If you have spent any time online reading about religion, you have probably come across a few articles on the appropriateness of taking your religion into the workplace. Most of those articles tend to be very conservative, citing discrimination, abuse, bullying by bosses and coworkers and other such problems to discourage you from displaying your faith in an office setting. Other articles make you aware of your right to display your faith and the symbols of your belief in a workplace environment.
I’m not going to recreate what those articles do, but I will address one thing they lack.
How much religion should be taken to the workplace?
I’m not taking the side of the HR departments or the bosses and saying that you can’t be religious in the workplace, but there are lines that have to be watched carefully or it could cause problems. For instance, publicly praying to Mecca twice a day in the office may be seen as interesting, but it would probably be frowned upon if previous arrangments haven’t been made.
Companys must make efforts to reasonably acomidate your religious needs and most companys will do so without much complaint. But if you go into the workplace and just start doing, without checking with HR or seeing what is considered “appropriate” then you may find yourself in a world of hurt.
Yet by the same token, taking your holy books (like the Bible) to work to read isn’t out of the ordinary or even commented upon by most people.
So this kind of tolerance of Christianity almost begs the question of “why can’t the average minority religion, be it Wicca, Islam or Judaism, have the same right?” In my opinion, they can, but there is a need to be somewhat circumspect.
I am checking the facts with a lawyer, but I don’t think there is a lot that legally a company can do if you wish to bring your religion with you from home. They can try to keep the displays to a minimum and to make sure that your practice and your expression don’t infringe on someone else, but other than that, they can’t forbid you from displaying your faith if your coworkers are allowed to display theirs.
So bringing things like religious pictures, statuary and sayings from articles and from the Book of Shadows (like possibly the Goddess’ speech in the Drawing Down the Moon rite would be a good candidate) will probably be tolerated by the company itself. The HR department couldn’t do much, especially if you had cases where Christian and other faiths were putting similar displays of their works and their faith up.
The problem comes when it begins to intrude on the work environment and the ability of others to do their job. While having unburned scented candles may not cause much problem, especially if you can smell them easily, there might be a problem if you decided to light the cone of incense you brought in the brazier.
Not only are you causing loads of problems for the computer, but there are problems with asthmatics and those allergic to scents to think about too. Then there is the open flame issue, the intrusion of workspace by the incense smoke, and the personal preferences as to the scents.
I tried this once. I had a stash of incense in my drawer that I had been using to scent the air, simply by having it out. One day I decided to light it and have it be a bit more powerful a smell. While there was no immediate fall out, there was the “sauce for the goose” mindset. Others brought their scents in and used them in their cubes. Eventually we had five different smells all warring with each other and causing a lot of problems, especially when we took documents from our office to other people.
So that would be the first consideration, your neighbors.
The next thing you should consider before really outing yourself in the workplace is the simple discrimination that comes with being a Wiccan/Witch/Pagan and out in the public. Yes, there will be times when you should be available to answer questions, especially if you are a good reflection on what Wicca is. But there are still a lot of people who have problems with any flavor Pagan. I know there are a few people I worked with that had severe problems with my Paganism, enough to make an issue of it to my face, but not enough of issue to have it become a problem in our work relationship.
I had a pagany quote in my signature line of my work email. Only one person mentioned it, and I changed it. Of course I had to explain the new signature line to her, so it was a non issue at that point. I did have to ask one coworker to take me off her mailing list. She would sent out fliers on a regular basis to everyone in our department about the Missions she and her husband were taking to Africa, with praises to God and all. She tried to save me by inviting me to a revival, but didn’t push it after that. I joked to a third coworker that I was going to Hel for lying. He said that isn’t what he heard, that I would be in Hell for something else, but he never elaborated.
So while workplace religious discrimination is going to be something you have to keep in mind, it isn’t nearly as prevalent as some would have you believe.
If you are willing to face that and stand up for your rights, then making shrines and so on in your work space may be something you wish to consider.
As I have said, your neighbors and their preferences would be the first and foremost thing to consider. Just common courtesy would be enough to cover you here. But always remember that if someone else in your work environment is doing something that you are probably okay in doing it as well. If they have Bible quotes up, you are probably safe in putting up quotes from your Book of Shadows or your inspirational books. Same goes for statuary, same goes for plants.
Unfortunately one of the things you probably can’t do is to have an offering area. As much as we may not like it, there is generally rules against leaving food out. That normally attracts bugs and it becomes a health issue at that point. I would generally try to avoid that if at all possible, simply because of the hassle it can cause. Quiet music played so you can hear it, but so that it doesn’t leave the vicinity of your cubicle would be appropriate in many people’s opinions. But loud music that would interfere with being able to hear on the phone would probably not be a good thing. A scented potpourri would be nice, clouds of incense smoke would probably not be.
I have been advised that in ANY case where you are confused as to the display you wish to have, check with the employee’s handbook that the Human Resources department puts out. They have to have a policy in there for just such a case since many more people are bringing their faith to work with them. Having your Pagan Screensaver will be wonderful as long as the business you work for won’t be upset. So make sure you check that.
Always keep this basic fact in mind, however. The place you work is a business first. If your religion gets in the way of you doing your job, or interferes with others doing their jobs, no matter how in the right you are, you will be asked to stop. If you have a case where you can prove that you are being asked to stop doing something that many others in the same workplace environment are doing with nothing being said to them, then you will probably have reason to cry “discrimination”. However, if you are asked to remove your pentacle while others are being asked to remove their crosses, you don’t have a case for anything.
Understand that while you talking about Paganism in the lunch room or over the water cooler may be tolerated, the business is about making money.
Also remember that you can display your faith, openly and fully, without making an issue of it. Say you have a plant, there is your Earth, and the act of caring for it, watering it and making sure it has the light it needs, is a magickal act enough that many Pagans and Witches would have no problem saying that it was worshiping the Goddess, even while the coworkers in your office think you simply have a green thumb. The same can be said for almost any segment of your faith. You don’t have to have a display in your cubicle or on your person that screams “I AM PAGAN, HEAR ME ROAR!!!!” Tasteful displays are the goal in this exercise of Free Speech.
Have a statue of Athena you want to put up? Stand it next to the computer and if asked point out that She is the Goddess of Intellect. Or get a Beanie Baby of your Goddess’ animal and use that as a representation. Camouflage it somewhat and I bet you can have almost anything you want in your cube without anyone being the wiser.
Heck scented candles alone could do for incense and the candles, and you get two for the price of one. Icons of your deity required? Print out some artwork or have your kids draw the Gods and put those up. Like the “Prayer of Serenity” then put that up.
And also keep in mind that in many cases, you will have to have some place permanent to sit. Having a locker with a shrine in it would be good, but if you only see that locker once a day then there is probably no point. Somehow I don’t think that having a shrine on the counter next to the coffee pot will make many people happy in your workplace.
In any event, you must be considerate of others and always be conscious of the Company policy on the subject.
(When I showed this article to some friends, one comment I received had this gem, so I decided to add this to the article.
I think the important thing, besides being courteous to the people you work with, is to be serious and straightforward with your employers about your religious needs. Find out what you can leave at home for everyone’s convenience, and then be clear about the things you can’t do without. They can’t require you to prove that these practices are vital to your faith, but they’re more likely to make accommodations if they have a clear idea of what you need and that you are adamant about your needs.)
Originally posted 2014-07-11 01:44:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter