when they should be represented in regular type. Sorry for any confusion.



    Report abuse

  • Melvin, in your opinion, should an employee be allowed to wear a Satanic cross (an upside down cross) in the work place? Satanism is a religion and hardly less superstitious than Christianity. I say no. But why not?

    Confusing issue.

    An atheist pin is not the equivalent of a cross or a star of David, but an employee has no right to tell you not to wear that. I changed my mind. It’s like wearing a peace sign. None of the employee’s damned business.



    Report abuse

  • An atheist pin or button.

    “None of the employee’s damned business.”

    Employer, that is.

    Still not sure. Maybe it is his or her business. It’s his or her store or place of business. (No pun intended.) Discrimination law is enormously complicated.



    Report abuse

  • Dan: “Discrimination law is enormously complicated.”

    My point exactly. Courts would probably uphold an employee’s right to wear the “Darwin Fish” pin but
    uphold an employer’s right to demand that an employee remove an emblem ring with a swastika or
    accessories with recognizable satanic symbols. Community standards and social consensus refined by management regulations concerning dress codes, accessories, body piercings and tattoos, grooming, appropriate and inappropriate speech and behavior would help decide rare litigation along with other factors. Discrimination on the basis or race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc. would be illegal but often hard to prove. Courts would generally honor an employer’s contractual right to “fire at will without cause” and refuse to consider wrongful termination allegations where the employer could present documented, corroborated evidence that the employee engaged in combative and insubordinate conduct with superiors and/or abrasive and disruptive conduct with fellow employees.



    Report abuse

  • I visited a dental specialist on referral. He had a middle-eastern sounding name, and appearance, and spoke excellent English, and had a very good “manner” in his way of working, at least as far as I saw. His private practice office/surgery was decorated with pictures and trinkets with sailboat imagery. That was fine. But in the reception area, prominently displayed, on a sort of mini-lectern, was a book – the koran. I wondered at his motivations, but did not say anything. I still wonder. He was clearly well to do, a well qualified professional in his field, and had chosen to settle in this predominantly secular location.

    Somehow for me it undermined his advice. I sought a 2nd opinion. Now, why did I do that?

    I must add: had it been a bible, and regardless of apparent ethnicity, I’d have reacted the same way.



    Report abuse

  • Melvin #6

    To reiterate, employees will inevitably have informal conversations
    about religion and politics at lunch or on coffee breaks but once
    these discussions carry over into loud, abusive, arguments on company
    time, employers must demand that the expression of personal beliefs on
    controversial matters be virtually silenced in favor of maintaining
    civil, respectful, courteous, congenial, cooperative, tolerant, and,
    above all, job-oriented relations in the workplace.

    I agree. I think, too, that discussions along those lines will pigeon-hole employees, and carry over into company time and employee relations whether it becomes argumentative or not. Personally, I think it’s best to avoid the subjects of religion and politics altogether.

    But it has happened: an employee will make a reference to her faith in the course of conversation, “My daughter loved the outing, and praise Jesus, the family got together afterwards, thank you Lord.” My choices are to ignore it or confront it. I ignore it. A sympathy card is passed around for employees to sign. Mine is the only signature that doesn’t add “I’ll be praying for you.” An email is sent out announcing a multi-faith service in the chapel for any who wish to attend (I work in a children’s hospital). The service is purely voluntary, so again, I ignore it.

    For me, the balancing act is respecting their rights as well as mine. The question though, I think, is it anyone’s responsibility to make the effort to raise one’s awareness of others positions regarding belief systems. In my case, the imposition doesn’t justify the confrontation.



    Report abuse

  • Good move, OHooligan. When in doubt throw it out. (I just saw my dentist. No holy books.)

    (Melvin, are you the same Melvin, the one that knows a lot about science that I used to talk to in the past? It’s been a while. Nice to have you back.)

    At Will Employment is fascistic.



    Report abuse

  • Me thinks the crux of the contention is when expression either becomes evangelizing or disrupting. The timing and delivery is usually more important than the content. Employers have to make that call everyday. It is our hypersensitive, politically correct phobia that has suddenly made workplace expression such a hot topic.



    Report abuse

  • @Craig Domin
    “Me thinks the crux of the contention is when expression either becomes evangelizing or disrupting.” Spot on.

    Greta Christina also wrote a sloppy middle brow book gushing with “her” gassy opinions titled:
    Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless Christina’s narrow, mean blogspeak
    is soaked with pusillanimous anger. Whether you’re angry with believers or the “Godless” or simply mad at the world, don’t bring these attitudes to work. Be known simply as the office atheist – if you will – but “come-out” with your activism somewhere else.



    Report abuse

  • Craig Domin #17
    Sep 13, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Me thinks the crux of the contention is when expression either becomes evangelizing or disrupting.

    I think this very much depends on the type of business being conducted.

    The timing and delivery is usually more important than the content.

    Content would be relatively unimportant if beliefs were largely irrelevant to the co-operation in conducting the business – say in some artistic environment.

    Employers have to make that call everyday.

    But colleagues and employers would need to make a clear call, if – say YECs or other fundamentalists, brought anti-science or religious bigotry, to scientific, medical, or pharmaceutical enterprises, or proselytising disrupted staff co-operation, output, or customer relations.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.