we can be fired if our friends and family don’t follow the company’s religious values

A reader writes:

The company that I work for is fairly conservative and has warned us that they are implementing a new policy where everyone will have to sign a legal document stating we uphold our company’s values. We all had to sign something similar when we were hired, but there is a catch now — we can be fired if our friends and family don’t follow the company’s values. For example, if I go out to eat and my family member has alcohol with dinner and someone at my company sees me with them, I could get fired for not promoting an alcohol-free environment even if I don’t drink. If we don’t sign, we have been told that we do not have a job. When I talked to my boss about the situation and asked if my employment could be terminated for not signing this document, they said that they hadn’t heard we could be fired for not signing and would investigate. I am currently waiting to hear back.

I feel like this is such an overreach of professional boundaries. My family should not be held accountable to my employer and shouldn’t be worried that their actions (smoking, drinking, who they start or end relationships with, etc.) could terminate my employment.

I work in higher education, affiliated with a certain religion. I didn’t think that this would be a problem when I was hired due to my previous work with this institution, and not everyone who works here believes exactly what the institution states in its mission. If they haven’t felt ostracized before this, I’m sure they do now!

I would start looking for a new job, but I haven’t been here for two years and don’t want to look like a job hopper (this is my first non-retail job). Am I overreacting or is this truly overstepping professional boundaries?

What?! No, this is not normal. This is outrageously not normal, and it’s offensive in its over-reaching.

So if you have family members who enjoy a drink with dinner, you need to … not have any contact with them if you want to keep your job?

So, in answer to your question: Definitely not normal, definitely not okay, definitely outrageous.

But let’s look at the legal side too. I asked Donna Ballman, author of the awesome Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired, to weigh in on whether what your employer is doing is legal or not.

She pointed out that the first issue is whether the education institution is actually exempt from Title VII’s religious discrimination requirements. The law does exempt religious organizations and allows them to prefer members of their religion in hiring and other employment practices. It also allows educational institutions to “hire and employ employees of a particular religion if such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is, in whole or in substantial part, owned, supported, controlled, or managed by a particular religion or by a particular religious corporation, association, or society, or if the curriculum of such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.”

The EEOC goes into more detail about what this means:

Under established case law, this Title VII exception applies only to those institutions whose “purpose and character are primarily religious.” That determination is to be based on “[a]ll significant religious and secular characteristics.” Although no one factor is dispositive, significant factors that courts have considered to determine whether an employer is a religious organization for purposes of Title VII include: whether the entity is not for profit, whether its day-to-day operations are religious (e.g., are the services the entity performs, the product it produces, or the educational curriculum it provides directed toward propagation of the religion?); whether the entity’s articles of incorporation or other pertinent documents state a religious purpose; whether it is owned, affiliated with or financially supported by a formally religious entity such as a church or other religious organization; whether a formally religious entity participates in the management, for instance by having representatives on the board of trustees; whether the entity holds itself out to the public as secular or sectarian; whether the entity regularly includes prayer or other forms of worship in its activities; whether it includes religious instruction in its curriculum, to the extent it is an educational institution; and whether its membership is made up of coreligionists.

So there’s the background. Now here’s Donna on how this applies to your situation:

As you can see, the determination is very fact-specific. But let’s assume, for purposes of this question, that the institution is indeed exempt. What about association? Can you be fired for associating with people who do not follow your religious beliefs? The answer is, like with most legal questions, maybe. If the issue is purely a religious one, and if they apply the prohibition against associating with those who do not follow your beliefs to everyone, then they may be allowed to discriminate against you based upon your association with others who violate their religious principles. However, if, for instance, they apply the rule to women but not men, African-Americans but not whites, or the disabled but not the non-disabled, they will be liable for discrimination.

The other issue will be whether your association is covered by another protected category. The religious discrimination exemption does not exempt these employers from race, age, sex, national origin, disability, pregnancy, or other Title VII anti-discrimination requirements.

So let’s talk about situations where this prohibition might end up being illegal.

Disability discrimination: If the alcohol prohibition prevents you from organizing and running an AA group or a drug or alcohol treatment program, then they could be engaging in disability discrimination.

Race discrimination: If the rules prevent you from counseling ex-felons, then that prohibition might end up preventing you from associating with African-Americans or other minorities because those groups are disproportionately imprisoned in this country.

National origin: If the rules prevent you from participating in an interfaith group with, say, Muslims, then it’s possible the discrimination could be national origin discrimination. For instance, if others are allowed to associate with Jews, Hindus or Buddhists, then the prohibition is clearly being applied to associating with people of Middle Eastern origin and not to others equally.

I also wonder how they will enforce these rules. If they start following employees around, some of their actions might violate state anti-stalking or privacy laws. Another issue will be whether this employee lives in a state that protects employees’ legal off-duty activities. While the religious exemption might apply to the employee’s own activities, I’ve never seen any case law as to whether a state law might operate to prohibit firing for association with others who engage in legal off-duty activities.

In general, I’d say that this sounds like a terrible policy that has almost no chance of being evenly applied, so this employer may end up in trouble under discrimination or other laws despite any religious exemption they may have. As to whether they can say “sign or be fired,” that may depend on the state’s contract law. But I suspect this employer will be able to get away with firing employees who refuse to sign.

Whether they will be able to keep the employees they forced to sign this terrible policy will be another issue. I suspect they will lose many good employees over this intrusive and ridiculous policy. If I were this employee, I’d start looking for another job now before the mass exodus begins from this awful employer.

Me again, heartily seconding Donna’s final line. You can simply explain to prospective employers that your current employer has started applying religious restrictions to the people you associate with. Believe me, no one is going to question why you’re leaving.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

Read updates to this letter here, here, and here.

{ 521 comments… read them below }

    1. neverjaunty*

      This. Run run run run. This is so very far from any reasonable religious institution’s values policy that you have to wonder what they’re thinking (and whatever they’re thinking, it’s not good).

    2. INTP*


      Actually, even if the OP were willing and able to ask friends and family to follow all these rules, I’m not sure their job would be safe. This seems like a rule designed to retain employees who are actually affiliated with that religion (assuming it’s a fairly insular religion, most people who actually practice it will have families and social circles within the religion so this will not be a huge deal, while most people from outside the religion will not be able to follow this rule). It might be a precursor to other efforts to, well, clean out the heathens.

      1. OP*

        Currently, my friends and family are sending me job postings after hearing about this (I was more or less venting about the issue to them before it’s been made official). I know my family will support whatever decision I make, but they’re strongly encouraging me to move on before this becomes something that I’ll need to sign.

  1. Ang*

    Wow. I work at a church, and I graduated from a conservative, religious university, and WOW. I agree this cannot be evenly enforced. This is legalism, simply put. It has nothing to do with promoting a values-based lifestyle or environment, and everything to do with control & manipulation. Get out.

    1. S0phieChotek*

      I agree; have similar background as you and I can only think “What are they thinking…?”

    2. Mina*

      Another church employee here. Our handbook says we have to maintain strong family relationships; how are we to do that if we’re supposed to shun some of them? I am sure this place also has a clause like that.

      1. Just Visiting*

        Wait, they say you HAVE to maintain strong family relationships? What if your family is toxic?

        1. Mina*

          You mean like mine? Thankfully no one really pays attention since I’m just an admin. Were I higher on the food chain, though, Heaven help me.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Exactly. Almost sounds cultish to ask employees to not associate with family or anyone that doesn’t participate in their beliefs. How in the heck are they supposed to get others to join thei religion then?

          1. Sker*

            Scientology is just probably the most radical of the religions with a large following. Having been a Mormon (more radical than average), I know seminary and other paid religious teachers have similar requirements if they wish to maintain their profession. I’ve seen the same from radical “Biblical/Evangelical” Christian groups and would assume the Jehovah’s Witnesses implement similar policies based on my interactions with them when I was a missionary. (Mormon missionaries encountering JW missionaries can be great fun. Positive / Negative / whatever.)

          2. Fafaflunkie*

            Don’t get me started with Scientology. I’ve read enough horror stories from clambake.org and other sources to be thankful John Travolta lost who-knows-how-much producing Battlefield Earth. This would be the “religion” I wouldn’t be surprised to impose this guilt by association clause in your employment agreement. Do what Katie Holmes did: get the hell away ASAP!

        1. the.kat*

          Probably not. It has more to do with the way that jobs in church ministry can sometimes become so all encompassing that your own personal and family relationships fall apart. The joke is that pastor’s kids are either perfect kids or completely wild. Rules like this are supposed to keep your spouse from feeling like a single parents and your kids from feeling abandoned.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          Not always. My father was passed over for a promotion at his religious-based place of employment on a similar clause, because I was… hm… insufficiently devout. (In that case, it wasn’t even that I was doing anything specifically–drinking alcohol or dating a woman or etc.–but simply that I wasn’t attending the correct kind of church and was living in a big secular city and etc.) It wasn’t even that it was code for anything, but simply that they thought that if he was the right kind of Christian, he’d ‘keep his house in order,’ which includes having children (and especially daughters) who fit certain boxes.

          It’s a really insidious and horrible method of control, because I felt guilty for tanking my dad’s choices by moving away and making my own religious decisions. (To his credit, he never blamed me; I found out by accident.) But it’s A Thing with certain denominations, that if your family strays that it’s a sign that God is unhappy with you too, and thus “strong family relationships” is a way of saying “I’m good with God.”

          It’s gross, but it happens.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            I’m so sorry. That is an insidious, horrible way of holding your father’s career hostage for your “good behavior.” Their treatment of him is their fault, not yours.

    3. Lucky Charm*

      I have a couple of close friends who work for a large church here in my city. Because of some past issues with employees, a few years ago the church started requiring their employees not to drink alcohol, smoke, etc. For example, if they are out having dinner with friends and someone *thinks* the church employee is having a glass of wine, they can be fired. They are also not allowed to go out during lunch with coworkers of the opposite sex. They can out in groups for lunch, but a man and woman who are not married to each other cannot. Again, they put these restrictions in place after several employees started extramarital affairs at work.

      Personally, I think these rules are insane. And even though I rarely drink, don’t smoke, and don’t plan on having an extramarital affair, I still have a major problem adhering to this strange set of rules.

      1. Ang*

        I would have trouble with that, also, even though I typically follow that on my own.

        Here’s where it veers from grace into legalism. If you think there’s an issue that may damage the organization’s reputation (and hence their ability to reach the community), then you address it with that employee/member, respectfully. Witch hunts are a sign that it’s time to change churches. :)

      2. Minister of Snark*

        A friend of mine married a member of a notoriously conservative brand of religion. Her husband was nominated to be a deacon. There were a lot of meetings before appointment to the position in which the deacons AND their wives were instructed regarding what would be expected of them as deacons/deacons wives. And then there were the very strict behavior expectations for both of them, such as modest dress (she was “allowed” pants, just not halter tops) and not drinking alcohol or gambling or endorsing anything that could be considered ‘counter-faith.’ Like talking about how much she loved Harry Potter on Facebook.

        But serving as a deacon was very important to my friend’s husband, so despite the chafing, she agreed to serve in this capacity. Everything went OK for a couple of months, until she and her husband were out to eat with their kids on Saturday and my friend ordered a fruit tea type drink that looked like a cocktail, but wasn’t. One of the other deacons’ wives saw them and went back to her husband and “reported” my friend for drinking in public. Friend and her husband were called into the minister’s office the next day at church to defend themselves from this accusation. The minister lectured them very harshly about how disappointed he was in them and he thought they were better people, warned of the dangers of a immoral woman to her family and how she can drag them all down, blahblahblah.

        My friend had the classic Mrs. White “flames up the side of my face” reaction. Fortunately, her husband happened to have the receipt for that night’s dinner in his wallet, pulled it out and pointed out that her drink was called something like, “Fruit iced tea – non-alc.” The minister sighed this big sigh of relief and said, “Oh, well, then, never mind. Let’s talk about next week’s fund-raiser.”

        My friend’s husband, who had been a member of this church since he was a teenager, said, “Nope, we quit. You don’t talk about my wife that way.” And got up and left. They took their family to another less-judgey church. Nobody was more shocked than my friend, who thought she was going to have to wear some sort of scarlet A for alcohol on her church dresses. But between the health of his marriage and satisfying people who would call them them out on “immoral” behavior without any real proof, he chose the health of his family.

        1. TootsNYC*

          “endorsing anything that could be considered ‘counter-faith.’ Like talking about how much she loved Harry Potter on Facebook.”

          Totally funny, because Harry Potter is the ultimate Christian allegory.
          I was always amused that people didn’t see it from the very first book.
          His mother gave her life for him.

          (I know this may have been your own example and not the church’s.)

    4. Rachel in Minneapolis*

      Totally agree. I am a current church employee and a former employee of a religious school. I once worked at a church that forbade alcohol (no longer- Lutherans raise a glass in celebration!) There have been lifestyle codes at both, but nowhere near this restrictive. Even in the conservative church, there were no requirements place on the family or friends of the employee.

    5. OP*

      That’s part of my concern. I have been employed here before (in a few different roles) and have attended class here in the past. Although I didn’t agree with everything in the original document I signed, I wanted to work here based on my previous experiences. Now… I’m not really sure.

      1. OhNo*

        I would say if you’re already questioning it, I think you have your answer. If you’re honest with yourself, do you really want to keep working there, now that you know that they think these kind of restrictions are acceptable to put on their employees?

        Seriously, start looking for a new job ASAP. Like Alison said, if anyone asks why you can just explain what they wanted you to sign. I can almost guarantee that no reasonable employer will have any problem with you finding a new job with that hanging over your head.

      2. Ang*

        Involving religion in your work can generally be really good (you’re surrounded by like-minded people and that’s encouraging), or really bad (you question your beliefs, reactions, relationships…). When it goes bad, it REALLY tends to go bad. But from personal experience, a sense of loyalty can damage your filter to know if the situation is normal or not.

        If you want to remain in a religious work culture, there are lots available! And ones that are healthy! I know it’s a big deal when you question your workplace, especially if beliefs are involved. You have much better knowledge of the situation than we do, but I think this is a fairly safe conclusion: a religious institution that places rules above relationships just isn’t healthy.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Seriously. They’re basically saying “You must shun all family members who do not agree with us”! Even if that’s legal, how many people will be OK with that? I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with such an organization, as a client, employee, vendor, or what have you.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I could think of 4-5 bible colleges off the top of my head that I could see this being.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I can think of one right here in town. They “strongly prefer” to hire members and expect all employees to go by their religion’s values–including no cursing, no fornication (straight outside marriage; gay at all), no drinking / smoking / drugs, and no dancing. Oh, and someone I knew who worked for them said women couldn’t wear pants in the office. Well I’ve done all those things except for being gay, and I’ve danced with gay people, so I guess they got me!

