Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

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Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#1  Postby Dawn » Jul 09, 2011 2:05 am

I am very frustrated with my work situation. I work for a hospice in the US. It is a not for profit organisation that takes medicare and other insurance payments for services. Part of the medicare regulations is that hospice programs must provide spiritual support so we have clergy employed to see patients that agree to the services. The patient is screened by a social worker in the admission process and asked if they want clergy giving them a choice to accept or decline.

We also provide bereavement services to families and we (the counselors) are careful in doing groups to not promote any particular belief, but to provide support and respect diverse beliefs/non-belief.

My problem is that in weekly team meetings the clergy is preaching. It started as a moment of silence for those patients who died during that week. Some clergy would turn this into a prayer and now we are treated to "inspirational" talks that include talk of god, our creator, the holy one, etc. I was sickened by some trite speech about EGO standing for "edging god out" this week. I actually groaned out loud (not on purpose) earning a disapproving frown from our director who is Catholic.

I have spoken to the clergy before expressing my disappointment that alternate beliefs/non-belief is not respected by these sermonettes. No change other than some token Buddhist quote being added to the Christian-focused talk. I don't want to be forced to hear this crap. Do I have any workplace rights? Probably not, since I live in the Southern United States. I have done my best to ignore it or address it at the clergy level, but I am getting really sick of it. Things seem to be getting worse instead of better.

I have been told by co-workers that I should not complain at a higher level because I would be punished in some way or most likely targeted at the next lay off. I have survived previous lay offs and really need my job. Unemployment is high here and I have been looking for other possibilities, but so far nothing.

I suspect I will have to suck it up and deal with it as usual, but it is really getting old. I don't want to take away the right for others to talk about their religion, but I don't think I should be forced to sit and be preached to in a mandatory meeting.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#2  Postby sennekuyl » Jul 09, 2011 3:22 am

That sound like a very difficult situation Dawn. I'm aussie so I don't know about USA rulings but I do offer sincere sympathy.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#3  Postby Dawn » Jul 09, 2011 3:26 am

Thank you, sennekuyl. It is frustrating. My tolerance for it is wearing thin.

I should probably clarify that the meeting I am referring to is for hospice workers only. No patients are involved. I explained a little about our services before getting to my issue, which is the preaching that occurs at employee meetings.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#4  Postby Grimstad » Jul 09, 2011 3:32 am

My first thought is leave the "mandatory meeting" as soon as the preaching starts. If they threaten any action for doing so, let them know you will have no choice but to contact the EEOC or some other organization designed to protect your workplace rights. It's one thing to have these little prayer meetings, it's quite another to force you to attend.

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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#5  Postby Dawn » Jul 09, 2011 3:48 am

Grimstad wrote:My first thought is leave the "mandatory meeting" as soon as the preaching starts. If they threaten any action for doing so, let them know you will have no choice but to contact the EEOC or some other organization designed to protect your workplace rights. It's one thing to have these little prayer meetings, it's quite another to force you to attend.


I have thought of doing this. It is near the start of the meeting, but I could get up and leave for awhile. I talked of doing this to a co-worker who thought I would regret it. They couldn't do anything to me overtly related to my action (I don't think), but they could target me in a way that I couldn't prove was connected. I guess I have to decide if taking a stand is worth risking my job. I have also thought about sending an anonymous complaint to HR.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#6  Postby sennekuyl » Jul 09, 2011 4:08 am

Whistle-blower seems reasonable, though you may need to think whether they may deduce it was you who did so.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#7  Postby Dawn » Jul 09, 2011 4:14 am

sennekuyl wrote:Whistle-blower seems reasonable, though you may need to think whether they may deduce it was you who did so.


I am pretty sure they would know. I sent a protest letter before to the director of clergy when we did this community memorial service that was supposed to be secular and diversity friendly and it was like going to a Baptist tent revival. I was very upset because it was not what I had represented to the bereaved family members. As nervous as I am about losing my job, I am not good at hiding my feelings either, especially when it affects those we are supposed to be caring for.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#8  Postby AlohaChris » Jul 09, 2011 4:54 am

Dawn wrote:I have been told by co-workers that I should not complain at a higher level because I would be punished in some way or most likely targeted at the next lay off. I have survived previous lay offs and really need my job. Unemployment is high here and I have been looking for other possibilities, but so far nothing.


