my company hired a corporate chaplain to roam the office praying and handing out scriptures

A reader writes:

The company I work for is privately owned with about 500 employees. I’ve worked here for six years and I am fully aware that the owner is Christian and claims his company to be a Christian company. Most employees are also Christian or put on airs to be to fit in.

About a year ago, a corporate chaplain was hired to be of service to employees for prayer or support. He walks around to all the departments weekly and passes out scriptures. I was totally fine with this, despite being agnostic.

But recently a coworker of mine was asked by him if he could lead her in prayer and then he proceeded to ask her questions concerning her salvation. My coworker is Catholic so she was not completely offended by it, but she was blindsided and taken aback that he was allowed to proselytize to her at work while she was clocked in.

I worry every time I see him that he will try to initialize the same conversation with me which I have absolutely no interest in. I feel it is a huge invasion of privacy to ask anyone what they believe, but to be subjected to it at work, do I now need to worry that if I do say what I really feel I can be fired for it? Even though it is a medium-sized private Christian company, do I have any rights when it comes to being cornered by this guy or my job security?

Yes, you have legal rights here … although whether they’ll help you in practice, and to what extent, is a different issue.

It’s illegal for your employer to subject you to religious harassment or religious discrimination. That means that you can’t be penalized for your religious beliefs (fired, demoted, denied promotions or assignments you’d other get, etc.), and that you shouldn’t be subject to comments or behavior that are so “severe or pervasive” that it creates a work environment that a reasonable person would consider hostile or offensive. That can include proselytizing, if it’s significant enough; courts have found that repeated, unwanted preaching is actionable harassment.

So theoretically, you have plenty of standing to push back against this, if you want to.

If you’re only interested in keeping the chaplain away from you (as opposed to taking on the issue more broadly), then I’d simply decide that if he ever approaches you, you’re going to immediately say, “I’m not interested in discussing religion at work.” If he persists, then you should say, “I’m not comfortable with this conversation. Please respect my wishes to end it.” You can say it in a polite tone, but you should clearly opt out.

If your wishes aren’t respected at that point, you have a pretty serious issue here, and you’d need to decide how you wanted to handle it. Your options at that point would range from talking to someone in a position of authority at your company, to thinking about legal options, to leaving over it, to deciding you’re willing to tolerate it because you like other things about your job. That’s a pretty personal choice, but those are the basic options if a clear “no, thank you” isn’t respected.

But I’d start by assuming that a clear “not interested” will work, since more likely than not it will.

Now, will this affect you at work? I don’t know. As you can see from the above, legally it should not. However, not every company follows the law, and it could certainly affect you in more subtle ways, which is much harder to guard against.

The bigger point, perhaps, is that you might be looking at a serious culture mismatch. The fact is, you’re working for a company that believes so strongly in bringing religion into the workplace that they’ve hired a chaplain to walk around and proselytize. If I were you, I’d be thinking that this isn’t a great culture fit, and unless I absolutely loved the work, I’d be thinking about finding somewhere more in line with what makes me comfortable. You shouldn’t have to — and the law makes that clear — but from a quality of life standpoint, it’s something I’d give some thought to.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 207 comments… read them below }

  1. Noah*

    If the chaplain has never approached her and continued after being asked to stop I fail to see any issue with this one. I’m Catholic as well and I cannot imagine any member of the clergy not respecting your wishes. If it worries you I would schedule a meeting, explain you are not interested in discussing religion at work and leave it at that.

    Now, I think having a chaplain on staff at a private company is a very stupid idea and a waste of corporate dollars in most situations. Hospice, hospitals, etc I understand, but a private company I do not. Doesn’t sound like a very enjoyable environment at all.

    1. Liz in a library*

      I think it depends so much person to person, and depending on how much proselytizing is emphasized in the person’s specific beliefs. My father-in-law is a chaplain and can be uncomfortably intense and unable to read discomfort cues in the person he’s speaking to.

      I agree with you that this would not be my kind of office…

      1. Jamie*

        This. Catholicism, in my experience, doesn’t tend to be evangelical so priests are more apt to back off if their counsel isn’t sought because it’s not about recruitment in the same way it is for some more fundamental sects of which I’m familiar.

        Neither statement was meant to apply to all Catholics or all fundamentalist Christians – just anecdata from my personal experience.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          No, you’re right–it’s much more conservative in expressions of faith, at least in my experience (cradle Catholic, non-practicing). It freaks me out sometimes to have religious people get in my face, no matter what denomination or faith. You can imagine my astonishment the one time I went to a very, very fundamentalist service with a friend in junior high. Quite an eye-opener! 0_0 (They were nice and not pushy–it was just way noisier than I was used to.)

    2. Anonicorn*

      I was also thinking that chaplains should be understanding of and used to situations when people don’t want their services.

    3. Ros*

      Let’s put it this way: my last experience with members of organised clergy involved the preacher’s wife cornering me in a public washroom to preach jesus at me from the other side of the stall door, while her husband picked up as soon as I’d managed to pull up my pants and exit the washroom. (No, I am not kidding. Admittedly, this wasn’t a corporate context – I’d just started (briefly) dating her son. This was a major feature in that particular break-up, let’s just say.)

      I don’t think you can assume that all clergy go by “appropriate”.

      And maybe I just have a very French-Canadian attitude about religion… we treat it a bit like sex. Some people have it, some people don’t, but you really don’t do it in public around people who haven’t consented to the experience.

      1. Mike C.*

        Wait, so does Quebec have dimly lit shops in the bad parts of town selling religious magazines and videos in brown paper bags? Maybe this religion thing is more exciting than I first thought…

        1. Ros*

          … No, but I’m in Montreal. The strip clubs are all on the main street, and they’re brightly lit with pictures and neon. The churches are on the same street, with less lighting but prettier gardens. ;)

          1. Felicia*

            Certain areas in Toronto have the same arrangement of strip clubs and churches:) What you describe as a French Canadian attitude is actually just a Canadian attitude in general. I very much related to your “Some people have it, some people don’t, but you really don’t do it in public around people who haven’t consented to the experience.” I’ve never encountered a church that was pushy around here that were that pushy, and religion isn’t something that’s considered polite to talk about with strangers. I briefly worked at a religious organization here, and religion wasn’t talked about in that manner there either. People should be able to be free of religious harrasment in the workplace.

            1. Chinook*

              That’s because we are Canadian and have an innate urge, handed to you with your citizenship or birth certifacte, to be polite. Before trying to convince you to save your soul from the fiery pits of he’ll, we say please. ;)

            2. anon in tejas*

              I don’t know about that. Although I am from Texas, I was born in Canada. Canada is the only place where I was the virgin mary in christmas pageant– in my public school.