          The annoying thing is that they have their fingers in quite a few businesses here in town, so when I was job hunting, I had to check to be sure they didn’t own something I had applied to, if I was able to get that information. As far as I know, they don’t have this family rule but it wouldn’t surprise me.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Hm….well, let’s see, I suppose I haven’t been a woman wearing pants! Other than that…yeah, they would NOT like me. XD

        1. Laura*

          I had a high school classmate who went there. She no longer associates with people who don’t have similar religious beliefs; that is to say, she no longer associates with anyone from our high school! Bob Jones seems like a truly bizarre place.

          1. Granite*

            Let’s be careful there – I worked with a Bob Jones grad who is one of the most open accepting people I’ve known. Even though he knew I was a gay atheist.

            1. Liana*

              No. No, I don’t think we need to be “careful” here. I’m glad your coworker was open and accepting, but Bob Jones University has a history of racism and horrific victim-blaming of sexual assault survivors, and I, for one, am perfectly comfortable taking a strong line against institutions that promote such beliefs. Your coworker may have been wonderful, and I know plenty of people who grew up in strong religious environments who are open-minded, but I think Laura’s comment is accurate, and it’s disingenuous to stifle criticism of Bob Jones just because you worked with someone who proved to be the exception to the rule.

              1. Yogi Josephina*

                Thank you for saying this.

                If you’re not doing it, then it’s not meant for you. (Your friend, I mean.)

                Enough with the “we need to accept/respect all belief systems.” No. We really, really don’t. Nor do we have to watch our tongues because one person doesn’t suck in a group that systemically does.

              2. Zillah*

                This. I’d also like to point out that there’s an enormous difference between saying “This institution is horrible” and “Everyone who is or has ever been associated with this religion is horrible.” The latter is pretty much always going to be deeply problematic. The former, however, is not – some institutions are genuinely horrible.

            2. HRish Dude*

              I really don’t think we need to “be careful” when we’re talking about a hate group masquerading as a university.

          2. Lily in NYC*

            The same exact thing happened with a HS friend of mine as well! He came back from freshman year at Bob Jones a completely changed (and incredibly judgmental) person. I ran into him at the beach and instead of exchanging pleasantries, he told me I was going to hell for wearing a bathing suit without a cover-up. Complete 180 from his former self.

              1. Ife*

                In Upton Sinclair’s “Oil!”, the main character meets someone like this who’s trying to get converts, and the father says, “Our religious beliefs prohibit us from discussing our religious beliefs with others.”

                That is my new response to people who want to hand me a pamphlet or tell me about Where I’m Going to End Up.

              2. Allison Mary*

                I’m sitting here picturing Alison giving the snappiest most witty (and yet, probably still “professional”) response to this situation, and it’s making me giggle happily.

              3. Ang*

                This is why the OP’s institution riles me up so much. I am an evangelical Christian, and I know that if I want someone to listen to what I believe, pretty much the first rule is “Don’t be insulting.” Followed by “Don’t be judgmental, don’t be superior, don’t be (insert lots of other things here).” Why in the world would I expect someone who doesn’t follow my faith to follow my lifestyle?! In this context, you have to earn the right to be listened to.

                (and for the record, you don’t have to wear a cover-up!)

                1. OP*

                  I’m glad to hear that others are getting riled up over this (and that it’s not normal for a religious organization, but that’s a side topic). I have a fairly diverse set of friends, ranging from my drag queen (from a previous workplace) to my friends who only wear skirts to be modest (funnily enough also from the same previous workplace). I’m somewhere in the middle on my personal beliefs, but how will others listen to me if I’m this obnoxious person. I don’t like listening to obnoxious people either!

          3. Callie*

            My college roommate went to the high school that is associated with it. Or rather, she went there for a short time; once she wore jeans to the grocery store on the weekend with her mother, and a teacher saw her, and she was “disciplined”. After that, her parents pulled her out and she went to public school.

            1. AnonMurphy*

              I dated a guy once who went to a very strict Christian school. He was suspended in HS for having gone to see Toy Story in a theater.

        2. Anonsie*

          I sort of assumed it must be this but like some people have said, I can think of a few likely suspects.

      2. fposte*

        I’m not finding it. They have a ton of restrictions, but the off-hours association thing doesn’t seem to be among them. (Doesn’t mean it’s not there, but it’s not turning up readily.)

      3. OP*

        Hey Jez (and everyone else),
        I actually don’t work at Liberty University, but have been reading about some of the stuff that they’re doing. Yikes!

      4. Alli525*

        Liberty is actually one of the more liberal (relatively speaking) evangelical universities. A lot of my friends went to Bob Jones U, and I visited occasionally in high school for fine arts competitions… if you ever want a horrified laugh, read the BJU code of conduct (posted online) – it’s a hoot if you have a strong stomach for legalism and religious extremism.

        1. Notorious Hermione G*

          Liberty is not even close to being one of the more liberal evangelical universities. If you compare it to Bob Jones then sure, but that’s like comparing Idaho to Texas when it comes to state pride. (I’m sure people like being from Idaho, but Texans would kill for Texas.)

          I went to a moderate to conservative evangelical university. We mocked Liberty U for being crazy. And my school has “Open Hours” where members of the opposite sex were allowed in your dorm (with the door open of course.)

    2. Meg Murry*

      While I really do want to know, I think the polite thing to do here is not to publicly speculate in the comments section. After all, the OP wrote to Alison anonymously, and we should respect that – if the correct company is named, there is a chance the employee could get into trouble for writing this.

      But yes, curious cat here really wants to know. I have my list of suspicions, but I’ll keep it to myself. Overall though, this is so, so, so overstepping, and I hope OP has an option to get out to go somewhere else that doesn’t police their employees personal lives.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Although now I’m curious about something else related.

          -OP wrote a letter to Alison, and possibly used her work computer to write the letter or read this post (or is using the school-wide wifi on her personal device to do so).
          -Alison has held positions in the past supporting marijuana legalization and posted about how she doesn’t believe marijuana use outside of work should be an employers concern, and has also posted about drinking wine – positions Crazypants University probably would consider to be against their moral code.
          -Does that mean OP is affiliating with a sinner, and if she had already signed the moral code the university could/would let her go for that? How far down the Crazy train do will they go with this “affiliation” policy? What if you were a Facebook friend with someone who was drinking wine in their profile pic, or was openly gay? Or “liked” a post about wine, premarital sex, gay marriage, cohabitation, etc? Is that enough “affiliation” for them to try to fire someone?

          My fear about this policy is that everyone will say “oh, it’s ok, just sign it” and nothing will happen right away- and then in a few months to years there will be mass witch hunts based on this document, or it will be a convenient way to fire someone when they don’t have a good enough case for firing. Not nearly the same order of magnitude, but I worked at a company that instituted a zero-tolerance, no smoking on company property policy. Except it seemed to be zero-tolerance on paper only, because there were several VPs that openly smoked in their cars in the parking lot. But when the economy took a downturn, rather than having layoffs (and paying severance and/or unemployment), the company instead decided to crack down on the rules they had on the books that hadn’t been enforced to cut the workforce – and the zero tolerance no smoking policy and the “no personal use of company email or internet” policy that had been on the books but never enforced.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Well it could have been any employee writing in and I doubt they’d read such a secular blog.
            Regarding the witch hunt thing when they want to get rid of someone, oh yah, I could totally see that.

          2. Laufey*

            When I’ve written into AAM, I used my personal address. Who’s to say the OP didn’t?

          3. OP*

            OP here – I may be able to address at least your first point. I originally wrote to AAM using my laptop, at home, and on my wifi. My employer is about to institute a different policy and have us sign it that states they will start monitoring our computer usage and if we state opinions on social media we will have to clarify that our opinions do not reflect the opinions of the school.

            Right now as I’m writing, I am on a personal computer and using my data (I disabled the wifi). My trust in my employer has taken a hit with recent events and I don’t want to be fired before finding something new.

            You did touch on one of my concerns that I shared with my staff rep and my supervisor – Will this become a witch hunt? How far will they take this? It may only be a draft right now, but if the final version is anything like what I’ve seen and heard so far I (and several of my coworkers) could be fired.

            1. Lynn Whitehat*

              That should make for some interesting Facebook posts. “Eating lunch at Taco Taco. They have the best guacamole! (Opinions are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect the position of my employer.)”

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Wait wait wait—they’re going to monitor your public social media use, correct? Please tell me you don’t mean they can monitor your computer usage AT YOUR HOME??? Because noooooooooo.

              1. nonegiven*

                I read some stuff written in a budgeting forum by missionaries, and they have a program on their computers that monitors what they do.

                1. Alli525*

                  Doesn’t that usually apply only to work-issued devices? I work in finance and have never heard of personal laptops, used at home, being monitored (unless we’re talking about something like an SEC investigation, which would require a warrant).

                2. Names Are Hard*

                  In lending, for example, financial institutions can be held liable if their loan officers advertise improperly on their personal social media, so monitoring personal social media is a thing there.

  2. LisaLee*

    Ew. Ew ew ew ew ew.

    For what it’s worth, its not uncommon for conservative faith-based schools to have these sorts of morality contracts (which I find overreaching on their own), but I’ve never heard of one that applied to friends and family too. That’s so, so creepy and bizarre. I almost wonder if it’s a thinly-veiled attempt to push out everyone not of the same sect as the school.

    1. Manders*

      Yes, the issue with alcohol made me think this was probably the case. It’s just statistically unlikely in most parts of the world that *all* of your family members will refrain from drinking alcohol, unless all of your family belongs to one of the religions that prohibits alcohol, and is committed 100% to shunning anyone who breaks the rules.

      I also suspect that it’s an attempt to push out anyone who’s not shunning a queer relative or a divorcee or whatever this religion considers an unacceptable relationship. Nasty stuff.

        1. Manders*

          It’s also possible, now that I think of it, that the school wants an excuse to fire anyone they want “for cause” and they know that no one will actually be able to meet these standards.

          The most charitable explanation I can think of is that whoever wrote this rule has been in the bubble too long and genuinely thinks it’s normal to never meet anyone who drinks or smokes or has a different sort of relationship than whatever the standard is here. If that’s the case, someone needs to clue them in (but OP doesn’t seem to have the authority to do that, and would probably be better off focusing getting out).

          1. neverjaunty*

            That may well be it. “Well, we THINK we saw your father-in-law having a beer. Out you go. No, it has nothing to do with the fact that the boss wants to find a job for her nephew.”

          2. Witty Nickname*

            I think this is exactly the situation. I grew up in the deep south, in a very conservative religious environment, where I was taught that alcohol is always wrong and even one drop automatically makes you a alcoholic (maybe not in so many words, but that was the impression I got). Now, whenever I go back to visit, a drink with dinner isn’t a big deal. Attitudes have relaxed a lot in the past 20 or so years. It would be rare, even in the most conservative environments, to not meet anyone who never drinks.

            I also went to a conservative christian university for my last 2 years of college, and signed a morality agreement (I figured it was 2 years of my life, and I could live without getting a tattoo or smoking or dancing or whatever. I wasn’t old enough to legally drink yet, so that restriction was actually the least important). I know the professors had to as well, and there were rumors that sitting in the bar area of a restaurant was prohibited (and our school was in the same city as the headquarters of our denomination, so there were a LOT of eyes around the small city), but even they would have found this policy to be overreaching. (Of course, I graduated about 15 years ago, so who knows, maybe they could have gotten more restrictive).

            1. Athena C*

              Me too! My mom was all like “YOU CAN NEVER DRINK EVER” and now it’s like “Oh, hey, what kind of wine should I pick up?”

              I am very o.O.

          3. LQ*

            I don’t think this is it. Unless this employer is in the one state that isn’t at will, they can fire people. Also if you are thinking of unemployment it does vary state by state, but I just went to check several states and none of them would pay benefits for people who worked at religious schools. So they wouldn’t be getting unemployment anyway. (Unless in a few states the employer is allowed to opt in, but then they could just say, hey we aren’t going to opt in anymore.) So then it would be that they would be concerned about their own rules, which they could change.

            1. INTP*

              While they could fire people, a lot of HR people are uninformed about the law, and they might think that a rule like this is more legal than firing people because of their religion alone. “The rule says nothing about religion, so it can’t be discrimination, it’s about morality!” Also, companies do weird things to make employees quit instead of firing them, even when they could fire people easily. So it’s very plausible to me.

              1. LQ*

                This is a very good point. I would guess a university would have a full suite of HR people but there could be a lot of problems in those assumptions and in others. As is the companies doing weird things to make employees quit. Often I think there is a we aren’t the bad guy component in employers preferring that people quit so that might fit with a religious institution too.

            2. Manders*

              I was assuming that it was more about cutting through internal red tape. The wheels of bureaucracy can turn slowly at many universities, and it may be easier to hurry someone out the door for violating a morality clause than for poor performance.

    2. lowercase holly*

      i went to catholic school long ago and one of the teachers smoked cigarettes. i think there was a rumor going around that the overseeing church found that to be questionable.. but seriously, she was a great teacher. nothing ever came of it. though i am curious if they put pressure on her to quit. i would have loved to have seen her response because she was quite sarcastic.

      1. Windchime*

        I used to live next door to a young Catholic priest named Ricardo. (Father Ricardo, actually, but I’m not Catholic so I could just call him Ricardo). He smoked, drank, and bought lottery tickets while wearing his collar. I’m not sure if those things are OK or not in the eyes of the church, but he was sure a fun guy to live next door to!

        1. going anon for this*

          I have several priests in my family. I also have many members of my family in AA and OA (overeaters anonymous). Perhaps there is cross over, perhaps not. But just because you are strongly religious doesn’t mean that you don’t have any faults. Let them be human as well.

        2. Chinook*

          Smoking and drinking, as long as not done in excess, are not considered sins in the eyes of the Catholic Church, So. Fr. Ricardo is fine. Gambling by playing the lottery is also okay as long it is not used to promote a gambling addiction (which is why our local Bishop banned bingo and working casinos as fundraisers – it could be considered as causing more harm than good.)