This is exactly what will happen if you complain. It's wrong & awful, but it's up to you how much you want your job. The EEOC thing sounds great on paper, but it would take a year or more for you to prevail in court (and it's not certain that you'd prevail). In the mean time, you'll be out of a job.

What do you do for the hospice program?
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#9  Postby Grimstad » Jul 09, 2011 5:04 am

It's unfortunate but that's the way it works. Someone in the workplace puts you in a position where you have to decide between your job and your sanity. It's not your choice, it's not your making, but you have to deal with it. I've been lucky in my life because I've always been in a position to just tell them to fuck off and go find another job. Thats no longer the case.

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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#10  Postby Grace » Jul 09, 2011 5:30 am

Dawn, Hospice is supposed to offer comfort to the dying. Please ask your boss how they can provide comfort to people who happen to be Atheists if they cram religion down their throats? Never make this an issue about you. Always make them think you are being a strong advocate for patients/clients who are different and not being treated fairly.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#11  Postby Spearthrower » Jul 09, 2011 5:35 am

I know nothing about the protection of rights within the workplace in the USA, so I can offer no advice, just registering my support for you to be able to do your job without being proselytised at.

If you have any Muslim, Buddhist, or other religious co-workers, you might suggest that they ask to be allowed to deliver homilies in this meeting. If they are refused, then there's a definite case to be made. If accepted, it will be funny to watch the Christian fundies wriggling while listening to some other religious dogma being forced down their throats. Perhaps you could also ask to give a secular homily, and wax lyrical about the nature of co-operation as an evolved strategy.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#12  Postby z8000783 » Jul 09, 2011 6:09 am

The main issue here it seems to me, is about the effectiveness of the team and since this is a team meeting it is highly appropriate that you raise the matter here or with the head of the team directly.

It is critically import that staff doing the job you all do, are able to deal with patients and their families in the most sensitive ways possible especially at these difficult and sometimes traumatic times, in respecting whatever religious beliefs they may have or none. Even when families say they are devotees in some way, staff intervening with a religious agenda may still not be doing so appropriately for that family at that time. The problem could be exacerbated if the ‘wrong’ flavour of religion is used.

Whilst the idea of prayers and sermons during team meetings sounds laudable there is actually a danger here that staff start unconsciously believing that it is acceptable to deliver pastoral service as part of their job. Of course they are completely untrained at this and the results could be disastrous which is why there is someone on hand who is trained to cover this aspect of patients needs. Also new and inexperienced staff may actually think that this is part of their team training and that they should also become involved in delivering these service albeit with the best intentions.

So you could suggest that the MOST effective course for everybody would be to revert to the excellent process of a minute’s silence which will allow all staff to reflect on the past week and all who have died during that time. Then to silently use whichever process is most effective for them including praying to whichever God is appropriate if they wish to. This will then enable them to build upon their own inner strength in readiness for the coming week in a way that suits them best.

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Last edited by z8000783 on Jul 09, 2011 8:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#13  Postby Xaihe » Jul 09, 2011 7:05 am

I don't know if this helps. It might get you separated from the group dynamic.

You should have the right not to have to listen to someone else's beliefs. You could say that the group prayer or sermon is offensive to your personal beliefs (which is actually true, isn't it?). Mixing in other religions doesn't fix that. Your beliefs are your own and personal. Just as you (should) respect the religious beliefs of others in the workplace, the respect runs two ways. You shouldn't be forced to participate in religious practices that you do not agree with.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#14  Postby byofrcs » Jul 09, 2011 7:49 am

When people are dying then they start thinking about wills and donations and I'm sure that whilst some of the carers truly believe that their mission is to protect people from hell and eternal damnation, there will be some that are after bequests for the organisations they represent.

Those that just want to care for people will be stuck in the middle of this war.

You don't really have to worry about the hellfire lot nor obviously the caring ones but you do have to worry about the ones who are after donations. They will get rid of you if you interfere with their business model for their religion.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#15  Postby Nicko » Jul 09, 2011 9:29 am

z8000783 wrote:So you could suggest that the MOST effective course for everybody would be to revert to the excellent process of a minute’s silence which will allow all staff to reflect on the past week and all who have died during that time. Then to silently use whichever process is most effective for them including praying to whichever God is appropriate if they wish to. This will then enable them to build upon their own inner strength in readiness for the coming week in a way that suits them best.