        2. Ros*

          And, for the record: most of the churches tend to be very non-pushy about it. The evangelical people who preach on the subway before my first cup of coffee, though? Argh!!

      2. FreeThinkerTX*

        A friend of mine has a saying that goes something like, “Religion is like a pen*s, you may or may not have one, and it may or may not bring you some happiness, but please do not shove it down my or my children’s throats.”

  2. Anonymous*

    Curious if this is the Bible Belt, I just can’t see this happening where I live. That is a really tough situation to deal with. I am afraid if it was me I would reconsider working there.

    1. De Minimis*

      This sounds a little out there even for the Bible Belt. I’ve lived there a good portion of my life and the type of religious activity I’ve mainly seen is usually by groups of co-workers and not so much from management, other than maybe praying before meals at special occasions.

      1. FreeThinkerTX*

        I once flew to Alabama for a site visit with prospective manufacturing client. We had to halt the tour for an hour and a half so the owner could go lead the entire company in their regularly scheduled Wednesday Bible Study. Yowsa.

        1. TychaBrahe*

          I was part of an eight-person corporate training team that went to the Alabama division of a Fortune 100 company. At the beginning of the training session, the Sales Manager gave opening remarks which ended with a prayer for the success of the training “in Jesus’s name.”

          The three members of the training team who were Jewish were perturbed, to say the least.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          I’m in the Bible Belt, too, and our company allows a group to have bible study and prayer on their lunch break, once a week. It’s not mandatory but everyone is welcome.

    2. Kou*

      I’m actually imagining the opposite. I may be stereotyping but I feel like this sort of thing pops up when someone is afraid that their situation is too secular or too far from their religious center, since that’s the situation in which people “need” that type of guidance and support.

  3. Ruffingit*

    Seems odd to me too, but then I can also argue that several people have been on staff at places I’ve worked that were a complete waste of company money.

    Here, it’s clear that this company is a fairly religious one. I am guessing the chaplain assumes that since he was hired to be on staff, passing out weekly scriptures is OK. I also don’t see it as weird that he asked about the co-worker’s salvation because, again, it would be part of his job to encourage/promote the religious life of those he is working with.

    That said, if someone is uncomfortable with that, you need to find another job and/or tell him to back off. As noted by Noah, most clergy of any faith tend to respect that if they are sane. If not, that’s a whole other problem.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Addendem. I read the OP as saying the co-worker asked the chaplain to lead her in prayer, but on re-reading it, I see it was the chaplain who asked her to lead her in prayer. In that case, this part of my original response would not apply: “I also don’t see it as weird that he asked about the co-worker’s salvation because, again, it would be part of his job to encourage/promote the religious life of those he is working with.”

      It would apply if the co-worker asked the chaplain to lead her in prayer because then she’s asked for religious help and/or guidance so I wouldn’t see it as strange for the chaplain to question her about where she’s at in her faith. But for him to randomly do that? No, not OK.

    2. Chinook*

      See, where I can understand the idea behind hiring a chaplain (even if it is a stretch), I still don’t see it giving him permission to prosetylize. After all, Fr. Mlcaghey on M*A*S*H never once tried to convert anyone. And the military chaplains I have known of different faiths were there for spiritual support if you wanted but never tried to push a particular faith on you.

      1. TychaBrahe*

        You were lucky. The stories over at the Military Atheists and Secular Humanists web site are horrifying.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Agreed Chinook, that’s why I wrote the addendum to my post. I had first read it as the co-worker asked the chaplain to lead her in prayer, but on the re-read, I saw the chaplain asked the co-worker at which point going into her religious beliefs in depth was not appropriate.

  4. AnonyMouse28*

    Oh wow. WOW. I would be LIVID if this were happening to me (kudos to the OP for taking the situation so gracefully).

    Just to add-on to Allison’s excellent advice–PLEASE DOCUMENT ANYTHING (keep a timeline of every interaction, with dates, times, and surrounding witnesses, and email threads related to the situation). If you ever do face retaliation for making your very reasonable discomfort known, you WILL have legal recourse (and should, if you’re so inclined, sue the hell out of this company) and your attorney will be able to use that kind of thing to bolster your claim of protected class discrimination.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      …but nothing’s actually happening to her. The chaplain hasn’t approached her to pray, or really said/done anything to her except hand out literature, which she says she didn’t mind.

      1. AnonyMouse28*

        That doesn’t stop the behavior from being quite likely illegal, or at the very least skirting the very narrow boundaries. Courts have ruled on this sort of thing repeatedly–religious behavior in the workplace must be “opt-in” not “opt-out” (i.e. you can invite employees to optional prayer sessions in a conference room, but you cannot announce prayer over the company loudspeaker). So no, it doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been approached yet. There’s no way she can avoid the roving chaplain asking her colleagues if they want salvation, and that kind of thing can and does make for an oppressive work environment for those not of faith or of the same faith.

  5. Jamie*

    My coworker is Catholic so she was not completely offended by it

    Huh? I’m Catholic and I’m offended from here, and it didn’t even happen to me.

    Just pointing out that because people may practice a religion does NOT mean they are open to discussing this at work. Unless I’m literally on fire and you happen to have a bucket of water, don’t try to save me. It won’t end well.

    I am curious, OP, when you say he thinks of it as a Christian company – is the company mission religious? I mean do you manufacture religious items, or publish religious books, etc. Or does he just mean Christian company in the sense of being owned by Christians and run based on his interpretation of Christian principals?

    1. Meg*

      That’s what I was wondering. I’ve never heard the term “Christian company”, so I’m curious what she meant by that.

        1. FreeThinkerTX*

          There’s a machine shop near my house that has a 7-foot cutout of Jesus with some random scripture attached to it out in front of the entrance. Also, THOUSANDS of companies here in Dallas add the Xtian fish logo to their company vehicles, business cards, fliers, Yellow Pages & online ads. I always laugh when I see it, because it’s like some secret gang symbol to let Xtians know that they’ve found their “people”, as if they were some underground minority. :-)

      1. TychaBrahe*

        Really? Hobby Lobby is trying to get out of having their AHA health insurance cover their employee’s birth control for just that reason. It’s heading for the SCOTUS for a ruling, as the 3rd and the 10th circuit courts have disagreed on whether or not a corporate entity can have a religion.

        1. Jessa*

          Not just can a corporate entity have religion but is a corporate entity the same as a church in that it can use it’s religion to avoid labour law requirements. There have always been certain outs in labour laws for direct Church involvement – IE an actual Catholic church for instance does not have to hire a Baptist minister to run their services nor actually a Baptist secretary in their rectory. They can require as a factor of working in the actual church building toward actual church aims, that you’re an actual Catholic.

          Church schools have been upheld in firing pregnant unmarried teachers as late as a few months ago. Due to religious morals clauses.