          Priests are people too and, when they don’t live in community, it is quite a lonely life with rarely anyone who sees you as human rather than “man of God.”. . Would bet good money that Ricardo appreciated having a neighbor like Windchime that saw him as human and didn’t always need something from him.

          1. E, F and G*

            Is the local bishop you are talking about the same one that will not distribute any HPV vaccines within the catholic school system and has some strong opinions on a certain attempts by the province of Alberta to instate transgender rights legislation and claims it is anti-catholic and totalitarian?

            Although I understand your point, that particular bishop can be a little divisive.

            1. E, F and G*

              Although you could be talking about someone completely different and I’m just attributing a screen name to a place with a well known bishop.

              I am sure there are others who have taken a stance against gambling.

              1. Chinook*

                Yes it I and I happen to agree that Bishop Henry does lack tact, but the media also loves to cover him. On the HPV vaccines, he retracted his words after being given a better explanation of what the vaccine was. As for the transgender legislation you refer to, it is absolutely targeted at the Catholic school system and all the Bishops of Alberta agree though with better tact. The legislation out right claims that transgender students are not currently respected when, in fact, Catholic school values state openly that every child is valuable. It also bans schools from telling parents about the groups their children join (and that is all ages from 6 years onward), allows any child to decide which change room they use regardless of the discomfort or concerns of the other children and requires every school to have gay/straight alliance school group if even one child wants one and requires a teacher to sponsor it (even if there are no teachers who support that type of group, which means teachers lose the ability to chose not to participate in something against their religion).

                This is all put forward by a government that was eleced partially as a way to get the previous government out of office after 30+ years and is not the first legislation put forward in the last 6 months that has been protested by the people it effects because they never bothered to talk to stakeholders.

                1. E, F and G*

                  Thank you for the explanation. I appreciate hearing more details on the subject.

                  I have to admit that most of what I have heard has come from mainstream media and a few people questioning the idea of turning down an avenue for additional income.

                  It teaches me once again that there is always more to the story.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I remember the first time as a kid that I saw a priest smoking (it was at church camp). I was so shocked, but then it occurred to me, “Well, he’s a person. Some people smoke. My dad used to smoke.” I figured wine didn’t count because they drank it during Mass, so God didn’t care about that! I guess the diocese didn’t care about the smoking, as long as he didn’t do it inside the buildings.

    3. INTP*

      I had the same thought regarding your last sentence. It’s easy enough for someone to refrain from drinking and other public debauchery to keep their job. It’s nearly impossible for someone to force their entire social circle to do the same – UNLESS the entire social circle already follows the same religion (and in many of these extreme religions, this is typical, as few join it without being raised in it, and most develop their social circles from the church). My concern is that the real end-game is to get rid of the employees who aren’t members of the religion and they think a weird rule like this is the way to do it for some reason.

    4. Fafaflunkie*

      I’d like to know this religion’s definition of “friends and family.” Is family defined as spouse and offspring? Parents and siblings? In-laws? 4th cousins thrice removed? Even better: what defines a “friend?” Someone you’ve known since childhood? The coworkers from your first job at Walmart? Your Twitter followers? The friends of friends on Facebook? Good luck assuring they all remain in good standing with your company’s religious dogma. I’ll say it again: GTFO of this organization ASAP.

    1. AMG*

      (AMG chants ‘Name and Shame! Name and Shame! silently in her head at her desk, hoping Alison and OP will cave just this once.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It can put letter-writers in a really bad position when people push this. People have reasons for not wanting to be outed, which we should be respectful of.

      1. Mike C.*

        Ok, let me amend that to, “Please name and shame if you’re willing and comfortable in doing so”.

        Our current employment system relies on the fact that when employers misbehave, word will get out and they’ll be punished for their bad behavior. If word never gets out or is otherwise limited, then that restorative balance never happens.

        In this particular case, it seems like it would be very easy to leak this letter, given that the situation is applying to all employees. That judgement is best left to the OP of course, but it should be mentioned that there is no shame nor lack of professionalism in letting others know that your workplace is run by people who expect to control your private life.

        1. LQ*

          The problem with this is if the people who are members of this religion support it then you are just creating more separation between this person and where they work. Especially if they work in a place that is primarily that religious affiliation. You might find more businesses going “Yeah! I only want my people to do this!” and screening people coming in (illegally, but likely getting away with it) and generate a community where the OP might have trouble finding work at all if they aren’t affiliated closely enough with the local religious community.

          I get why you want to see it happen, but it can have real and serious (and yes illegal, but still happening) outcomes for the people who are just trying to feed themselves and their families.

          1. Michelenyc*

            +1 While my last company was not a religious based uni. They did have some practices that I found to be very unethical but I still had to pay rent. I hated it. I am still trying to figure out if there is way for me to anonymously report them for some of the things they do but I am not sure if it would do any good.

          2. Mike C.*

            I understand there can always be bad things that come about from such situations, but when I say something like this, I always mean in the context of “if you’re able/comfortable/not in danger”, which I’ll be much more explicit about in the future.

            The problem I see is that many people have this idea that they’re just “not allowed” to ever say anything about their employer when they do crazy things, and I want folks to know that it isn’t the case. I also wants folks to know that there are ways to get their story out without being tied to it.

            This is about opening doors, not pushing folks through them.

            1. Allison Mary*

              At the very least, I do hope the OP will leave a clear and factual account of her experiences with this employer on Glass Door.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Plus, it’s likely that with requirements this stringent, people who don’t belong to this religion are not going to end up working there anyway. Especially with this particular criterion, which I really do hope they put on their careers website so job seekers not of that faith /a similar one can avoid it.

          1. Mike C.*

            Where did I say otherwise? You’re replying to a response where I explicitly stated

            judgement is best left to the OP

            so what’s going on here?

    3. Florida*

      It concerns me that we, as a society, have come to think that naming and shaming is a good way to change a person or company’s behavior. (Do you remember the dunce cap letter?) Shaming rarely produces a positive long-term outcome. Shaming might change behavior in the short-term, but is never effective in the long term. Further, shaming changes one behavior, but makes no guarantee the new behavior will be any better. The result of the AAM community shaming Crazy Company could be Crazy Company shaming its employees. How does that help? It’s easy for people on an anonymous blog to say that employees should leave Crazy Company, but that comes from a place of privilege.

      If this company is as bad as it sounds, they will have difficulty retaining quality employees. The company, if it wants to compete in the marketplace, will have to change its ways or go out of business. The company will decide to change because it wants to stay in business, not because of internet shaming.

      I completely understand your curiosity regarding the name of the company. But I want to discourage using shame as a tool for change. There are many less harmful ways of creating change.

      1. Allison Mary*

        I think I agree with your viewpoint here. But as I mentioned above, I do think it would be appropriate for the OP to post an honest account of their experience with this employer on Glass Door. And hopefully, the OP will do just that. Glass Door seems like the appropriate place to get the word out, so that other potential candidates for this employer will be able to know exactly what they’re getting into.

        After all, that’s what Glass Door is for – it’s a place where people can describe their own experiences with an employer, so that potential candidates can make a more informed decision about whether they’d want to work there. And I think that’s what makes it “non-shame-y.” Rather than shouting it out to the world, so that the whole world can think judgmental, condescending thoughts about that employer, posting on Glass Door directs relevant information to the parties who actually need it – those who are considering it as a place of employment.

      2. Naomi*

        Despite the name, I think “naming and shaming” is less about inducing shame in the company itself and more about reputation and getting the word out to others. The company will only be forced to change their ways to stay in business if potential employees/ clients/ customers learn about their bad behavior and start avoiding or boycotting them.

        That said, OP is under no obligation to be the person naming and shaming, especially when they still work there.

      3. Student*

        I don’t think anyone cares at all about changing the employer’s opinion. I’d certainly write them off as unlikely to change.

        The point of “naming and shaming” is to dry up the organization’s resources and essentially push it toward business failure, or at least make it less competitive and less successful.

        It’s the power of the community purse. If a business has these kinds of “values”, maybe others will avoid applying to work there if they know ahead of time what they’re getting into and you can thus suppress their talent base. If a business doesn’t allow its employees to associate with their gay relatives under penalty of firing, then maybe they don’t need to get B2B support from businesses that are run by gay folks. If a business wants to penalize employees for being too close to a relative who has a drink, maybe potential clients that do drink would want to hear about it and avoid doing business here.

      4. Mike C.*

        We (here in the United States) live within a working environment based on the free market ideas that employees and employers can choose each other as they generally see fit, and can end those relationships as they generally see fit. That sort of system only works when there aren’t huge imbalances in said market, and asymmetrical knowledge is a huge imbalance. Making sure than employees know what they’re getting into is an incredibly important part of entering into a business agreement with an employer and as an employer it’s important to understand when the requirements being placed on employees are illegal or simply batshit crazy.

        There is nothing fundamentally wrong with pointing to an organization who is acting badly and saying, “knock it off”. We have a long history of doing so, after all.

        Furthermore, bringing attention to such issues and the employers to engage in them shows others suffering from similar situations that it’s not actually normal. It shows regulatory and advocacy organizations that there are problems they might not have been aware of. It informs their customers of information that might inform future business decisions.

        Having come from a crazy, toxic workplace, I’m more than aware of the privilege that I have now in being able to say things like this. I’m only presenting options and encouragement, nothing more.

        1. Florida*

          I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with pointing to an organization who is acting badly and saying, “Knock it off.” There is also nothing wrong with pointing it out to others, and even saying, “I will no longer patronize this business because you do____.” Neither of those are shaming statements. A recent example would be when Disney and other corporations said to the state of Georgia, “If you discriminate, we will take our business elsewhere.” There is nothing humiliating about that statement.

          My problem is using shame, which by definition injures another person’s dignity. If you reduce a person’s dignity, they will typically strike back (in this case, maybe terminate employee), attempt to gain more control (make the policy even more stringent), divert blame, or maybe just totally shut down.

          To go back to your original statement of Name and Shame. I have no problem with naming, but I have a problem with shaming. They are not the same thing, and one can exist without the other.

          1. fposte*

            I think this is an excellent point eloquently put. The Jon Ronson book is great for exploring that, especially since he’s not a disinterested observer.

          2. Mike C.*

            Look, maybe we’re splitting hairs in a manner appropriate for an episode of “Says You”, but I’m really having a difficult time seeing the distinction between the two concepts. Your examples are pretty much what I had in mind when I said “Name and Shame”, so what else does shaming entail?

            1. Naomi*

              Just what I was about to say–if you go by the Wikipedia definition, naming and shaming means to “publicly say that a person, group or business has done something wrong”. The “shame” is because it’s implied to be shameful for the institution in question to have done such a thing, not because a nun with a bell is following them around saying “Shame! Shame!”

            2. Florida*

              Fair question. Here are a few examples:

              Naming is saying that the CEO of Great Big Company makes $100 million per year. The second highest paid employee makes $50,000 per year. I do not patronize companies with that level of income disparity. That’s just pointing out information and saying I don’t agree with it.
              Shaming is saying that the CEO of Great Big Company is a despicable human being because he makes $100 million per year, and pays his employees slave wages. Not only that, he sends all of his kids to private school because they are too good to attend the public school that his employees’ kids attend. The purpose of that is to embarrass him his kids.

              If you work in a profession that is regulated, such as a doctor or lawyer, and you violate some law, that is often published in the professional association newsletter. It is pure information – Bob Jones, ethics violations, $500 fine and 2 hours of ethics class. I would consider that naming. The purpose of it is to let people know what’s going on with their colleagues. However, if your professional association made you stand outside the courthouse or hospital or wherever you work, wearing a sandwich sign that said, “I committed an ethics violation so I am wearing this sign,” I would consider that shaming. That has nothing to do with informing others and everything to do with humiliating you.

              A very common AAM letter would result in advice such as: you need to tell your employee that this behavior is not acceptable and he needs to start doing X from now on. That’s naming. Shaming is telling the employee that same thing at the weekly staff meeting in front of everyone, or having the employee wear a dunce cap.

              Disney told Georgia that you can discriminate if you want to, but we will not do business in states that discriminate. There is no judgment call about whether or not Georgia should or shouldn’t discriminate. There is no attempt to embarrass that state. It just a simple statement that our company is non-discriminatory, and we do business in states whose laws match our values. There was no attempt to embarrass the Georgia government or the people who live there.

              An equivalent with OP’s situation would be if OP posted a Glassdoor review that such much of what the letter says. It just a simple statement of this was my experience when I worked there. I think the purpose of most Glassdoor reviews, even bad ones, is not to embarrass the company.

              People who have never visited River Bluff Dental posting Yelp reviews about the dental care at that office. These people are not patients. Rather, they were random people who disapprove of what a doctor did in his free time is shaming. The purpose was to insult his credibility as a dentist and humiliate him.

              I hope those examples help clarify where I see the difference.

            1. fposte*

              But the result isn’t that they change their ways, any more than slut-shaming or fat-shaming makes people change their ways. Shaming is rarely an effective method of reform. In a case where people are already drawing lines because they’re suspicious of people outside the like-minded, all it will do is convince them of their rightness.

              When it comes to outcomes we have a ton of confirmation bias on this theory; we hear about the campaigns that the media *did* pick up, not the 99% they didn’t, and the ones that got enough profile to be significant, and, mostly, the ones that succeeded and not the ones that failed. Operation Smile is still going strong, after all. Most of the time shaming just makes the shamer feel satisfied.

              1. Florida*

                “Most of the time shaming just makes the shamer feel satisfied.” Yes! You nailed it here.
                You also nailed it with the part about who shaming just convince people of their righteousness. Imagine this: A bunch of anonymous people on the internet criticize Religious School based on one bad policy. So Religious School decides that the policy is even more important than it was before. After all, the true believers understand the policy. It’s only the unenlightened people on the internet who don’t understand it. Then the Religious School decides they need to buckle down even more, making life even more miserable for OP and colleagues.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  This. And when you attack people, they go on the defensive and they won’t listen to you, even if you have a valid point. They would absolutely view this as an attack.

          3. Anonsie*

            I think you’re taking the shame part of this too literally; “name and shame” is the term because it’s cute and it rhymes. The idea is that their practices themselves are shameful.

            1. fposte*

              I think there’s too much practice of active shaming for me to believe it’s not supposed to mean anything there. That being said, this is probably getting pretty far afield from the topic so I’m going to move along :-).

              1. Anonsie*

                Depends, like… If I saw someone say name and shame on Twitter I would expect an extremely different agenda than when I see someone say it here. Here I anticipate that the discourse will be respectful.

