Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pray with Me at Work

No, don't, really.

Periodically, someone finds my blog by googling for a "prayer to open a meeting at work," and I'd just like to say one thing: please don't do this. Just don't open meetings in the workplace with prayer. If you need a moment of prayer, go ahead and take that at your desk by yourself. Quietly. But do not, under any circumstances, assume that everyone in the meeting feels similarly, agrees with your prayer, and needs to pray with you as a communal experience. That is not okay. And it may be illegal.

(Religious organizations may be a separate case. I worked in a Catholic school where we did open meetings with prayers, and I was actually told to open each classroom session with a prayer (I ignored that because I'm from Gen X and we act that way with authority). And I'm not an attorney, and I don't know if there are separate legal precedents involved in religious organizations. But that's a totally separate post.)

I do know that in the non-religious-affiliated workplace in the private sector, it's not a good idea for morale, teambuilding, and goodwill to open meetings with a prayer, and it may be illegal. In this lawsuit, a nurse and a medical assistant in a pediatric clinic claim that prayers at meetings, prayers out loud by other employees at their desks, and some very intolerant comments (You're Satan since you're not a born-again Christian!) led to a hostile work environment. The two employees are applying the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 regarding religious discrimination in the workplace.

Here's a description of the lawsuit, and here are details from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EOEC) on religious discrimination. Last year, the EOEC received 2541 charges of religious discrimination.