          However, where the religious thing starts to break down is the further you get from the actual church business of BEING a church. Is a hospital owned by a church still a church? Can they refuse to provide birth control services to their employees? That’s where the law gets wishy washy.

          It gets MORE wishy washy when the religious objection is not even being made BY a church but by a privately held business. The thing is the foundation of the objections is the establishment clause of the Constitution.

          And while it’s been pretty well determined that it unambiguously applies to actual Church business in actual Church buildings IE preaching, teaching church classes, etc.

          It’s evolving as to how it applies outside that influence – schools that accept non church members as a large part of their enrollment, hospitals that take federal money as part of their support, privately owned businesses that serve the public etc. Schools that take federal student loans, etc.

          This is all definitely heading for a Supreme Court fight because right now there’s no other way to make a final decision on it. It is after all the job of the SC to make the call on where the Constitution stands if the lawmakers can’t or won’t.

    2. Joey*

      From my experiences its usually companies that try to embody Christian principles. I always have a hard time believing its not just a marketing strategy. You know- a strategy to gain trust and target the Christian market.

      1. fposte*

        There’s a local roofing company that tried to tell a friend they were worth the higher prices because they’re a Christian company.

        1. Joey*

          Yeah, I’ve yet to see a Christian company that doesn’t include their Christianity as a selling point.

          1. Mike C.*

            In & Out Burger is really subtle about it. There’s a scripture reference at the bottom of the cups I think, and they pay their workers really well, but that’s about it.

              1. Rana*

                Yeah, I remember those. That sort of thing doesn’t bother me, because it’s so low-key and you can easily ignore it if you want. A number of natural foods companies do something similar on their packaging, as well.

        2. Jamie*

          Higher prices? I wonder what the logic behind that is.

          No matter how sincere your belief system is, God can’t legally back up your warranty protecting your new roof from acts of…Him?

          The only ‘religious’ advertising I’ve ever seen is companies buying little ads in the back of the Sunday bulletin. Teeny tiny pictures of contractors and real estate agents who all just like mimeographed blobs. And 10% off your next meal at the local sandwich shop.

          It’s not a bad bang for your buck advertizing wise, to hit the local community. To quote the always awesome Kathleen Madigan, “Protestants read the bible, Catholics read the bulletin to see what’s for lunch.”

          1. periwinkle*

            “No matter how sincere your belief system is, God can’t legally back up your warranty protecting your new roof from acts of…Him?”

            If that were part of a written guarantee, sure, I’ll pay more for the work. (also, hee!)

            I’d like to know how the chaplain has behaved when someone did ask him (nicely) to back off. Did he respect that person’s request and go on to the next person, or did he launch into a crazy-dietician kind of siege against that person’s boundaries?

            (also, hi to the fellow AAM fan at the Plaza del Mercado Starbucks – I overheard you recommending the site to one of the employees there, would have said hello then but was facing down a tight deadline… )

          2. Jessa*

            Particularly since Catholics depending on their age either abstain from food all morning or at least an hour or more before Communion (depending on when they were raised about how long you do not eat before you do this.) So food after Mass is a big deal. So yes, lunch after Mass, big thing.

            1. KellyK*

              Wow, yeah, that would make it a big deal. (She says as she adds that to her mental stockpile of random religious trivia.)

        3. Chris80*

          Reminds me of the Christian Blue Pages…it’s a phone book in which all the businesses listed are owned and operated by Christians (because there are presumably no competent agnostic plumbers). Perhaps these only exist in the Bible Belt or are others familiar with them?

          1. Jazzy Red*

            I’ve seen those in Wisconsin, so it’s not just in the Bible Belt.

            There’s nothing wrong with Christians wanting to patronize businesses owned by Christians. I see all kinds of minorities around here patronizing businesses run by others of their own ethnic and/or background. Big deal. It’s a free country.

            1. Loose Seal*

              Christians aren’t a minority. At least in the U.S.

              But you’re right in that anyone can patronize any business they want.

          1. My 2 Cents*

            Sorry, this ended up in the wrong place, supposed to be after the roofing comment below.

        4. Kou*

          Ok I COULD see, theoretically, how this could make perfect sense. At least where I’m from, most construction type companies (and specifically roofing, in fact, which is what my dad did) are staffed almost entirely by illegal immigrants because the companies can slash their costs by an insane margin that way. It’s become the norm because many business owners feel they have to do it to compete price-wise. But then there are a few holdouts who say, listen, we charge more than the other people but it’s because we actually pay our people fair wages and treat them right, so you’re paying more for the moral high ground on this one.

          1. fposte*

            But illegal immigrants are disproportionately Christian anyway, so you’re likelier to have Christians on your roof if they do use illegal immigrants.

            1. Jamie*

              Many are Catholic, but to some of the more fundamentalist sects Catholics are not considered to be Christians.

              1. KellyK*

                Many are Catholic, but to some of the more fundamentalist sects Catholics are not considered to be Christians.

                …a fact that never ceases to make me facepalm.

            2. TheSnarkyB*

              I think the logic was that they are using undocumented workers and are paying them a fair wage even though, leverage-wise, they don’t have to.

      2. Xay*

        It’s a marketing strategy and an excuse to inject religious beliefs into business practices. I’ve even seen Christian business directories that list plumbers, realtors, etc.

        1. Gobbledigook*

          to be fair, this is done with many other religions of the world as well where they will only deal with businesses owned by people of that religion or of that nationality.

        2. Joey*

          What’s funny is most people I know who are religious think its weird that people use religion as a means to sell things that have nothing to do with religion.

          That’s like me saying my race makes these products better. Or that you should support our shared race by buying my products. Weird.

          1. Gobbledigook*

            yeah, it’s definitely a weird phenomenon to me as well. I think it comes from a smaller community mentality where an entire group might all move into the same area and their main point of contact would be the church so they’d help each other out in business. Hard to say though

            1. Gobbledigook*

              My other-in-law is Croatian Catholic and immigrated to Canada from a small little town with one church. I can DEFINITELY see this mentality in her where she really likes to somehow be associated to businesses owned or operated by Croatians.

              1. Elizabeth West*


                “Well, you could go on down to t’other store and buy it there, but just so you know–” sotto voce “–he’s Catholic.”

                I grew up in Mayberry (not the “real” one, but very much like it). I still have flashbacks when I watch the Andy Griffith Show.

                1. some1*

                  I don’t think it has anything to do with small towns. I have friends or family members who practice a religion or are apart of a group or nationality that they see as marginalized so they get excited if a member of the same group has a business they can support with their money.

                2. Gobbledigook*

                  @some1 I would say “smaller communities” wherever they may develop as opposed to necessarily a town. By smaller communities I was getting at the same thing: communities who may feel marginalized

            2. periwinkle*

              I just remembered a good, albeit fictional, example of this.