      5. A Cita*

        Others have explained better, but I want to add, I do have problems with the “naming and shaming” policy of individuals/private citizens (there’s little accountability for the one doing the naming and shaming, and loads of long term consequences). However, naming and shaming works really well for corporations and is often the only tool a disempowered consumer/employee/affiliate has to create change when the power imbalance is so striking. Mike C. explains why.

      6. Regular Incognito*

        I very strongly disagree. The purpose of outing a company with shady or just gross practices isn’t for the fun of whipping up some internet hate machine, it’s because job seekers should be able to know before going to such a place what their bad business is. There’s no reason to keep ridiculous practices like banning people from associating with their own family and friends or having traditional public humiliation rituals should be privileged secrets for employees to discover only after it’s too late.

        It is quite untrue that a badly managed company will just disappear on its own- my last one is not only constantly expanding but was just given a major national award for being a great workplace. It is a nightmare place to work and disgusting, illegal things are constantly happening there. The only reason I have yet to publicize anything is some of the people I know who still work there are teetering on the edge of a lawsuit. People have the right to know what they’re getting into and employers should expect that anything they do to their employees can spread around and affect their ability to hire.

        1. A Cita*

          Yes, exactly. And posted above that shaming doesn’t change anything, I agree about individuals (and am so against it for individuals), but evidence shows it’s pretty effective (or at least has been in the past) when you’re talking about organizations and corporations. Sometimes it’s the only way to create change in that area (because change is driven by the bottom line, for which naming and shaming can create consequences).

      7. Slippy*

        Maybe I read the OP’s post wrong but it seems that the organization is not interested in changing but making the employees conform to a religious standard. I’d argue that naming and shaming is a pretty mild way to go about this. You mention that if the company is bad then it will have trouble retaining good employees. It should also have trouble attracting them in the first place because good employees generally don’t want to waste part of their life at a bad organization. Also if an organization can’t stand up to public scrutiny of their policies then those policies probably should be changed and you can’t hurt an organization’s feelings.

    4. Mazzy*

      I’m not sure there is a point in this particular case. This isn’t happening at a large, well-known firm where we wouldn’t expect this, nor is there is a high likelihood that readers would be applying. It is just one location.

      Said as someone increasingly against the intranet’s “name and shame” trend. Too many quotes are being blown out of proportion in “name and shame campaigns” nowadays and many articles don’t even understand the nature of what they are exposing (when the subject of the name and shame is less black and white). My current employer was subject to a local expose on deceptive sales practices and ripping customers off. We still cannot find any record of the prices the anonymous customer said they were charged. Deceptive sales people are terminated. Any customer that was overcharged has always received not only a refund, but cash on top of it. That had always been our standard practice, as overcharges sometimes just occur with the way the accounting works in my industry. Do you think the local paper is submitting a retraction that their story doesn’t hold much water (though is not an outright lie)? Of course not.

      So naming and shaming first and solving second is not always the best route.

      I shall descend from my soap box now

      1. Lindsay J*

        Your company may have recourse if the news is airing statements that are objectively false.

        Though, I do agree with you. Not my company but a company in my industry recently had a twitter campaign and several articles written against them. And, looking at the situation from the outside, the person kicking up the fuss has no real case. (Obviously I wasn’t there so I could be wrong.)

    5. Alli525*

      It won’t change anything about the employer’s practices, though – it doesn’t look like this is outright illegal, and religious groups THIS conservative often count it as a blessing if they are “persecuted” (i.e. rightfully shamed) by the “ungodly” (i.e. anyone who doesn’t agree with them).

  3. ZSD*

    Seconding the wow. Yes, OP, go ahead and start job searching – don’t worry about waiting for two years to pass.

    (And a tiny side note: Not all Muslims are from the Middle East. Would the national origin discrimination case still work if they were prohibiting employees from associating with Muslims from Indonesia? Or, for that matter, if they didn’t prevent them from associating with Catholics from Syria?)

      1. ZSD*

        Sorry, I think I was being unclear. I meant, if they prohibit them from associating with Muslims from Syria, but not with Catholics from Syria, then the national origin case wouldn’t work anymore, right?

    1. Florida*

      OP, Another second for not worrying about the two years. If you had a history of job hopping, as in you left the last 4-5 jobs you had because they had crazy policies. Then one could make a safe assumptions that you don’t like anyone’s policies. But if you leave one company because of crazy policies, no one is going to think much of it.
      Don’t feel like you have to stay there for two years. But also, don’t quit until you’ve lined up something else.

  4. jhhj*

    New job, new job, new job. Even if they can’t legally hold you responsible for going out with a horrible monster who does things like “drinks a glass of wine with dinner” or “dates someone they love”, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t find ways to punish you anyhow.

        1. Yggdrasil*

          Yeah, that’s what got me. I’ve heard of religious schools firing people who get pregnant out of wedlock or come out, which is bad enough. There should be absolutely no gray area here, but surprise! ‘Murica.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I’m all for antidiscrimination laws, but I am actually fine with religious institutions being able to enforce the tenets of their faith as they see it. That IS an American value, and I think it’s a positive one. That’s their right. I choose not to attend religious schools or give my money to religious charities, which is my right.

            There are a million qualifiers on this: I don’t think any school that discriminates should get government money. I realize that the pregnancy thing raises huge concerns about gender disparities, since men who have sex outside of marriage are much less likely to get caught. I wish many religious institutions would be less rigid in how they apply these rules. But ultimately, I’m okay with having pretty broad protections for explicitly religious institutions, and I think many people feel the same way.

            1. Dan*

              I’m with you on that, actually. In the US, we very much have a “government should stay out of my business, until I want government in my business” mentality.

              1. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

                Unfortunately, as a woman, I cannot agree with you here. As a result of government and specific very conservative religious sects combining their values, since 2011, in 80% (or more) of the counties in the U.S., women have fewer rights over our bodies than we did in any other year since 1972. There are also certain states where women are threatened with imprisonment because said religious sects and those states’ governments collaborated to conclude that certain natural events that some women experience should be interpreted as homicide or murder (reference here — http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/arrested-having-miscarriage-7-appalling-instances-where-pregnant-women-were).

            2. A Cita*

              Except it takes very little to be declared a religious institution, and therefore many abuses exist.

              Also in this case, this isn’t just about expecting your employees to follow the faith of the institution; it’s over reaching in such a way, I suspect, to allow them to do whatever they want (probably push out people they don’t like/want).

              1. A Cita*

                John Oliver did a great stint on this–how it’s super easy to be defined as one, legally speaking.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Sort of. It’s not that hard to be a ‘church’, but that doesn’t allow any company to magically evade all laws by simply declaring itself to be a religious institution – the laws are more complicated than that.

                2. A Cita*

                  Well being legally recognized as a church doesn’t magically allow you to evade all laws either. For this example, the religious institution in question is a university and considered non-profit, which is what a lot of the laws around governing churches are concerned with.

                3. Turanga Leela*

                  Good question about how to define a religious institution. Churches (and other houses of worship, but it’s usually churches) and their ministers are definitely religious institutions. Other nonprofits with religious missions get a little less legal deference, and their employees get a little more legal protection, which I think is as it should be. I don’t think of for-profit companies as religious institutions, although the courts now disagree with me on this.

            3. Temperance*

              I have an issue with it precisely because religious-based higher education institutions absolutely DO benefit from government funding.

            4. INTP*

              I do agree with this, actually. But I think that religious institutions need to be responsible about planning for what kind of employees they want, and being very open about expectations so they can hire only employees who are willing to conform to the working conditions. They should NOT hire anyone who is willing to sign the morality clause and then implement something like this that is essentially akin to firing someone for not having a background in that religion. I think it’s a bit unethical to hire people and then threaten their jobs with an impossible requirement like this. If there’s a reason that it’s suddenly mandatory, be transparent about that; otherwise, grandfather existing employees in so they don’t have to follow the policy.

              1. the.kat*

                Not a bad idea, but I’m not sure it would fulfill the requirements. If this sort of rule is coming in from the top, all the sheep need to fall in line. Giving someone permission to break the rules on something that the org itself considers not just wrong but sinful is akin to giving someone permission to sin, which would be considered sinful for the person both grandfathered in and the person who allowed that.

              2. OP*

                I’ve actually talked with my coworkers about this. If my employer didn’t say that we would be terminated for not signing the new policy, we might be ok with it (since our jobs are still secure). If I had known that this was a requirement of my position, I wouldn’t have signed and wouldn’t have received the job. Some of my workers have been working here for over a decade and they are incensed that although they signed the original policy, they can be terminated for not signing the new one. One of them said, “It’s not like I’m going out and doing anything on the no-no list. I just don’t want to sign something that gives my employer the right to judge my personal life.”

            5. Cordelia Longfellow*

              I hear where you’re coming from, but there’s a huge minefield with religious hospitals. I don’t want my health care options limited by anyone else’s religious beliefs.

            6. OlympiasEpiriot*

              I am not in favor of any religion having any ‘institutions’. When I was on the Property Committee at my Meeting House, it occurred to me how ridiculous it was for us to actually have any property. (That was one of many things that led to me asking for relief of service and even massively reducing my attending Meeting.) Religion is life of the Spirit. Creating institutions around it is not about the Spirit and once there’s an institution that performs any kind of a public service, the people who have to use that source of the service are de facto being forced to live within a religion that may not be theirs or may be an expression of which they do not approve of.

        2. Florida*

          I think the “likely illegal” part is because you can’t expect an attorney, or even a judge, to render a definitive legal ruling based on the minimal amount of information in any letter to AAM. There are unknowns about the company and entire situation that make that impossible.
          I think most everyone agrees that the situation is wildly crazy, but that’s not a legal opinion.

      1. Mike C.*

        Speaking of “illegal”, wasn’t there a discussion saying that there needs to be consideration for this to even be meaningful? Or is there some twist that I’m missing?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s for signing a contract. I know they’re being asked to sign something here, but the company could have this policy whether or not they sign a statement agreeing to it.

          1. Mike C.*

            Thanks for your clarification.

            So when the OP says

            The company that I work for is fairly conservative and has warned us that they are implementing a new policy where everyone will have to sign a legal document stating we uphold our company’s values.

            that legal document isn’t actually a contract? Just more akin to the “virginity pledges” some schools make students sign that have no legal power otherwise? This stuff gets confusing.

            1. fposte*

              The signature is a bit of a red herring, I think–it’s a way to demonstrate that the employee is aware of the new policy, not a way to create a contract. It’s like signing a performance review, PIP, or writeup–you’re not creating a contract by signing.

                1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                  I’ve seen orgs throw around “legal document” for things that are completely unenforceable.

                  Or for anything drafted/reviewed by a lawyer, even it’s crazy town.

                2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*


                  My lawyer friend used to say (tongue-in-cheek) that every document was a legal document if he touched it.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  @Not the Droid You Are Looking For: I’m totally going to start pulling that on people.

              1. Dan*

                To both Mike C and fposte… I agree with fposte that the signature/legal document terminology is a bit of a red herring.

                Outside of a true employment contract, an employer (or you) can severe ties for any or no reason (barring discrimination rules), with any or no notice. That’s the beauty (or not) of at-will employment.

                OP’s employer can just send out an org wide email informing everybody of the new “policy”, and it has just as much impact as making someone sign a document does.

          1. Mike C.*

            If this were a contract, that wouldn’t be enough because you already have employment.

            Done right, these usually entail access to bonuses or small payments, that sort of thing.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      To be fair, it doesn’t really fly here either. This is really unusual. Everyone on AAM so far is appalled, and my guess is that the OP’s employer is going to be getting significant pushback on this policy.

        1. anynominous*

          Or they might just double down and dig in. After all, the people who leave aren’t people we want anyway, right?

          1. AMG*

            true. I would think it would eventually harm them though.

            There’s a well-known telecom company here in Denver whose CEO would wait in the parking lot for people to be late. Even if it was 5 minutes. Across the board, all employees. There was a 3-strike rule for tardiness and it didn’t matter if you were the head of legal counsel or a receptionist.

            They had to eventually relax the rules because it was harming their ability to retain good employees by doing the following:
            1. Not stalking employees in the parking lot.
            2. Not mandating that if there was a snowstorm, the employees would have to get a room at a nearby hotel room because it isn’t the company’s fault that the employee chose to live where they did (and they all have laptops to take home)
            3. Granting the day after Thanksgiving a paid holiday
            4. Allowing people to have water at their desks

            The cray-cray will eventually got to this place, one way or another.

            1. Rabbit*

              I had a company that gave us the day after Thanksgiving off, but as an unpaid holiday, and if you didn’t have time accrued (or wanted/needed that day’s pay), they required you to come in and work on a Saturday in February.


      1. Ad Astra*

        Yeah, it’s not flying here. Call Americans unenlightened if you want, but even the most conservative, religious, outright judgmental people I know would find this policy ludicrous, and it’s likely that this institution will lose some good employees — anyone who has other options — because of it.

        1. Yggdrasil*

          Hey, I’m American myself. I’m not basking American people, just ridiculous employment laws that allow these things to happen. Yes, most people might find this ludicrous but… the fact that “Is it legal” has become such a running joke around here? And even if this is illegal, the OP would have a hell of a time fighting it in court.

          1. fposte*

            But it’s not a running joke because of America’s regressive policies–it’s a running joke because that’s how inexperienced people think unfairness is managed.

            1. Amy UK*

              I disagree. A lot of the time I read “Is it legal?” questions on here and laugh to myself that of course it’s not legal. But turns out in America, it is. So to international readers at least, it’s a running joke for us because of your regressive policies.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That’s not how I’ve ever interpreted it. Much of what people ask “is it legal?” about is about stuff that has nothing to do with regressive policies — like banning fish from being cooked in the office microwave or making you train a new coworker.

          2. Dan*

            It’s not the laws that allow this, but the lack of them. Even in a secular org, those types of policies could be implemented and they’d be legal.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No, not in this case. That’s why Donna first explored the question of whether the religious exemption would apply to this particular employer.

              1. Dan*

                I’m missing something. My secular employer can fire me for drinking alcohol off the clock if they want to, right? Presumably, they can also fire me for hanging out with people who drink alcohol too, right? I mean, some companies are already banning smokers from their staff.