Not often that we are in agreement, but yeah, this.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#16  Postby mark1961 » Jul 09, 2011 11:07 am

Slightly off topic here but I've been spending a lot of time in hospitals in the UK recently as a patient and possibly will make use of the local hospice too. Nothing to report so far. Apart from a healthy, friendly business like approach to my concerns. All comments and advice have been completely secular in nature. Not a whiff of God or sickly, patronising smile in in sight or smelling range in fact.

However,

One of the "dangers" I foresee if I go down the hospice route is the possibility of being "preached at" by the vendors of alternative therapy. My problem there is I have a loathing of pseudo science. Almost equal to my dislike of religion. I have a feeling however that if I do need the hospice the real staff will keep them away from me if I quietly ask.

Anyway,

The idea that I would be involuntarily preached at or even religiously grinned at in a work place let alone being in the vulnerable position of being a patient gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I hope everything works out. This is way out of order. It's wrong it's abuse full stop, end of.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#17  Postby Dawn » Jul 09, 2011 12:16 pm

AlohaChris wrote:
Dawn wrote:I have been told by co-workers that I should not complain at a higher level because I would be punished in some way or most likely targeted at the next lay off. I have survived previous lay offs and really need my job. Unemployment is high here and I have been looking for other possibilities, but so far nothing.


This is exactly what will happen if you complain. It's wrong & awful, but it's up to you how much you want your job. The EEOC thing sounds great on paper, but it would take a year or more for you to prevail in court (and it's not certain that you'd prevail). In the mean time, you'll be out of a job.

What do you do for the hospice program?


Hi AlohaChris. Your take on it is pretty much my belief in how things would go and I do need the income. I am a licensed clinical social worker. My position there is bereavement counselor. I used to work as a social worker with the dying patient and family, but now work with the family members after death providing grief counseling. We provide home visits for individual counseling and do various types of grief support groups also.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#18  Postby Dawn » Jul 09, 2011 12:22 pm

Grimstad wrote:It's unfortunate but that's the way it works. Someone in the workplace puts you in a position where you have to decide between your job and your sanity. It's not your choice, it's not your making, but you have to deal with it. I've been lucky in my life because I've always been in a position to just tell them to fuck off and go find another job. Thats no longer the case.


Yes, before the economy went to hell I would have had a lot more options. My husband was laid off and could only find a low paying job after a year looking. If he still had his old job, I would be comfortable openly fighting for what is right.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#19  Postby Dawn » Jul 09, 2011 12:25 pm

Grace wrote:Dawn, Hospice is supposed to offer comfort to the dying. Please ask your boss how they can provide comfort to people who happen to be Atheists if they cram religion down their throats? Never make this an issue about you. Always make them think you are being a strong advocate for patients/clients who are different and not being treated fairly.


I have been a strong advocate for the patient and they can tolerate that even if the fight has to be repeated because many people don't get it. It is the staff meeting that seems to be different for them. Apparently employees are not entitled to the same respect that patients are given.
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Re: Atheist dealing with religion in the workplace

#20  Postby Dawn » Jul 09, 2011 12:33 pm

Spearthrower wrote:I know nothing about the protection of rights within the workplace in the USA, so I can offer no advice, just registering my support for you to be able to do your job without being proselytised at.

If you have any Muslim, Buddhist, or other religious co-workers, you might suggest that they ask to be allowed to deliver homilies in this meeting. If they are refused, then there's a definite case to be made. If accepted, it will be funny to watch the Christian fundies wriggling while listening to some other religious dogma being forced down their throats. Perhaps you could also ask to give a secular homily, and wax lyrical about the nature of co-operation as an evolved strategy.


I have 3 other co-workers that are upset too. One is Jewish, one is Buddhist and I am not sure about the other one - either atheist or Buddhist. The last one is very angry about Christianity and any type of prayer being forced on him. The other bereavement counselor is Buddhist and he fills in for the clergy when both are absent giving the talk. He hates the sermons as much as I do and agrees with me that there should only be the moment of silence. He is close to the director of clergy. I actually already asked him to please ask the director if we could just do the moment of silence out of respect for the dead and staff. I don't hold much hope, but he has more influence with the director being on friendly terms. Funny thing is I think he has started to convert the director toward Buddhism.
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