              “In Lake Wobegon, car ownership is a matter of faith. Lutherans drive Fords, bought from Bunsen Motors, the Lutheran car dealer, while Catholics drive Chevys from Main Garage, owned by the Kruegers, except for Hjalmar Ingqvist, who drives a Lincoln.”

              1. tcookson*

                I remember that one! And the Lutherans held that all proceeds from the Catholic Chevy dealer went to put diamonds on the Pope’s shoelaces. :-)

            3. FRRibs*

              With the waves of immigration waves came to this country, there were often organizations both religious and secular/cultural that would try and take care of “their own”. I imagine it would have been a lot more difficult for say, the Irish and Italians if it weren’t for cultural and/or religious organizaitons that catered/assisted their specific demographic. I imagine that every cultural demographic likes to maintain their cultural identity, and support those who share it…and I don’t mean drinking green beer or slogan t-shirts.

          2. Pussyfooter*

            I thought it was meant to imply that:
            we are Christian,
            therefore we have good morals,
            therefore our product is trustworthy?

            1. Jazzy Red*

              There was unbelievable discrimination against all different immigrants, often by other immigrants. A lot of gang stuff, and each group would look in it as right and just. Employers would post job ads saying “Irish (Italian, German, Jews, Slavs, etc) need not apply”. The cops and courts would dispense different “justice” according to what country someone was from.

              1. Pussyfooter*

                You are right.

                I was adding another of several reasons why this marketing might be done–to one of Gobbledigook’s posts way above.

          3. Rana*

            The thing is, I think some people do believe that services and products are better if they’re performed or made by Christians. It’s like “Christian” is a sort of all-purpose stamp of approval or something.

          4. TychaBrahe*

            Except that buying within one’s race is also a common concept. In fact, the fourth day of Kwanzaa is Ujamaa, Collective Economics, to encourage people to open their own businesses, be their own bosses, and do business with other Black store owners.

            Not to put this on the African-Americans, because all groups do it, but few have it documented in writing that they do.

        3. fposte*

          It’s one thing to list yourself in a book where the people who are searching for you are probably interested in this fact about you. To volunteer it randomly to somebody who’s given no sign of finding it interesting is just parochiality and bad business.

      3. EngineerGirl*

        It could truly be how they operate – based on principles in the Bible:
        * Closing on Sabbath
        * Offering time off on religious days
        * acting with love towards others.
        * commitment to excellence (Col 3:22-24)

        Saying it is a marketing thing is pretty cynical. I know some Christian business owners that truly believe that is how they are supposed to operate.

        1. Pussyfooter*

          There is also the idea that if you are a good devotee of God, you are rewarded with material success. That’s always been an aspect of parts of US culture. It *can* be both a religious belief and conscious marketing.

          (It’s scary if someone getting rich by taking advantage of others believes the wealth indicates they are “good.”)

        2. Rana*

          Agreed. Religiously affiliated businesses are much like people of faith – some abide by the tenets of their faith out of moral obligation and spiritual conviction, while others are praying on street corners (both figuratively and metaphorically).

    3. ChristineSW*

      I am curious, OP, when you say he thinks of it as a Christian company – is the company mission religious? I mean do you manufacture religious items, or publish religious books, etc. Or does he just mean Christian company in the sense of being owned by Christians and run based on his interpretation of Christian principals?

      I’m not the OP, but I’m picturing the former; i.e. religious mission. Aside from manufacturing or publishing, it could also be a faith-based organization or school.

      1. periwinkle*

        There are Christian companies all over the place that aren’t involved in selling religious-themed stuff. In-and-Out Burger and Forever 21 both put a Bible verse on your bag (or is it on the drink cup for In-and-Out?). Next time you stay at a Marriott, look for the Book of Mormon in your room. You might have heard a few things here and there about Chick-Fil-A in recent years. I was assuming that the OP’s employer is in a non-religious line of business, but with a religious org culture.

        1. Gobbledigook*

          The book of Mormon might be a regional thing. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the Book of Mormon here in Canada.

        2. Kou*

          Don’t forget Hobby Lobby! They’ve always had that sort of business plan but right now they’re one of the companies leading the push against having to be entirely religion-based to get religious exemptions for the ACA.

          1. FreeThinkerTX*

            Yeah, and Hobby Lobby drops millions of dollars each year in advertising to push the National Day of Prayer and their own version of American history.

            1. Anonymous*

              They also have some interesting hiring practices. Their job applications require agreeing to binding arbitration with the arbiter of their choice for any discrimination issues that may arise during employment should you be hired.

        3. the_scientist*

          Was just dropping in to say this. Forever 21 and Chik-fil-A are both “Christian” companies in the sense that the owners claim to be devout Christians and to varying extent try to run their company in accordance with their interpretations of biblical principles (not sure how this manifests at F21 other than the bible verses on their bags, but at Chik-fil-A that includes closing on Sundays so employees can go to church and donating lots of money to lobbying against marriage equality). So now I will go my whole life without ever having eaten at Chik-fil-A, although I hear it’s delicious.

            1. KarenT*

              Quite. John 16 is on all their bags. The owner has openly discussed her decision to open the stores as having come from God. They used to sell “Jesus Loves You” and other such slogans on t-shirts.

              1. fposte*

                I’ve never shopped there, so I had no idea. It certainly doesn’t seem any more resistant to sexualizing teenagers than any other brand.

                1. Jamie*

                  That’s what I was going to say. Half the stuff my daughter has bought from there over the years has caused some very unholy arguments about appropriate dress.

                2. tcookson*

                  My daughter shops at Forever 21, and I’ve never even noticed the religious stuff. I HAVE noticed that some of the stuff is too slinky for 16-year-old consumption . . . but it does say “21” right in the name . . .

          1. Meredith M*

            F21’s owners gave a huge gift to a high-quality seminary in California for student housing. The students routinely commented on the irony since it’s assumed they use other unjust practices (like sweatshops.)

          2. Rachel*

            For those of you also in the Pacific Northwest, Woods Coffee (like Starbucks only with a forest theme) also puts John 3:16 on the inside ridge of all their cups. Not actually written out. They just have “John 3:16” on there.

          3. FreeThinkerTX*

            And now I know to avoid Forever 21, In-and-Out Burger, and Marriott, in addition to Chik Fil-A and Hobby Lobby.

          4. Lora*

            I’ve had it, I don’t see the appeal. I do better chicken at home. Up north I’d say D’Angelo’s and Boston Market are better; when I’m down south I usually get BBQ at Rudy’s. My old boss prefers Popeye’s to Chik-fil-a, and he’s all about that sort of fast food greasy stuff.

          5. Lisa*

            the_scientist, you’re not missing much, not eating at Chik-Fil-A. We finally got one locally (in Nor Cal) so I went once or twice. Now I have another reason not to go there (bland food and politics I don’t agree with).

    4. Terra*

      Considering that more than a few Evangelical groups directly speak out in opposition to the Catholic Church, a Catholic person in their midst might be seen as even a special target of their proselytizing—not being the “right kind” of Christian. I support any group’s right to believe what they want, about themselves and others—so long as they do not impose upon those who feel differently. And it’s no one’s business what denomination you are or not. This does not belong in any workplace that is not explicitly devoted to religious-specific activities as its reason for being.

      Alas, things DO operate differently within the Bible Belt though. My sister’s church has a “Christian skating rink” a “Christian ice cream parlor,” etc. Children take “Christian boxing” and “Christian gardening” type activities. Outside that realm, it seems absurd that intrinsically secular activities require a “Christian” label.

      Were I, being Christian, working in a Chocolate Teapot Factory… it wouldn’t need to be a CHRISTIAN Chocolate Teapot Factory (unless our teapots were made printed with New Testament sayings on them, as fundraisers for our church, etc.)

      Even (possibily) sharing the doctrinal beliefs of the OPs boss and preacher, I would absolutely hate this insofar as it would cause discomfort among my respected co-workers—and probably do a lot to make them despise our “brand” for being so pushy. That’s surely not the objective your company has in mind.

      1. Pussyfooter*

        “Even (possibily) sharing the doctrinal beliefs of the OPs boss and preacher, I would absolutely hate this insofar as it would cause discomfort…”

        THIS is an excellent point. I wouldn’t like my faith to be questioned even if it was the same as the questioners! That could *still* be alienating.

  6. Meg*

    This is completely not okay, IMO. Even if he’s not harassing people into praying with him or walking into a person’s cubicle and preaching at them, the fact that he’s even there could make it uncomfortable for anyone of a different faith (or no faith, if that’s where you lie on the spectrum).

    Also, I’m curious what it means to be a “Christian company”? Is it a religiously based nonprofit, or does the company’s mission otherwise promote Christian beliefs and values? Because that’s one thing, but if it’s just that the company’s owner is Christian and wants everyone to know it, that’s totally different.

  7. A Teacher*

    I’m Methodist so a Christian and I kind of find this whole thing to be offensive. The idea that someone at work has the right to question your belief system is odd and just wrong somehow.

  8. Gobbledigook*

    wowzers. I could never works in a place like this. The point is absolutely not that this is a Christian company, which presumably means employees are expected to treat each other based on Christian values of kindness, fairness etc (or that is how I would interpret what you’ve said) . That’s all fine and good. For me it would be that this is being pushed on employees who were presumably not hired for their religious beliefs in the first place. I am assuming it is a not a religiously-based business as you yourself are agnostic and work there. That is an assumption on my part but it seems likely.

    The most poignant issues are likely the most insidious and subtle. By having a Chaplain there handing our Scripture, there is a culture of religious pressure developing. Do you think your boss is fully aware of this? It may well be the case that he hired the Chaplain because it seemed like a helpful service to offer to his employees but it is having the reverse effect on you and probably others. You’ve already described how you suspect some employees put on airs of being religious to fit in. That’s really not a helpful component for people to be worrying about in there everyday work lives. Perhaps it is helpful to some but certainly not all. I’d talk to your boss about how having Chaplain around makes you feel and the incident of his behaviour with your co-worker as well as sending a clear message to the Chaplain that you do not wish to be involved in what he is doing.

    1. Terra*

      To Gobbledigook: Can you think of any belief system that DOESN’T encourage values of “kindness” or “fairness”? All religions and even secular ethical organizations believe and teach such things. When I hear someone taking about “Christian Values” at my job (which is NOT a Christian-specific organization) I like to remind them of this, so that they might be more mindful of other co-workers. I hate being pushed into being a “Christian Apologist” when friends of other faiths complain of such behavior.

      1. Gobbledigook*

        Hi there, I wasn’t speaking about my own view on what represents “Christian values” I was just speaking to the values that Christians usually speak about and assign as “Christian”. I agree that we’d be hard-pressed to find a value system that doesn’t generically include these things except something deliberately unkind, perhaps? You don’t need to remind me or assume anything about my own views. Trust me, my eyes are wide open on this topic and I believe in being very mindful and respectful of others :-)

        1. Terra*

          Thanks for clarifying :) I myself used to say that alot—and have been rightly check on it by friends of other faiths. So as I try to be mindful, sometimes I find we can all use some reminding :) But I didn’t mean that you were somehow biased like that (or, I didn’t intend to convey that.)

    2. Pussyfooter*

      I also wonder if the Chaplain is fulfilling his job duties the way the Owner had in mind.

      And also, if OP isn’t uncomfortable with pamphlets and a corporate Chaplain being on staff, is it only One unpleasant conversation with the coworker that worries OP? Even non clergy or non proselytizing faiths put their foot in their mouths (feet?) once in a while.

      If it’s more than once, then yeah–problem.

  9. Anonymoose*

    HOLY CRAP. This is one of the most whackadoo things I’ve ever read! I could never work in a place like that.

    1. Pussyfooter*

      I’d just sat down to sip my morning drink and wake up when I saw the Aam’s title for the post. Unanticipated HA!

  10. Lora*

    I’m a bad person, because the first thought I had was to get pamphlets from some other, totally different, proselytizing Christian denomination and, well, turnabout is fair play. Yeah, I’m going to hell.

    OP, I would just say “no thank you” repeatedly, plug my iPod into my ears pointedly, and turn back to my computer. If he persisted, I would bust out all my church camp songs: Rise & Shine (with hand motions), This Is A Day, You Can’t Get To Heaven On Roller Skates, and:
    (sung to the Battle Hymn of the Republic)
    My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
    He is driving down the alley in a pink and yellow Ford.
    With one hand on the throttle and the other on a bottle
    of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Glory, glory hallelujah…

    At top volume, slightly off-key, nasally. And when my colleagues stared at me, if they didn’t die of laughter, I would just look around quizzically: What? We’re PRAYING! But I’m kind of an a-hole, and the guys who sit near my desk are cool with that sort of silliness.

    1. A Teacher*

      Can we add “This Little Light of Mine” “The B-I-B-L-E” and “Amazing Grace?”

    2. TL*

      My mom used to sing “Holy holy holy, the priest is so moldy”
      Though her voice was bad enough that she never made it past those two lines.

      1. tcookson*

        HA! Our gym teacher used to sing “Holy, Holy” whenever anyone during the unit on trampolines was jumping in holey socks.

    3. TychaBrahe*

      I know a lot of vulgar and pagan parodies of Christian hymns from my days in Clinic Defense. I would happily bust out a chorus of Jesus Loves Guys Who Wear Condoms or Bind Us Together (with latex and leather) if confronted like that.

      1. Lora*

        Jesus loves guys who wear condoms? I need to learn this song! Please, post a link or something!

  11. mortorph*

    My immediate reaction to the situation relates to the sentence: “Most employees are also Christian or put on airs to be to fit in.”
    I can’t help but wonder if there are other employees, like you, who are not Christian and/or just do not want to discuss religion at work. Are they not speaking up out of fear – or do they put on airs and pretend they are religious for fear of workplace discrimination and retaliation?

    Alison, you state “You shouldn’t have to — and the law makes that clear — but from a quality of life standpoint, it’s something I’d give some thought to.” While I understand why one would not want to bring legal action against employers (money, time, reputation, among others), my personal wish is that I would love to see more cases brought against employers who perform illegal actions. However, this sets a precedent which puts all the burden on the employee to find a solution to a problem – a problem that shouldn’t occur in the first place.

    1. mortorph*

      I meant to say: that when legal actions aren’t taken it sets a precedent that puts all the burden on the employee to find a solution to a problem – a problem that shouldn’t occur in the first place.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, the problem is that it can be a very heavy burden for one person to bear in terms of time, money, energy, etc., and it’s often not in the individual person’s best interests, even though it might be in the broader interests of society in general.

      1. Jessa*

        Yes, exactly, especially when the person who does not have a class to belong to in a class action type suit, has to bear the “find a lawyer, pay a lawyer, hope you can get damages, that pay MORE than the lawyer got, lose your job probably, be blacklisted because even if you’re right NOBODY will want to hire you.” OY. mess.

        1. SevenSixOne*

          Well said. I hate the implication that any one person is somehow a failure for retreating when she “should” advance.

  12. Gene*

    Unless you live in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, or Washington, as soon as you see the chaplain approaching you, start recording on your cell phone. Then follow AAM’s advice. Then you’ll have evidence if he doesn’t back off.

  13. Jim*

    Having a religion is a lot like haveing a penis, you shoulnt take it out on public and we’ll fall out if you shove in in my face. It has no place in the work place an is really inappropriate to force the issue with staff.

  14. ChristineSW*

    I would not be comfortable with this at all. Even when, as noted elsewhere above, it’s a company where you’d expect to see a chaplain on occasion (e.g. hospice or hospital), I would not appreciate being approached to discuss religion.

    That is where vetting the company culture when applying for jobs is very important. It might not always be possible to get into the nuances of whether religion will be pushed in this manner; though sometimes, you might get a sense just by reading a company’s website or other promotional materials whether their culture might not be a good fit.

    Beyond that, I think Alison’s advice seems appropriate. Be firm, but professional.

  15. LisaD*

    I read up on corporate chaplains a while ago and as an interfaith agnostic I ended up thinking they’re a pretty cool service to offer to employees who want it — kind of like a school counselor for grownups with religious leanings. But they REALLY need to wait to be approached, and just be making sure everyone knows they are nice, approachable people who are available to talk. Quizzing an employee about her salvation without being invited should be a fireable offense for a chaplain.

    1. bob*

      pretty cool service to offer to employees who want it

      you should get a real, trained counselor instead of someone who can’t differentiate fantasy from reality.

      1. LisaD*

        Um, as a not really religious person, I’d rather have a chaplain in the workplace than someone who feels the need to compulsively insult clergy and call religion “fantasy.”

      2. Meg*

        Can we please not start the “religion = fantasy” comments? It’s not clever, not nice, and not appreciated. And I say this as an atheist.

        1. Gobbledigook*

          Agreed. There’s no need for this to become a discussion that insults a religion or pits the religious against the non-religious

        2. EngineerGirl*

          And as an engineer I’d be demanding you back up your assertions with facts. That would drone AAM Omer the edge. :)

      3. Jessa*

        @Bob, and there are many clergypeople who are absolutely trained and licenced counsellors of the type you are talking about.

        Thank you Alison for dealing with the rest.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Yes, I know quite a few members of the clergy who have some sort of counselling qualification for the pastoral side of their work.

    2. TL*

      We had a chaplain at my private university that used to be religious but isn’t anymore mostly. He lead services and talked to students about any religious issues on campus and was great about having conversations about religion and respecting others’ religions (he was a big part of putting a Muslim prayer room in the office area of the shape, actually.) I imagine for the Christian kids, he also served as counselor when needed.

      But he would never have approached someone with religious tracts or initiated a 1 on 1 prayer session.

  16. AChristian*

    Hey, want to see pictures of my new motorcycle…boat…kid…funny youtube video? Everyone has stuff outside of work that they would love to talk about at work if they could find an audience. No offense, but sometimes I don’t want to hear about them. Many people tend to take this as they are worthless.

    The OP’s fears are a bit over the top – speaking on a situation that has never occurred and a complete fear of what could happen. A simple reply would be, “No thank you. I know others at Chocolate Teapots appreciate your contributions, but please respect my desire to avoid this conversation for now. If I feel a need for spiritual direction, I absolutely know where to find you.” A kind smile will help finish it and send them along their way. If you can’t remember all that, a simple “No, thank you. Not right now” should suffice.

    More than likely, there will be nothing else said. If there’s any anger or vigorous follow up, start to protect yourself legally. My bets are that won’t happen if they are walking the right path.

  17. Amanda H*

    Anyone else reminded of the bodybuilder and the dietician who wouldn’t leave him alone? Similar (potentially, anyway, should the chaplain prove to be pushy) situations, I think, but the difference here being that the OP would have legal recourse if the chaplain becomes harassing.

    In any case, I’m a Christian myself and still find this odd and inappropriate. And of course I don’t know the nuances of what the business actually does, but it seems strange that the owner would be willing to add the expense of a chaplain, both in terms of the chaplain’s salary and of the potential lost productivity. Or maybe the owner genuinely believes this is a benefit to the employees (which I suppose for some it could be, akin having company-paid access to a counselor). But no, I don’t feel the chaplain should be initiating contact, akin to how the dietician at the other company should not have been proselytizing her own nutrition schemes on employees.

    Anyway, as Alison and everyone has said, be firm and professional and hope he backs off, and do consider whether this business is not a good fit for you.

  18. EngineerGirl*

    I’m a little disgusted with the contingent that is stating ” I’m uncomfortable with this so therefore it should be banned”. As adults, we work with diverse beliefs – many that makes us uncomfortable. The grown up response is to figure out how to get along. If you can’t then think about transferring out. This is really about corporate culture – just like the office that has parties all the time, or has beer fests, or has Chatty Cathies.

    Also, as an adult YOU need to speak up if you are uncomfortable. That’s true for anything. It isn’t the companies job to match their culture with your desires. Now there are limits, and those have been defined.

    But those people getting all hot under the collar because someone is doing something they don’t agree with? You need to learn to have as much tolerance as you are demanding

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In this country, the law tells us that we can expect a workplace free from religious harassment or discrimination. The OP’s workplace might actually be skirting that line (see court cases that have found that broadcasting prayers every day meet the legal standard for harassment to those with different beliefs).

      The OP isn’t objecting to the workplace having a chaplain available to those who want one. She’s objecting to the appearance that he may be pushy with her (as she thinks he was with her coworker) and that she may be penalized for not going along with it, which isn’t a crazy fear given the details she described.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        She’s objecting to what MAY happen and she hasn’t even said “no” yet. That kind of intolerance is a bit much. If they ignore her “no” them that is a different story. Which is why I said that there are limits.

        The OP is objecting to the Chaplain because she doesn’t want to say “no”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Where is the intolerance in writing a question asking how to protect herself from a situation a reasonable person might worry would arise? What exactly is intolerant in her seeking advice on that?

        2. Xay*

          Actually, the OP hasn’t objected to the chaplain at all in her letter. The OP is concerned about being put in the same position as her coworker and wondering if so, what are her options.

          Also, I reread the comments and I haven’t seen anyone call for a ban of the chaplain. I’m not sure where you are getting your assertions from.

        3. Mike C.*

          Would you be cool with a coworker that was sexually harassing your female coworkers but not yourself? The fact that it’s going on and is considered acceptable behavior is in and of itself extremely problematic and cause for concern.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          How about this: “My company recently hired someone who talks about sex all the time and has been hitting on women in my age group. He hasn’t hit on me yet, but I saw him behave inappropriately to a coworker. He’s close to my boss and my boss seems to promote similar conversational topics, and I’m concerned that if he approaches me and I shut down the conversation, it might not go over well. In fact, I think others here tolerate it because they feel they have to too.”

          (I’m not comparing religion to sex here; I’m comparing one touchy and legally-restricted area ripe for workplace harassment to another.)

        2. P*

          I find it so odd that you’re taking issue with the fact that it’s a hypothetical situation at this point. Do you really think it’s a terrible idea to get advice beforehand about something that’s reasonably likely to happen?

          It seems smart to me, since advice often consists of “well, it would have been best if you had said this in the moment, but since you didn’t…”

      2. EngineerGirl*

        What if I said:
        There this gay person that is in corporate. And I’m worried that she may hit on me and I don’t want to say “no”. I saw her ask a coworker to a rainbow rally and I couldn’t tell the answer but now I’m worried I will be approached,

        I suspect your answer would be:
        “Say no thank you nicely”. If she continues then you have a problem.

        1. Cat*

          What if the question was “My company has hired a sexual advisor to wander around and give advice on dating and sex to employees who ask. My friend asked for advice on asking this cute guy out, and the sexual advisor told her she should be dating girls instead. My friend is bisexual so she wasn’t really offended but I’m straight; how should I handle the situation?”

        2. Jamie*

          Is the gay person in corporate also passing out whatever the equivalent of scripture would be? Because that’s the only way it’s comparable.

        3. KellyK*

          That’s not really a relevant comparison, since it’s a random coworker, rather than someone who’s providing religious (or dating, or whatever the analogy is) services as part of their job.

    2. Cat*

      There are solid legal and historical reasons why having a Chatty Cathy in your workplace is not the same as having an office chaplain. This has absolutely nothing to do with people not being tolerant of Christianity and everything to do with believing that adherents of non-majority religions should not have their ability to earn a living compromised; or be made to feel like they have to hide or compromise their faith in order to do it.

      1. Cat*

        And on beer fests, I absolutely think it is wrong for companies to make drinking a part of their culture in such a way that people who don’t partake are marginalized and for more or less exactly the same reasons.

          1. Cat*

            So? I don’t have to agree with the law in every particular, or advocate for stripping people of protections I do agree with just because they don’t also have protections I disagree with.

            And I’m not sure it always would be legal – some reasons people don’t drink, including addiction, can be recognized disabilities; and people who don’t drink for religious reasons may also get some protections in this instance depending on how the marginalization happened.

            1. Cat*

              That should read “because they don’t also have protections that I would also agree with,” or something to that effect.

    3. Jamie*

      Sure, we all work with people of diverse beliefs. We all work with people with sex lives, too.

      If I came to work wanting to share my feelings about my sex life with my co-workers, and asking co-workers about theirs…or passing out pamphlets about my sexual beliefs my co-workers would have every right in the world to write to AAM asking how to get me to stop. And the commenters would agree that I should keep those things to myself and not annoy and freak out the people at work.

      My sexual proclivities aren’t a protected status, but they should still be banned as as a topic of conversation. Religion is a protected status, so it’s an even touchier subject legally.

      We all have many aspects to our lives that are real, valid, personal, and have no business yammering on about at work.

      I do agree that if this is the company’s culture, people need to decide for themselves if they want to work there. However, it seems from the letter as if he was hired fairly recently, after the OP, so if the culture changes to involve something intrusive and protected, there are still rights to be discussed.

    4. My 2 Cents*

      As a gay man, I love gay porn. When I run my own company some day I am going to have gay male strippers walk naked through the office every day. Hey, we’re all adults, if you can’t get along with me having gay male strippers in the office then you need to just
      “transfer out”.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        My 2 Cents, make sure you don’t discriminate – you need to get some geriatric strippers in there with the rest. It’s only fair.

  19. Jazzy Red*

    Wow. I’m a Christian, and I’d be pretty upset by this. I’m happy to share my beliefs, but only if someone asks me first.

    Just too over the top for me.

  20. Elizabeth West*

    When are people going to realize that personal beliefs are just that–personal? You can run your life by them, but not mine.

  21. Ed*

    Being an Atheist, I would just tell the chaplain that I keep my work and private life separate and do not wish to discuss religion or pray with him. Unless we sell religious products, there is no realistic need to ever mention religion at work. I would guess most people would respect that and that would be the end of it. However, I would be concerned saying I’m an Atheist considering the obvious stance the company takes towards religion.

    Personally, I have no issues with a chaplain at a privately-owned company. I’m sure it is a great comfort to some who work there. I just wouldn’t want to be approached cold and if I was, I would want it to be a very general conversation. I think about my doctor who always asks “is there anything you want to talk about while you’re here?” If I say no, she drops it and says goodbye without a second thought.

    1. Pussyfooter*

      I’d soft pedal my “no” even more than a lot of people here, but I would make certain I was understood.

      I agree w/all of Ed’s 2nd paragraph.

  22. Kou*

    I would be sooo nervous about structural repercussions for my non-religion if my company was doing this. The religious orgs I’ve worked for were all totally open, though, so I also wouldn’t assume it’s a problem inherently. But I would want to see some evidence one way or the other.

    At the same time, though, maybe OP’s coworker had conversations with the chaplain before and he knew it was ok to approach her like that. Maybe he won’t approach the OP at all, or if he does and she says “no thanks” he’ll be completely respectful.

  23. Anonymous*

    WTH? I work at a catholic university and they don’t anything remotely like this. There’s even a member of the clergy who works in my department (it’s STEM not theology) and he doesn’t do this kind of stuff at the university nor when he’s out working on a charity program the department runs.

  24. Pussyfooter*

    ……reminds me of the day my entry desk was mobbed at work and a lady stopped me from helping anyone else to loudly and clearly ask if I believed in God. I was already flustered before her question and everyone got quiet. I paused a beat and tried for a friendly non-religious answer, “I believe goodness is its own reward.”

    “Well You’re WRONG!” she declared, as a friend ushered her away and I realized she wasn’t mentally all together. Never saw either of them before or since. You should’ve seen the looks on the faces behind them.

    No harm, no foul… :)

  25. mel*

    I’m curious what a chaplain is actually doing during this time…? I have to wonder if he is simply becoming bored?

    1. Elise*

      That was my thought. He probably doesn’t have people coming to see him so he is trying to go to them instead.

  26. FRRibs*

    I am a teatotaller, yet I worked for a German company for seven years. Social work events (which they had many of) always involved large amounts of beer. I didn’t partake, but I wasn’t offended…it was their culture and I knew that going in. If someone was trying to force a beer down my throat or made me feel guilty about not being a drinker I would feel different, but I don’t understand why people would work for a company whose culture offended them.

    1. Rayner*

      Because when OP signed up, there wasn’t a chaplain wandering around, and she’s not offended by that. She wants to know how to get him to back off he gets pushy with her as she feels he did with her coworker.

      1. FRRibs*

        Oh no, I didn’t mean OP; she sounds reasonable and has a reasonable concern.

        I meant more along the lines of being surprised by people who are antithical in outlook of a particular cultural subset, yet choose to work there even as it offends them, sometimes causing them to attempt to change or even sabatage the culture. A tangiential example would be someone buying a house adjacent to a rock quarry that has been in operation for literally a century, but then petitions the town to close it because it’s too loud (true story). I know sometimes you just need something to pay the bills and will take anything, but otherwise…don’t work there?

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Like the student that sued to have “the year of our Lord” removed from a diploma from Trinity University. Trinity was founded by Presbyterians. Or the city of Stuebenville that was sued by outsiders because the city logo had a cross in it. The Steubenville logo showed silhouettes of some of the largest institutions in the area – ONE of which was a Franciscsn University. Of course this same group is try to remove a Star of David from a holocaust memorial.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      Yes this. Why be surprised and upset when the company acts out its mission statement? Why be offended?

      1. Gobbledigook*

        I think the difference here is that the OP is not offended by the company being Christian and even states that in her letter. What she is trying to curtail is having a chaplain aggressively try to impose his belief system on her while she is at work. She is trying to preempt that so that if it happens she will have decided how to react and what to do as opposed to being taken off-guard like her co-worker was. I really feel you’ve been unnecessarily harsh toward the OP in your comments and it does seem like your own views on religion might be convoluting your perspective of why the OP wrote the letter and what she is trying to accomplish by it.

        1. Gobbledigook*

          also: she signed up for the culture, sure but she did not sign up for the Chapalain. That came after.

  27. FatBigot*

    Everybody seems to be taking sides against the poor chaplain here, and this one does seem a bit over-pushy. I’ll add a bit of balance:

    There is a history of Industrial Chaplains here in UK heavy industry. A good chaplain will be very worthwhile. They will gain the confidence of people on the shopfloor by offering an unjudgemental ear and sensible advice. They have on many occasions provided a trusted communications route between workers and management, away from the power relations of line management or the unions. An experienced chaplain will not intrude or proselytise, but manage to be available when an individual has difficulties.

    1. Gobbledigook*

      No doubt a good Chaplain could be extremely helpful to have around in times of need. This Chaplain demonstrated that he will proselytize to others and in front of others without being asked and it is at that point that the OP became concerned.

  28. MR*

    It’s interesting to see that most self-described Christians are the ones who are offended by this, and most self-described atheists are just ‘meh’ about this.

  29. Rachael*

    I have worked for hospitals that had religious affiliations, chapels in the hospital, etc, and never reproached for being agnostic. I was not asked on my application and never offered any explanations though employees were assumed to be Christian. Ah huh….
    However, lately I have worked for firm doing home visitations for children with disabilities. Some homes I visit are VERY religious in nature. One in particular has religious music playing, kids reading bibles as the only reading material, no TV or radio, the children are kept “ignorant” of any other happenings outside of their church and Mom has approached me several times about accepting Jesus. It was awkward until one day she asked point blank WHY I had not found Jesus as saviour; I replied “because of my job. I see babies with profound birth defects, born to die after years of suffering.” She has never broached the subject again. But it certainly was awkward when trying to do my job. I take these occasions with a grain of salt and maybe, because of my age, I can blow it off though I dreaded her preaching.
    All to the point: Why is it that Christians, such as this employer, feel it their duty to SAVE and preach to others? Why is it considered to be OKAY to bring religion to the work place? and expect it to be the culturally correct thing to do?? I agree with other posts stating to get things in writing – get copies of those papers being handed out, take down names, dates and topics of conversations in case there are retaliations.

  30. Boe Parrish*

    I began a company that places corporate chaplains in the marketplace in 1987. In all the years we’ve served employees, we’ve never once passed out scriptures, or evangelized in the workplace. The only time The “God Talk” is ever brought up, is when it is initiated by the employee. Our mission is meeting the employees where they’re at, and offering listening ears, compassionate hearts and faithful hands in service to the employee base we’re serving. Obviously, there is a spiritual side to everyone of us, and no doubt there is a place to dialog and investigate that side of our lives, but that should only come when the employee invites the conversation. Once relationships are established, after time has allowed for trust to form, we’ve discovered people love talking about God, church or religion. They do not want to be judged, preached at or condemned. But a healthy dialog about these topics have proven to be very stimulating for all involved. Our chaplains are never allowed to invite employees to their church, or even disclose what their faith heritage is. There is a right way to be there “when life happens,” and obviously in this instance, it wasn’t handled properly. We’ve discovered there are two times in life when people need you…when they need you, and when they need you! Our goal is to be there when employees need us! You’re welcome to read more about the do’s and don’ts at

Comments are closed.