                The religious exemption basically only allows religious orgs to hire people who practice their faith. But this exemption has nothing to do with behavior (such as smoking, drinking, and premarital sex) right?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s the religious framing that’s the issue. It would be illegal religious discrimination for them to fire you for hanging out with others who don’t adhere to their religious values. If they didn’t frame it as religious in nature, then possibly — but that would have to be genuine. If you could show it was religiously rooted, it wouldn’t matter that they weren’t using that specific language.

                  Separately, some states do have greater privacy protections; for example, California forbids employers from reaching into off-duty conduct like that.

                2. Turanga Leela*

                  Your secular employer can fire you for “bad” behavior, but not for following different religious rules. So let’s say your boss at a secular organization is a Baptist/Mormon/Muslim and doesn’t drink, and most of your coworkers are Baptist/Mormon/Muslim and don’t drink. You’re Jewish, and you get fired because you were drinking off the clock. That could be grounds for a religious discrimination lawsuit or complaint to the EEOC.

                  I don’t practice employment law, but I think this is the rule on a basic level: Religious discrimination applies to behavior to the extent that the behavior is closely linked to religious observance or identity.

                3. Turanga Leela*

                  This is the second time today I’ve commented (redundantly) right after Alison because I haven’t refreshed the screen.

                4. Anonsie*

                  Is that still true if it’s based in their religion rather than yours? I mean, it’s not a part of my religion to drink alcohol (anymore, I guess, cradle Catholic). So to forbid me from drinking alcohol isn’t based on my faith, it’s based on their faith and only concerns my personal behavior.

                5. Turanga Leela*

                  @Anonsie: If I understand correctly, not only is it illegal to discriminate against you for being a particular religion, it’s illegal to discriminate against people who are not a particular religion. So if you’re fired for not being a Baptist, that’s illegal discrimination regardless of whether you had a religious obligation to do non-Baptist things.

                6. Anonsie*

                  @Leela That instance, though, would still be based on your faith in that your faith is not Baptist. In this case, I’m thinking about behaviors that have nothing to do with faith or any potential protected class on the employee’s end (even if they could be– say they aren’t in this instance) but are against the employer’s faith leading them to restrict it.

                  I can’t think of an instance I’ve ever seen this discussed where it wasn’t a religious organization at play, so I’m curious how this would go.

                7. Chinook*

                  Anonsie, but as a Catholic, I am required (sort of*) t consume alcohol at mass. For all that I believe in transubstantation, the Blood of Christ still tests as being wine (and usually higher in alcoholic content than what is found at the liquor store). A prohibition against alcohol does target Catholics (I believe it was part of the reason for Prohibition laws) and would absolutely be a form of religious discrimination if a job required for no alcohol to pass my lips.

                  *I say sort of because you are not required to take both bread and wine (alcoholics often don’t, for example) and many masses don’t give both to everyone due to logistic constraints. But this is a basic teaching of our faith and grape juice just won’t cut it as a substitute.

                8. Zahra*


                  Actually, if I remember correctly, there was an exception for sacramental wines (for communion) and alcohol used in medications. Some people did abuse the loophole a little bit. ;)

                9. Turanga Leela*

                  @Anonsie: This is off the top of my head, so an employment lawyer might contradict me, but… AFAIK, it’s fine if an employer’s rules are religiously motivated, so long as they’re not discriminatory. The key would be that the employer couldn’t deliberately target employees because of religion, nor could the enforcement of the rule fall more heavily on one religious group than another (a disparate impact).

              2. Ex-Adventist*

                Odd you mention California for off duty conduct, since the spectrum article i referenced was referring to a a University operating in Southern California, were employees were fired for conduct in their own home!

            2. Dan*

              I meant to add that in the US, the general principle is that things are legal unless a law makes them illegal. Sure, it has its issues, but I prefer that to the reverse, which equates to needing the government’s permission to do anything.

  5. Erin*

    Please leave. (Or okay, please strongly, strongly consider leaving.) Even if they come back to you and say you will not be fired if you don’t sign.

    You will not look like a job hopper. A prospective employer might wonder why you’re leaving so soon but I highly doubt that would bar you from getting interviewed. That’s something they’d ask at the interview stage; I don’t think they’d opt out of even considering you before hearing a reason. And this is a GOOD reason.

  6. Naomi*

    OP’s mention of who their family members start or end relationships with particularly caught my notice. This could just refer to a religious prohibition against sex before marriage, but I think it’s more likely to indicate discrimination based on sexual orientation, which depending on OP’s state could be another instance where OP’s employer would run afoul of the law.

    1. Allison*

      Or a prohibition on interfaith dating, if employees can’t date people of other religions or associate with people who do.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I did contract work for a bible college and one of the wonderful friends I made there lost his job when he married a woman who was catholic.

    2. kac*

      Except in sexual identity isn’t a protected class, which is why NC could pass their most recent discrimination law just last week.

      1. Mike C.*

        This is actually an open question – the EEOC has multiple lawsuits in court right now saying that sexual identity/orientation is a protected class because (and this is a gross simplification here) folks are being discriminated against based on the fact they are not acting according to stereotypes associated with the gender they present as.

      2. Naomi*

        That’s why I said “depending on the state”–there are a number of states with laws against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, but NC is not one of them.

        1. Not me*

          NC cities used to have them. And laws about discrimination based on being a parent or a veteran.

          But never mind.

          1. Navy Vet*

            The kicker here is, I was considering moving to NC one day…leave the cold North East behind and move somewhere warmer and less expensive.

            But, now…not so much. That plan is officially scrapped.

            1. Noah*

              I live in Charlotte. Let’s just say that people are pissed that the state decided to override the city’s law.

              1. KC*

                this is a trend that’s is happening in other cities/states too with issues of minimum wage. republican controlled state legislators vs democratic controlled city officials. it seems like this goes against the core aspects of the republican party, like less/smaller government, or self governance.

      3. Turanga Leela*

        As Naomi points out, it depends on the person’s state. And the EEOC is now treating discrimination based on sexual orientation as discrimination based on sex/gender, which is prohibited by Title VII.

      4. Not me*

        But, as Naomi said, this may be prohibited depending on OP’s state.

        HB2 likely doesn’t affect OP.

        It was, by the way, not a result of any votes or input from North Carolina residents (please don’t call it “ours”).

      5. blackcat*

        And this is why I think it’s a travesty that the Equal Rights Amendment died.

        We’d be having really different conversations now about people’s rights if it was in the constitution that one can’t discriminate based on sex*, period, end of story.

        *Yes, it said “sex” but, in various policies, the feds/courts have been interpreting “sex discrimination” to cover discrimination based on identity.

      6. Anxa*

        A lot of more moderate people don’t see what the big deal is, because workers can still be protected by federal law.

        They don’t realize that gender identity is NOT a protected class.
        Or that nobody should have to be in the position to have to challenge their employer on this when the state and feds are at odds.

    3. Erin*

      I’m assuming it’s referring to same sex relationships too.

      Let’s pretend for one second that’s a reasonable request – are they specifying this in the document? Do prior relationships count? Are estranged relatives applicable? What if the relative keeps their relationship a secret from the employee and the employee finds out after the fact? Are all of these things conveniently decided at the discretion of the employer on a case-by-case basis?

      There are so many variables and possibilities, how in the world do they even think they could enforce something like this?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I know, right? They’d need a committee for the sole purpose of investigating any possible infractions, and the way they investigate could eventually run afoul of privacy laws in some way. It’s just not a tenable policy.

    4. Undine*

      If it’s sexual orientation, the timing says this could be a Mormon institution and it could be tied to the recent changes in the Mormon church which demand exactly that — that Mormons shun family members that are gay. So changes would be coming from changes at the church level. The “no alcohol” would fit in with that, because most Christian sects/denominations do permit alcohol but Mormons don’t.

      1. Manders*

        If OP worked for a Mormon school that was willing to be this strict, I’d expect the first and biggest issue to be about coffee/tea/caffeinated soda drinking. That would be awfully hard to hide. Also, so many Mormons are converts or the children of converts that it would be difficult to shun every single person in their families who didn’t convert at the same time as them.

        This policy is still bonkers no matter what religion is involved, though.

        1. Noah*

          I actually remember reading somewhere that soda is acceptable and there is nothing that prohibits caffeinated beverages. The health code actually says hot drinks, and has been interpreted to mean coffee and tea.

          1. bridget*

            Accurate, but a lot of stalwart Mormons like to personally interpret the rules to be more strict than they are, for the sake of zeal. (“If it’s righteous to abstain from coffee, I’ll be extra-righteous and abstain from diet coke!” — My Parents). BYU, as an institution, has strong elements of this baked into its culture. They don’t sell caffeinated sodas in their vending machines anywhere on campus (but there are literally hundreds of mini fridges in faculty and staff offices that are stocked with them, so it’s not “against the rules,” just against the culture of religious zeal).

          2. Brett*

            My bishop way back when said to me on this specific bit of the Word of Wisdom, “There are so many things that are not allowed by the Word of Wisdom, that it is more important to have your personal interpretation of it that you consistently follow.” (But then gave me guidance on areas that were pretty unequivocal, basically smoking and alcohol.)

      2. BananaPants*

        LDS church employees and employees at BYU have to agree to live by an “honor code” saying that they will remain chaste (which in that context means no hanky-panky outside of a traditional opposite-sex marriage); abstain from alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco; won’t swear; will follow the dress and grooming requirements; and will participate regularly in church services. The overwhelming majority of faculty and staff at BYU are Mormon and those who are not are told during the hiring process that they will have to follow the rules anyways. I don’t think those rules extend to family members, even immediate family members.

        Source: a friend who was considered for a faculty position at BYU and decided not to accept it because he is not practicing in any religion, drinks coffee daily, and likes to have a beer with his dinner now and then. He was too worried he’d get caught, plus he had a tenure track offer from another institution.

        1. bridget*

          Can confirm that unless BYU has undergone a pretty major change in the last 2-3 years (and I’m still plugged into the community enough that I feel like I would have heard about a change similar to the one reported by the OP), the honor code does not extend to the actions of friends and family members. Although I disagree with a lot of policies at BYU, I want to defend my alma mater from someone potentially getting the wrong idea when the situation warrants it!

      3. Brett*

        I don’t think it is a Mormon institution. The “shunning” part of the new rules on same-sex marriage was inaccurate reported by people drawing conclusions from the apostasy declaration. Many individual members choose not to affiliate with declared apostates, but there is no formal shunning (and only ex-members can be apostates, not people who were never members).
        Extending the word of wisdom outside of church members is a little strange too. This happens via lawmakers in Utah (resulting in Utah’s strict alcohol regulations), but would be a bit more odd in an education setting.
        Most importantly, Mormon institutions strongly value daily missionary work. Instead of shunning people who live outside your values, you are supposed to actively try to rehabilitate and convert them. This is especially true of family members, since bringing _all_ of your family into the church is an important tenet.
        That last point seems very inconsistent with the OP’s situation.

      4. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        The recent changes in the LDS church you refer to does not require family members to shun their gay relatives. It does require children of parents in a same-sex relationship to a) not have their primary residence with said parents and b) disavow the relationship (as in, “I agree that same-sex marriages and relationships are against God’s laws,” not as in “I will never see my parents again”) in order to be baptized. Similar rules exist for children of those in polygamous relationships. I don’t fully agree with the policy (I’m LDS), but it doesn’t call for shunning.

    5. OP*

      As far as the relationship issues are concerned, this new policy would be for those in homosexual relationships and/or (potentially) people who got divorced for reasons that the religion we are affiliated with doesn’t agree with.

      1. Zahra*

        Yikes, and is homosexuality covered in your state? Some people mention that it might even be covered by EEOC because it’s “failing to conform to gender stereotypes”. Check, and the worst that happens on the “is this discriminatory” front is that you lose some time.

          1. Zahra*

            Although, I do not know if it would apply if it’s your family members that are targeted and not you. That would be a question for EEOC. I’m pretty sure you can ask them.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          Yes! I was reading through this the other day. Good stuff.

          Everyone should check the newsroom on the EEOC website on occasion. The things some of these employers think they’ll get away with…

  7. K.*

    Start looking for a new job right now, today. No employer you want to work for will question why you’re leaving when you explain this policy. This is batshit crazy.

  8. esra*

    Sweet fancy biscuits.

    It sounds like you’ve been there for over a year (almost two?). Between that and the straight up insanity of this edict, I can’t imagine an interviewer who would have concerns about you job hopping.

    1. OP*

      Hey esra,

      I’ve been here for almost a year (trust me… it seems longer than that…) My concern with looking like a job hopper stems from the fact that I worked as an assistant manager in a retail store for a year and a supervisor for a food service company for a year. These two different jobs overlapped by about four months and I eventually left the retail gig for the food service one (the pay was better). On my resume I have the months listed out and the overlap is noticeable, but it still looks like I spent one year each at my previous employers.

      1. Althea*

        I don’t think this is as big of a deal a) early in your professional life; and b) if your early jobs include a shift in the type of job, e.g. from retail to admin. Lots of people have early jobs in retail prior to starting a different career track, for one. And most people understand that it takes a little while to learn how to evaluate your fit into a workplace, for two. Personally, I never consider longevity until maybe the second career-track type job, unless the candidate seems totally undecided on their career field.

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    A friend of mine still works for a religious university.  

    1) She came in on a Saturday once to show an out-of-town relative her workplace.  She got written up the following Monday for wearing a spaghetti strap cami that Saturday.

    2) She was divorced and wanting to remarry again.  She had to get written permission from her boss to do so.

    3) She had been living with her then-fiance.  She could be terminated if her employer found out.

    4) She could be terminated if she was caught drinking, doing drugs or smoking either at work or away from work.

    No idea if any of this stuff is legal, but I wouldn’t put up with it.

      1. Michelenyc*

        Mine too! I was in Greenville, SC visting a friend and I had the pleasure of being called a whore by someone screaming bible passages on a street corner. Having lived in NYC for most of my adult life he was really surprised when I confronted him. The cops just laughed at him. I did make sure not to swear since you can still be arrested for swearing in public in SC.

        1. A Cita*

          Times like these, I love being a New Yorker. Spread a little of that NYC love (attitude) around. :)

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            It’s not a nice thing to call someone, but I’ve never thought it was profane. But where people’s language taboos are drawn certainly varies widely. There are people who whisper or obfuscate the word “sex,” for example. (“s-x.”)

            What counts as profane or obscene is such an interesting subject.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      She had to get written permission from her boss to do so.

      I just…what? I can’t even begin to say how ludicrous this is. And she still works there??

      1. Laurel Gray*

        “Dear Boss,

        I met this guy and we are in love and would like your permission to marry. He’s great to me and I’m happy, we have several common interests, he fully enriches my life and is excellent in the sack.

        Please advise.


        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          is excellent in the sack

          Admitting to that would be grounds for termination.

            1. Stephanie*

              Also, not at all work appropriate in the slightest, so I won’t post, but please Google “The Loophole” by Garfunkel and Oates. (“It’s the s*x Jesus can’t see!”)

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        When I went to Fort Halifax, that was apparently a requirement for soldiers in the army back in the 1800’s. The wife would come and live in the barracks, as would all the future children, so anyone just couldn’t off and marry whenever they felt like it. It took on average 10 years to save up enough money and get enough rank/favour to do it. Apparently a lot of these wives also could work — doing laundry and charging the other soldiers, so that was another incentive. I know most people back then were smaller than we are now but those beds were less than 18″ wide. There was a lot of other stuff that they said that made me want to throw up in my mouth a little, like about the bucket facilities and no open windows.

        I simply cannot comprehend having to ask someone completely unrelated to me for permission to marry.

        1. Trillian*

          Executive officers in the pre-WWI German Imperial Navy required permission from the Kaiser to marry. That was to ensure that they avoided taking on debt and that the prospective brides were “suitable”, i.e., class, politics and religion.

          Engineering officers did not require permission, but since the entire service was extremely status conscious, they lobbied for it.

    2. Hermione*

      She was divorced and wanting to remarry again. She had to get written permission from her boss to do so.

      I… just… what? No. Nope nope nope nope nope.

    3. Ex-Adventist*

      That sounds like an Adventist University, i used to work for a Adventist university that ran a fowl of this sort of bad policy, notably the drinking policy, Long story short 3 professors were fired for drinking at home in the privacy of their home. The Administration only found out due to a recording obtained via nefarious methods. Religious Schools or institutions often feel it’s their duty to enforce their ethics and morals upon everyone else, i would seek another job ASAP. Keeping your work life separate from your home life is a big deal, and its something worth fighting for IMO. If your interested in the details of this here’s a link: http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3497

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I don’t understand the desire to monitor such behavior because the effort alone would take so much time and energy. You would have to work outside regular business hours. Can you imagine being asked by your boss to do this?

        1. Jinx*

          I can’t speak to the employer in this case, but when churches pull things like this it usually goes along with encouragement to only spend time around people from that church. It’s less about monitoring than about creating a community that keeps it’s own members from breaking any rules. Still crazy, but in most cases they aren’t stalking people home.

          That said, OP, if stalking *is* involved, definitely check out the anti-stalking laws in your state.

          1. fposte*

            And it’s psychologically valid–people *are* likelier to adhere to behaviors when they’re in a group that does the same.

          2. A Cita*

            More like, keep people and their children, and generations *paying* members of the church.

            Yes, I’m a cynic today. :)

        2. neverjaunty*

          Ah, but you see, that’s because you would see it as an unpleasant job duty. Other people see rigidly monitoring others’ lives and snooping for any potential misstep as a joyful activity they’d do for free.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        The Administration only found out due to a recording obtained via nefarious methods.

        OMG this is EXACTLY what I was thinking when I commented above that the college would have to have a committee to enforce the policy and they could violate privacy laws. I nearly choked on my cookie when I read this!

        1. Ex-Adventist*

          There’s much more to the story, i used to work with the 3 of the professors who were fired, its a great case example of how to create a hostel working environment,

          1. The Strand*

            I would love to hear the story. SDA has reasonably good publicity, but I was shocked when a close friend told me her experience and why she left – it involved a church elder sexually harassing her, and (predictably) everyone believing him over her.

    4. Liz T*

      All that stuff makes sense to me. The beliefs don’t make sense to me, and I would never want to work or socialize with someone who believed all that, but that’s what you’re signing up for with religious institutions sometimes.

      The OP’s situation is more like your friend getting fired for hanging out with you, who had a glass of wine at dinner (perhaps while wearing a spaghetti strap top).

  10. Turanga Leela*

    I can see the company having to fend off lawsuits over this, but depending on who they are and how they apply the policy, I can also see the company winning. It’s not a slam dunk. (My qualifications: I’ve worked on a couple of lawsuits involving religious exemptions.)

    OP, if the company’s legal department has signed off on this policy, they probably won’t listen if you tell them that this is a magnet for lawsuits. They might listen if you explain calmly that while you uphold the company’s values, it’s a huge deal to promise that you’ll never be at a dinner (or a wedding!) where alcohol is served, and the policy is basically asking you to cut off family and friends who are nonbelievers. It might also be helpful to point out that they will lose people over this, although they might not care.

    And yeah, leave if they don’t back down. The policy is outrageous.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Sure. If that’s their position, they’re a lost cause. But in some insular religious communities I’ve encountered, there are people whose whole families are believers and who only know other believers. They might not even consider that that’s not the case for everyone. It may well not occur to them that this policy means that employees couldn’t go to family weddings or birthday parties.

        1. LQ*

          But if they are that insular do they care? Or do they think you are bad for not having every single person in your life of their religion? I’m just not sure that there is hope here.

          1. Jinx*

            It can be either or. Some people only associate with believers because of circumstance (such as being raised in a church), and some people go out of their way to only associate with believers because they want to. Considering that an employer is making these rules (and making it a firing offense to break them), I’d guess it’s the latter.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Or even believers who are a little more lax…I know plenty of people who consider themselves good [religion]s, but violate at least one of the many, many laws that they or even their local congregation thinks is one of the less important rules.

      And I’d say leave even if they DO drop this requirement. Because the fact that it even made it this far shows a HUGE lack of judgement on management’s part.

      1. Jinx*

        I hate to say it, but I’ve seen conservative religious sects where this idea would be considered reasonable and commendable. It’s unlikely that OP will be able to push back on that kind of mindset – if they’re willing to tell you to shun your family members, they probably feel vindicated doing so.

      2. OhNo*

        “[T]he fact that it even made it this far shows a HUGE lack of judgement on management’s part.”

        Agreed time a thousand. I’m not sure if they just didn’t run it by anyone (employee or not) who is outside of their insular bubble, or if their heads are just so far up their own butts that they can’t even imagine that this would be a problem for some people. But either way, this definitely demonstrates a huge lack of judgement (and lack of awareness!) on someone’s part. Getting out seems to be the only option, unless the OP was willing to engage the workplace in a long and costly legal battle with no sure outcome.

    2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      If it’s a religious institution, they have a lot of legal leeway.

      I did site work at one school that had only recently allowed women to wear pants.

    3. OP*

      I’ve spread sent a long email to someone on the board stating my concerns. I stated that this new policy would cause me to cut off ties with my homosexual drag queen friend, family members who drink, or some of the other things mentioned. They responded that the version they sent to the staff is a draft and not necessarily what we’ll sign. Still might be, but it might not be…

      I don’t have a lot of sway (and the general idea from some of the higher UPS not in my department is that my position is easily replaceable). My giving a little bit of pushback has resulted in some people liking my gumption and others labeling me as a troublemaker.

      1. neverjaunty*

        “They responded that the version they sent to the staff is a draft and not necessarily what we’ll sign”

        hahahaha. This is HR/In-House Legal for “uh, we didn’t think anybody would complain, so we’re gonna regroup and try it again in a different version.”

        Run, OP, before they run you out. If this little bit of pushback is making you enemies, you’re going to be in an unhappy place at work regardless of whether the policy actually happens.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yeah, if they tweeted that excuse they would have probably used #sorrynotsorry ! [roll eyes]

      2. Turanga Leela*

        “Gumption” and “troublemaker” are two sides of the same coin. :)

        Good luck, OP.

  11. 12345678910112 do do do*

    I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of the OP and also the person who came up with this whackadoodle idea. How will accusations be handled? Does the accuser have to submit proof, or does the process rely on hearsay? This reminds me of Jim Crow laws, where someone could be labeled “quadroon” or “octoroon” or, somewhat hilariously in hindsight, “hexadecaroon” if it was found out that they had even a drop of black ancestry or their great-great-great grandfather was black, and subsequently blackballed. It has nothing to do with your qualifications or yourself as a person. It’s guilt by association! This institution needs to have its accreditation taken away. It is engaging in brainwashing rather than education.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      At the bible college I contracted with, an accusation was enough for a hearing.

      For example, there was a bar/restaurant near campus that was about 50/50 split due to space (there other locations are mostly restaurants) and the kids I worked with would not step inside, even it was the only thing open. All it took was someone seeing them cross the threshold for a hearing to be called.

    2. OhNo*

      Okay, I’ve heard of the others, but I will admit that I had never heard of “hexadecaroon” before and even just thinking the word in my head made me giggle uncontrollably. I knew the Jim Crow laws were just bonkers, but now I’m going to have to look them up in detail.

      Also, you’re assuming that the OP’s workplace is accredited in the first place. Many of the smaller religious schools, including religious colleges, actually aren’t. That’s part of how some of them get away with such strict moral codes and other rules for students and staff – if they’re not accredited, there’s much less oversight into how they treat people.

      1. Dynamic Beige*


        It’s like a unicorn only racists can see!

        When I read that word, I immediately thought “mmm… those are delicious with tea and honey” Oh, wait, those are macaroons. Damnit!

  12. The Optimizer*

    WOW. To echo what everyone else has said, get out and get out NOW.

    However, if I worked there, part of me would love to get my big pot stirring stick primed up so I could hang out with my friends/family who don’t adhere to their ridiculous policy just so I could get fired and (potentially) sue the pants off of them…or the magical underwear, as the case might be.

    1. Liane*

      Can we please not continue the underwear thing?
      It is disrespectful to that religion & we are better than that here, as well as better than the OP’s company.

      1. Brett*

        My brief, “don’t make fun of ‘magic underwear'” story…

        An LDS relative of mine was assigned to a mission in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. The mission president was well respected in the area by both Protestants and Catholics and had reached a neutrality with both sides that allowed him to run the mission area with his missionaries in relative safety.
        As you can imagine, some dangerous and crazy things happened on that mission, but one involved garments. The missionaries had sent out their laundry to a local cleaner. Their garments did not come back. They went down to cleaner to ask, and saw their garments on display in the window with a sign that read, “American Underwear”. The missionaries went in, got the garments back, and told their mission president what had happened.

        The mission president went down to the store and took off his shoes (leaving them there) and washed his hands in front of the store.
        Within the week, the store was bombed.
        Don’t make fun of the garments.

        1. fposte*

          If I’m reading this right, the guy spreading faith decided to get an establishment bombed because they made fun of him?

          If so, I’m not sure he comes out looking great.

          1. Chinook*

            “If I’m reading this right, the guy spreading faith decided to get an establishment bombed because they made fun of him?”

            Nope – more probably someone from either side of the line in N. Ireland took offense on his behalf as well as knew which side the dry cleaner was on and moved him up their list of potential targets.

            For anyone in N. Ireland to be respected by both sides during “the Troubles” is a feat in itself as there is very little (if anything) they could agree on. Think of it like the Sunni and Shiite leadership in Iraq both thinking that the Mormon missionary was a good guy and what would happen to the dry cleaner if this happened there.

            Not to be said that all of those in N. Ireland were short sighted. When my Protestant father took his Catholic wife and infant daughter (me) back to Belfast to meet some family in 1975, his family actually offered to drive my Mom to Catholic mass. She politely declined the offer as she didn’t want to risk labeling them as “Catholic sympathizers.” But I still remember the sounds of sirens and gun shots from my visit to England and Ireland in the early 80’s and the story of a friend of mine dodging bullets in Belfast on the way to the store.

          1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

            Haha hahaha !
            Damn, I’m usually a sharper eye.. shoulda caught that one the first time round

        2. Temperance*

          Wow … so this story to me is less “don’t make fun of magic underwear” and more “look at this hateful, murderous thing that a leader in the Mormon Church did because he decided that magic underwear was more important than people’s lives”.

          Maybe The Troubles are funny to you or something, but this is honestly the most upsetting thing I’ve seen in a really long time. It’s very possible that the cleaner had no idea what garments were and was playing a harmless joke.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I hope the story is only saying the leader “cursed” them and they were then bombed by an unrelated person because they’d, like, incurred bad luck. Though getting bombed is bad no matter who does the bombing.

            1. Ineloquent*

              That’s what the dusting of the shoes means, not that we’re out bombing people. Although, I’d bet you money this is just a stupid faith promoting rumor that’s in particularly bad taste.

              1. Temperance*

                I completely interpreted that as the mission leader signaling that it was okay to attack these people. Things like curses and superstition don’t really cross my mind (atheist).

                It’s just shockingly sad to me that someone would tell this story as a sort of good thing. Honestly, stories like this one are a large part of what pushed me to atheism. A stupid, if mean-spirited joke doesn’t merit a bombing, you know? As an Irish-American, I think this hit particularly hard.

                1. Ineloquent*

                  Totally agreed. Completely not cool, and doesn’t make a lot of sense anyway. People make fun of our garments all the time and don’t get struck down – there was a lot fo that going around during the last election.

                2. Heathen*

                  Yeah, I can’t believe that story is up.

                  It’s actually the dusting off and washing of the feet (not hands, and thus the shoe removal) that’s the ritual.

                  The low-down:

                  “And in whatsoever place ye shall enter, and they receive you not, in my name ye shall leave a cursing instead of a blessing, by casting off the dust of your feet against them as a testimony, and cleansing your feet by the wayside.”

                  So, this small part of LDS doctrine is being used to explain or justify the bombing of a business because someone mentioned underwear?

                  I really hope the story and our replies just get removed. Not only is it not remotely relevant, but essentially defames a religion.

            2. Temperance*

              I’m such an atheist that the idea of cursing wouldn’t even cross my mind. I honestly interpreted the story like he gave a signal that he no longer approved of this business, inviting both sides to do as they would.

          2. bridget*

            I don’t think that the story indicates that the mission president himself bombed the laundry, but more like the laundry was struck by lightning by an angry God. Still not a “joke,” by any means, but more on the cosmic level of punishment, not the human level of crime.

            1. Temperance*

              I totally read it like he gave the signal that he no longer approved of this business, and then they were targeted.

              I’m a super atheist, though, so the idea of God intervening wouldn’t even cross my mind.

        3. Brett*

          Just to clear up some confusion, the mission president was showing that what the store did was offensive. At least as far as my relative believed, it was not some sort of order (also, the store was bombed after hours with no one in it). Rather, someone sent a message that making fun of religion in that manner was a very serious offense.

    2. Ineloquent*

      Seriously. Those are way sacred to us – physical reminders of covenants we make. Please don’t make fun of them. It’s similar to mocking a Sikh’s turban or a orthodox Jew’s tzizit. We know everyone thinks its weird, they’re uncomfortable and restricting and limit out clothing options, and we wear them anyway. They’re really important.

  13. anynominous*

    Wow, this reminds me of high school. My school didn’t have the rule, but the other one in town said that if, for example, someone saw you at the pizza shop with a boy you weren’t related to (and it was a small enough town that everyone would know if you were related), you’d get suspended or expelled. If someone saw you on the computer at the library, suspended/expelled. And some kids got caught doing totally fine things their parents were okay with, but the school wasn’t, and ended up having to go to my school instead.

    It was absurd then and it’s absurd now. Look for a job, OP, this one is showing stalkery tendencies.

    1. Ann*

      No kidding about the stalkery tendencies. I don’t think the OP’s company is literally going to follow their employees around (although I wouldn’t bet the house against it), but how do you not notice the implications of a policy like that? It has “hardcore creeper” written all over it!

      1. Annie Moose*

        Betcha there’s rewards (even if it’s just favorable treatment by upper management) for people who report their coworkers for infractions. That’s often how these things seem to go. (and if this is from the religious camp I suspect it is, they totally do this)

          1. neverjaunty*

            In addition to the blatant bigotry, don’t they realize it would take high school students about five seconds to game that system?!

            1. OhNo*

              Seriously, now I’m just picturing a line of students deliberately using the “wrong” bathroom so they can all report each other to make some cash.

              On the bright side (I guess?), it sounds like an excellent way to earn some extra money to pay for college.

            2. Annie Moose*

              Wow, seriously–get together a mixed gender group, you all could make a killing (assuming you didn’t get expelled or anything, lol).

              Also, has that guy never been on a long roadtrip, you get to a gas station desperately needing to go, OF COURSE the bathrooms only fit one each and the one of your gender is occupied, so you do the quick over-the-shoulder check and run into the other one? Maybe that’s more a problem for us women, though! I can definitely attest to having done this, and I know I’m not the only one…

          2. The Strand*

            And it doesn’t occur to them that this is a prime way someone could bully another student, regardless of whether they committed the “crime”?

            I just can’t believe this is what people want to waste their time on, when we have so many problems in the world.

      1. anynominous*

        They paid *so much money*, for a terrible education (teachers without teaching degrees or any experience, terrible curriculum management), and their kids learned how to be very paranoid and avoid being seen. I mean, I did too, my school was better for a level of better that means “you don’t get suspended for wearing pants outside of school”. People would still ignore me if I talked to them while wearing pants.

        Both schools are still around and thriving. I’ve heard the one I went to got much less strict, but that the teaching got even worse. But now there’s an athletic program for girls, yay?

    2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I would often hear stories from students of other bible colleges they looked at/visited and would hear stories of separate elevators and stairs for the sexes. One particular school did not allow opposite sex siblings to sit together alone on campus, because people who don’t know they were related could observe it and think it was innapropriate.

    3. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Wait, computers were against their religion? I’m reminded of today’s other post about the 30-year employee who wouldn’t use a computer; they are seriously doing their students a disservice as far as their future career options.

  14. Jane*

    The thinking behind this policy just grates on my nerves. Just because you’re associating with someone who is displaying different values than your company wants people to have doesn’t necessarily mean you share those values. Heck, it doesn’t even mean that the person you’re with doesn’t share your company’s values. What if you were counseling an alcoholic friend who physically can’t quit drinking without medical assistance and needs help getting to treatment?

    Freedom of association is implied by the First Amendment. I’d be very wary (to say the least) about continuing employment with someone willing to restrict my basic constitutional rights, whether or not they were technically allowed to do so.


      1. Jinx*

        This. As a Christian, I have a big problem with any denomination telling me it’s bad to associate with non-Christians. There are a lot of repressed kids being brought up Christian, go to all-Christian schools, and aren’t allowed to have non-Christian friends. That kind of attitude breeds a weak, insular faith that’s only supported by the lemming mentality and never being exposed to anything different.

        Last time I visited my in-laws, MIL gave a lecture about how Christians tend not to hang out with non-Christians because non-Christians are offput by their “holy auras”. Which kind of contradicts Scripture in my opinion, because Jesus was the holiest holy and “sinners” were constantly hanging around him. Policies like the one OP’s employer is pushing just feed superiority complexes.

        Egh, sorry for the derail rant. I’ll stop now. Things like this just grind my gears – OP, I’d get out. Get out now!

        1. Allison Mary*

          That kind of attitude breeds a weak, insular faith that’s only supported by the lemming mentality and never being exposed to anything different.

          Yes! This is the legitimate drawback to religious communities attempting to close themselves off from the rest of the world entirely – at least, the way I see it.

          Also, sorry for contributing to the off-track rant. I definitely think OP should get out ASAP.

        2. Deanna*

          Me too. Some of the families at our church take it a step further and homeschool their kids. The only interaction with others they get is from their church groups, but some of them still shun the public school kids, even within their own church!

          (Nothing against homeschoolers here–I know a lot of homeschooled kids with active social lives who interact with many different types of people. )

          1. Jinx*

            Homeschooling is one of those things that can be done really well or really poorly. My sister-in-law started homeschooling her kids last year, and they’re doing great.

        3. neverjaunty*

          Right, how are you supposed to share the good news of Christianity if you never hang out with unbelievers? I mean I can totally see why you don’t want to start a war with your MIL, but I freely admit, I’d be tempted to rebuke her on her laziness in not wanting to bother spreading the word. ;)

        4. MashaKasha*

          I know, this has always irked me too back in my Christian years. Then I joined a book study group in my church and the first book we read was the Purpose Driven Life and there I actually found an explanation for this bizarre requirement. Don’t remember word for word, but it basically said that you should only concern yourself with interacting with those people that are saved, because those are the ones you’ll be spending the eternity with. The rest aren’t going to be around long and/or aren’t going to the same place you are, so why bother making connections with them, they’re here today, gone tomorrow.

          If the idea of “telling me it’s bad to associate with non-Christians” had rubbed me the wrong way before I’d read that book, I found it straight up repulsive after. I don’t think I finished the book, and I believe I must’ve dropped out of the reading group as well.

          Going back to OP’s letter, it’s a bad enough idea to implement in one’s personal life, but to force it on your employees, in a workplace, under the threat of termination… ugh ugh, ugh. All kinds of wrong, no matter how you look at it.

        5. OP*

          Thank you for writing what has been on my mind! I do share the same religion as my company/employer, but how am I supposed to share what I believe if I only talk/work with/hang out with those who share my employer’s belief. I also don’t want to be a “lemming”. I question everything! Ask any trainer/manager/religious mentor I’ve ever had. I don’t just accept something without at least a few questions (and usually if I sit on it long enough I have questions that can last a while.)

          The flip side of that coin is that some of the people who have been the most _____ (fill in the blank with words like compassionate, understanding, mentoring, or other similarly positive words) have not shared my religion. In fact, some of them are good friends of mine and we have an agree to disagree pact. It’s not that hard to be an adult about it.

      2. fposte*

        There’s plenty in the Bible about turning away from unbelievers and naughty people, though.

      3. lfi*

        preach. i used to work for a catholic non profit and our city’s archbishop was making some very interesting comments regarding a certain group of people, and all i could think about was how jesus loved everyone.

        anyway rant over.. part of the reason why i left said non profit. ;)

      4. Chinook*

        “Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. Just saying.”

        And not only did he drink wine, but he made more upon request and it was the good stuff that would have people wanting more!

  15. Sunflower*

    I wouldn’t be worried about looking like a job hopper because it sounds like these guidelines are so rigid that it’s likely you’ll be fired or let go soon for ridiculous reasons you can’t control.

    I know I tend to be more liberal when it comes to ‘how long is okay to stay in a job’- I don’t think leaving a first job after 1 year is weird at all. 1-2 years when you’re entry-level is not abnormal and I doubt you are going to look that bad for leaving your first job at that point. I would NOT let that stop you from getting out of this batshit cray place!

    Someone wrote in a few months ago(working at a religious university) about being asked to sign a similar, but not as crazy, policy and I remember seeing a lot of good advice on how to explain leaving. Good luck!

    1. Ad Astra*

      Yeah, I agree that OP shouldn’t let the job-hopper fear keep her from looking for a gig at a not-insane organization. Especially since she’s early in her career, I doubt most hiring managers would be too concerned about it. And, if the institution she’s at has a bit of a reputation in her region/field, they may already assume that OP is leaving because things got too ridiculous at Overreach University.

    2. orchidsandtea*

      But also, if OP leaves this job and gets another one, in ten years it won’t matter at all that they were only here for a year and a half. Where if they stay long enough to get fired because their mother remarried without OP’s boss’s permission, then every time they apply for a job, they have to check the box next to “have you ever been fired” and explain this crazypants story.

      1. Rebecca Too*

        Yes. I’d much rather quit and explain the gap in my employment than be fired and have to explain how that went down. (“My dad had a glass of wine when we were out to dinner.” *sigh….*}

  16. TheAssistant*

    There was another letter (#2 here: https://www.askamanager.org/2016/01/slow-employee-listening-to-podcasts-interviewing-with-a-cold-and-more.html) about someone who worked in conservative, faith-based higher ed and once adhered to the faith, but had left it for personal reasons. I remember Alison had shared some really great language about seeking a less conservative or faith-based workplace for that letterwriter. Probably also applies to this OP’s job search, if she chooses (and I hope she does!) to undertake one.

    1. OP*

      @TheAssistant – Thank you for posting the link (and to the others who have posted it here as well). I have it pulled up on a different tab on my computer right now and will read it once I go through all of the comments on here. Many of my colleagues are looking at leaving (or will once they or their children finish their degrees here).

      It looks like I’m going to be dusting off my resume and I was so looking forward to not job-hunting until I start grad school… guess that’s probably going to get put off [duel degree in law and either history, cultural anthropology, or international relations if anyone interested :) ]… better that than be fired for being a rabble rouser.

  17. Artemesia*

    The first thing that jumped out at me was ‘family values’. So if my father has wine with dinner or my mother doesn’t dress modestly I should shun my own family? How weird is that?

    1. fposte*

      My suspicion is that it’s trying to promote evangelism as much as disowning–that their employees can then serve as agents of the faith amid their friend and family circles.

      1. Anna*

        But…you have to go to the sinners to do that! You don’t have to partake of the sin, but the whole point about being among the sinners is that you preach to them and frequently while they’re sinning! So much being out of touch with the things they propose to teach.

        1. fposte*

          We don’t know the exact policy, but I assumed that was the point–your godly presence would persuade your husband not to order alcohol, etc.

      2. Jinx*

        This is exactly what’s happening. I have been to conservative evangelical services where the congregation is told to try to convert their friends and family members, and if that doesn’t work to shun them. It’s not as uncommon as I’d like.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Eh, I suspect that the comment upthread is more likely – that it’s partly a way of controlling employees’ lives, and partly a way of manufacturing “for cause” firing to have on hand as needed.

    2. Naomi*

      I know, right? These are the same sort of people who wave the “family values” flag when they don’t want gay couples to get married or adopt kids, i.e. create families.

    3. 2 Cents*

      I just got a mental image of my mother not dressing modestly and now I can’t stop giggling! (I love my mom dearly, and dressing immodestly is something she’d never be accused of. I’m just picturing an older woman strutting around in hot pants and a midriff top lol.)

      1. Aimlesstraveler*

        But the thing is, “dressing immodestly” doesn’t even necessarily mean hot pants and a midriff. My mother dresses immodestly by crazy religious standards all the time. She wears pants and often shorts (gasp!) and skirts that might even go above the knee. She is in good shape and wears sleeveless tops–even spaghetti straps on a hot day in the summer–and sometimes might even show a hint of cleavage. She dresses appropriately for her age and everything and usually looks nice but she isn’t a “modest” dresser by Duggar standards, or Hasidic Jewish standards or even Mormon ones (Mormons have a less crazy but still restrictive definition of modest dress).

        1. Kelly L.*

          My mom got Frowned Upon at her old church while dressed normally for the church…she’s just really busty.

          1. ToxicNudibranch*

            Well if she didn’t want to be Frowned Upon, she should have kept her dirty pillows to a respectable size. As I learned in 5th grade, we are all in full control of how puberty impacts our bodies and choosing to have a large bosom or ample hips is a sign of low moral character. /sarcasm

            Also: >_<

        2. neverjaunty*

          Apparently at least one of the more ultra-conservative Haredi sects requires women to wear thick flesh-colored tights with a seam – the purpose of the seam being to alert the male viewer that he’s not actually seeing any skin. I can’t even.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Some branches of Judaism require you cover your hair with a wig… and the best wigs are made of human hair. Just not the hair of the woman wearing it.

        3. Chinook*

          “But the thing is, “dressing immodestly” doesn’t even necessarily mean hot pants and a midriff. My mother dresses immodestly by crazy religious standards all the time”

          I agree. I am not one to show off skin and I wear dresses most of the time (thank you eshakti) but I know some of them are not as modest as the Catholic priest would like because they show cleavage or armpit or shoulder (or my tattoo but Eeyore is staying!). He has the good sense not to say anything to anyone in particular, but he did give specific instructions to the converts at Easter vigil to not show cleavage, armpit or shoulder in what they choose to wear.

  18. RVA Cat*

    This is completely bonkers.

    I don’t know if it’s legal or not, but I doubt they could deny unemployment for people who either A) don’t sign or B) get fired over something *someone else did*. They are asking you to control other people – which is absolutely crazypants.

    1. LQ*

      Unfortunately in some states (your state may vary) you can’t get unemployment at all from a religious job.

        1. LQ*

          Depends on the state again, but in some yes. They don’t pay in so their employees can’t collect.

    2. Dan*

      Companies don’t “deny” unemployment, they can just contest it. It’s up to the state to make the final determination. FWIW, my dad actually has to go to (as in, his boss tells him to go) plenty of unemployment hearings, and his company loses a lot. So it’s not a given that just because the company fights it means that it’s an automatic denial.

      1. Stephanie*

        I think most states are sympathetic to the claimant as well. OP could probably cite constructive discharge if she quits (that she was likely to get fired given this policy).

        1. LQ*

          The real problem is that a lot of states just don’t count employment at religious institutions. The OP should definitely see if that is true in their state or not before assuming they could try to get benefits. I don’t know what state the OP is in, but it is worth being careful about making any assumptions on that. (Though your second part would likely be true in most states but state mileage again may vary.)

    3. OP*

      Hey everyone,

      I just looked up my state’s unemployment laws and those of us who work for religious organizations aren’t covered by law. If I lose my job because I don’t sign this new policy (which states at the bottom that my signature “represents my understanding of and commitment to abide by” what the company is asking), I’m probably going to be thrown out on my ear without unemployment benefits.

  19. AW*

    Can this company have a dishonorable mention when the Worst Manager of the Year contest rolls back around? Because this is beyond the pale.

  20. BRR*

    @ Job hopping. I’m not sure how long you have been there but with this policy you are likely ok. I would say you just need a year (not two). And nothing stops you from applying sooner as long as you stay at the next job longer.

    1. Zillah*

      I’d argue that this is so egregious that any “minimum time” thing likely goes out the window. I don’t even think the OP should feel they need to stay for a year if they’re not at that point already.

    2. 2 Cents*

      And by the time you get that next job, you might be at Crazy Pants University for two years at that point.

      1. RVA Cat*

        In all honesty, this is so egregious I would say that the OP’s retail background is a plus – as I would say don’t sign, but also see if you can get a part-time job in retail to tide you over if FusterCluck U. fires you for not signing.

        1. fposte*

          But I think her concern is that she wanted to get *out* of retail, and this was the job that was going to allow her to transition.

        2. BRR*

          It can be so hard to get out of retail I would probably stick it out while doing some heavy hunting. It’s nice in case of an emergency but their’s a fair shot the salary and benefits is better at FusterCluck U.

    3. nicolefromqueens*

      Yeah, I was going to post something like this. IMO it qualifies as a hostile/abusive situation that justifies leaving. Staying in such an environment will make it much harder for you down the line.

      OP, I think you should start inching toward the door. See where everyone else’s head is at, and start collecting references and contacts as quietly as you can. You’ll need them to verify the ridiculousness of this place, which you can touch on in your cover letters.

      Especially if you work in a small town or industry, you DO NOT want to be the last one out the door, even moreso in a situation like this.

  21. Allison*

    It sounds like they not only want you to belong to the faith, they only want employees who belong to the (very closed off) community surrounding it. Makes me think of the Duggars, who seem to only associate with other homeschool, quiverfull families of the same faith and conservative mindset. They see anyone outside the community as either in danger of being corrupted or in danger or spoiling the school’s image. These schools thrive on their reputation of being super conservative, because ultra-conservative families like the Duggars and the Bates want to send their kids to the most conservative, Christian colleges possible, where they can be completely protected from the evils of the real world.

    1. Chinook*

      “They see anyone outside the community as either in danger of being corrupted or in danger or spoiling the school’s image”

      Serious question – why is it always assumed that the good will be influenced to follow the bad ways? Isn’t it equally possible to influence the bad to follow the good ways?

      1. Kate M*

        I think that this is a worry that stems mostly from times in people’s lives when they are likely to be peer pressured – i.e. teenagers. Obviously younger children and adults are supposed to conform too, but with teenagers, that is the time in life where people tend to push back against authority (and it is very normal to do so, in coming into adulthood). If you come from a very conservative/religious background (not using the words conservative and liberal in a political way, btw), there is more pressure to conform and be obedient towards authority. The rules are usually stricter, with harsher punishments, so when teenagers tend to push back against authority, the stakes seem higher. On the other hand, if you come from a more liberal/permissive background, it seems like there’s more room for nuance, rather than rigid, black and white rules.

        So yes, it’s possible to be a good influence, but it seems like the possibility of someone else being a bad influence on you has much higher stakes in a more strict environment than a more permissive one. (Drinking might have eternal repercussions, versus those who feel that teenagers will experiment and will probably come out just fine.)

        And for some very religious communities – not being a part of that religion is automatically “bad.” So if the “bad influence” has no interest in being converted, then it’s a permanent bad influence hanging around that doesn’t really have a possibility of becoming “good.”

      2. Allison*

        Probably because being “bad” so much more appealing than being “good.” Even those who are very committed to their faith struggle with temptation to break the rules, which is why so many devout Christians will set strict rules and boundaries for themselves.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I think this is one reason the Amish allow rumspringa. They raised with the faith, but during this time of “running around,” they get to have a better look at the English world and can see what they are risking if they leave the faith. (It also may give the more rebellious among them a chance to get the rebellion out of their system, which the elders don’t condone exactly–I think many times they turn a blind eye to it, though.) Then they can make the choice to join the church and it’s an informed and completely voluntary decision.

  22. CADMonkey007*

    I would ask for more clarification about the intent of this rule. I would guess the intent has to do with being “above reproach” and avoiding scenarios that could easily paint you as breaking the rules. I would guess employer would be ok with dinner at a restaurant and a person in your party orders a drink, but maybe not hanging out at a bar, or going to a concert at a venue known for lots of alcohol and pot. Perhaps the employer had one too many employees seen hanging out at a bar and claiming to not be drinking? If you can get clarification I would definitely push back on the wording of it and make a case for how outrageous it sounds at face value.

    1. Naomi*

      No, don’t push back on the wording! That sends the message that you’re mostly okay with this and quibbling about specifics. Push back on the whole idea that your employer gets to dictate the behavior of everyone you know.

      1. CADMonkey007*

        It’s on OP to decide what she’s ok with. If she’s already prohibited from drinking alcohol and has accepted that, then it’s not too far fetched to add “no going to bars even if you’re not participating in prohibited activities” to the list.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Agreed, agreed. The problem is not the specific moral things listed in the guidelines, the problem is the guidelines themselves.

        Even if you agreed 100% with the content of the guidelines (like they banned you from associating with serial killers or something), it would still be ridiculous because even an employer with a strict code of conduct should not expect their employees to be responsible for the behavior of others–specifically, the behavior of adults, including their own parents!

        Force your employees to sign a personal code of conduct all you like, the employees can choose whether or not they adhere to it–but a set of guidelines like this is taking the choice out of your employees’ hands and putting it into other random people’s hands, because they can’t choose whether or not other people adhere to it.

    2. Allison*

      I guess this is a fair point, it’s kind of like how in college you can get written up just for being at a party where people are drinking, if you’re not 21.

    3. neverjaunty*

      I would guess employer would be ok with dinner at a restaurant and a person in your party orders a drink

      …..the OP gave this exact example in her letter as ‘something that my employer would consider to violate this policy’ and something she could get fired over. So, no the employer would not be ok with that, and there is no reason for her to ask for ‘clarification’.

      I understand that we’re all an opinionated and inquisitive bunch here and we’re often coming from very different perspectives, but c’mon.

  23. KT*

    This reminded me of a case that blew up last year–a female blogger was married to a man who worked at a very conservative Christian college. He signed a morality clause and a contract that said he would obey the Bible in all things.

    The woman posted on her blog things about the role of women in the Church, advocating for loosening restrictions on Christians as a whole, and he ended up getting fired for allowing her to have anti-Bible feelings and not putting her in her place.

    They did consider legal action, but when they pursued, several lawyers said they didn’t have a chance.

    1. the gold digger*

      Laughing because it was my blog that caused the initial blowups with my husband’s ultra-liberal parents, who told him he better “get [me] in line or else” they would disinherit him. (Which they did anyhow.)

      I always wondered how they reconciled their liberalism with their “husband is the boss of the wife” views.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Oh. The kind of far left so far it wraps around and becomes far right? (And why am I asking you this, I should just read your blog.)

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I’m still trying to get caught up on your blog. It gives me comfort when my in-laws are causing me agita.

    2. Mando Diao*

      That’s a tough case because the college is “wrong” in a basic logical and human sense, but the blogger wasn’t being too smart about criticizing her husbands employer on the internet.

      “Dear AAM, my job is stupid but I’m dealing with it for now, but anyway should my wife be publicly blogging about how stupid they are?”

      1. KT*

        She wasn’t posting about his employer though-she was talking generally about how Christianity should embrace women more and let them become more involved, and stop being so rigid

      2. Zillah*

        It doesn’t sound like she was criticizing her husband’s employer specifically, though – just critiquing the Church overall. That’s very different.

      3. Jinx*

        I can see where she’s coming from. It’s tough to be married to someone who comes from or works in a more conservative background, especially as a woman. My in-laws have never met the real me, and they never will. When Mr. Jinx interned at a conservative church, same thing. It’s not fair, and it’s not practical to complain on the internet, but it’s definitely a frustrating situation.

        1. Jinx*

          Ooh, I just reread and realized that the blogger wasn’t commenting on her husband’s employer in particular, just the role of women in the church. Firing the husband over that is pretty gross, because (to me) it implies that she’s not an independent person separate from him.

          1. Mando Diao*

            I don’t disagree that the employer sucks. My point is that I don’t think the guy or his wife are too smart for acting like they couldn’t have anticipated that fallout.

            1. Jinx*

              I guess I don’t see why their intelligence is in question if the firing was wrong regardless. Something can be predictable and still be gross.

            2. neverjaunty*

              If your boss tells you ‘sleep with me or I’ll fire you immediately’ and fires you when you refuse, you probably could have anticipated that fallout, but it would be pretty silly for somebody to call you not too smart for complaining about his behavior on the Internet.

          2. Artemesia*

            The most fundamental principle of all fundamentalist faiths is that women are not persons but subjects to be governed by the men who own them. Feminism is simply the belief that women are human beings and not property.

      4. KSM*

        I didn’t read it as a blog post ABOUT her husband’s employer, but about her own personal religious views which (apparently) happened to differ from her husband’s employer’s religious views.

  24. Mando Diao*

    This isn’t just about isolating employees from non-believers in a “social” sense. There’s a cultural (as in art and general world awareness) aspect to this too. So employees of this school cannot go to concerts, art galleries, poetry slams, or anywhere else wine or beer is served (under the logic that OP would reasonably attend these events with a friend who would accept a glass of wine, or at least run into someone there she knows). I’ve seen how, in strict religious communities, these seemingly petty rules have a way of getting their hooks in every aspect of followers’ lives and that’s how isolationism takes hold.

  25. Mishsmom*

    so if i work there and my cousin is gay i can never talk to him again? because i’m assuming that an institution so religiously conservative would not condone homosexuality. this is just egregious.

  26. Bekx*

    My coworker attended a place like this. Taylor University, for example, is her alma mater. It states you can’t drink, swear, be homosexual, lie, have premarital sex…etc in a contract that you sign when you agree to attend. They recently allowed dancing at social events there, and that was BIG NEWS.

    I just looked it up, and it seems like employees have to agree to the covenant too. Wouldn’t surprise me if this is the OP’s uni from what I know of it. I did not find anything stating it extends to people they associate with, however, so maybe there are more colleges than I realize with this requirement.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I did contract consulting for a bible college and there was some debate over whether or not they could ask me to sign the covenant.

      Ultimately, the decision was that I need to be respectful of their policies but they could not regulate my off time behavior. They did however, provide me with the dress code binder, which had about 30 pages of examples cut from magazines of what I could and could not wear.

      1. Florida*

        It is more than reasonable for any religious employer to ask its employees and consultants to respect their religion. I think all religions have a few components that seem a little odd to people who are not of that faith. But it’s more than reasonable to say, “When you come into the office, you have to respect our religion.”
        When in Rome, do as the Romans. But once you leave Rome, you can go back to your non-Roman ways.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          For me the original difference was that initially, they were not asking me to respect their policies but to subscribe to them.

          I had absolutely no problem with them asking me to follow their policies while I was consulting on campus. However, they were asking me to sign a document that said I would not drink (or enter an establishment whose primary purpose is to serve alcohol), smoke, gamble, dance, or attend services or subscribe to a faith that was not evangelical Christian 24/7 while they contracted my company’s services.

          I was happy to follow the dress code, and not talk about any weekend activities that involved something they didn’t believe in (including attending catholic services).

          Also, my actual employer’s human resources department had an absolute panic over the document, because if they insisted that I sign the covenant to go to my assigned location, they would be in violation of the multitude of things listed in AAM’s response.

          1. Florida*

            I’m definitely with you. I wasn’t disagreeing with you in my original comment. I should’ve been more clear. There is a big difference between respecting the religion and subscribing to the religion. I think you did the right thing in your case.

      2. MV*

        This sounds similar to the days I did some TA work at a Catholic University despite being agnostic who was raised a ‘Christmas Eve and Good Friday only Anglican’.

        There was no expectation that I be Catholic or even religions (but I believe they giving hiring preference to Catholics). I just had to agree that I wouldn’t openly slam the Catholic Church/its beliefs while on campus, acting out my role or online where I have also clearly identified myself as an employee of ABC Catholic University. But there was absolutely no rules about how I conducted myself outside my job or on my private social media accounts where I had not listed my employer. And that’s how it should be. I was willing to respect their beliefs while on their campus and on their dime, but outside of that, I was free to think/do/say what I wanted.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          At the risk of overgeneralizing, a lot of Catholic institutions are pretty good at this—they’re used to having non-Catholic students and employees. They get into skirmishes over things like health benefits, but they usually don’t require employees to sign the kind of values statements that seem to be common at Evangelical colleges.

          1. Bekx*

            Yeah I went to a Catholic college. They definitely did not shove church down your throat besides making you take a theology. But even then, there were so many theology classes offered that you did not have to take one related to Christianity. They had a Judaism class, a multi-religion overview class and a history class that taught about American History with respect to how religion had an impact. I think they handled it pretty well, to be honest.

            1. Lady Kelvin*

              I went to a PCA undergrad (Presbyterian Church of America) and we also had to take a religion or philosphy course, and of course they offered all the biblical courses you could want, but I took a Chinese Religion course that was co-taught with a Chinese History course. It was super interesting. I also took a philosophy course with an avowed Jewish Atheist. They were pretty open and liberal about those kinds of things while I was there, plus they had a Catholic mass in the chapel on Saturday nights, which I appreciated as a waning Catholic.

  27. Zillah*

    Wow. I’m so sorry, OP – that’s beyond absurd.

    Out of curiosity, couldn’t this theoretically fall under religious discrimination if it was used against employees who use certain substances as part of their religious practice (e.g., wine or peyote) or disability discrimination if it was used against employees who needed certain drugs to treat a health condition (e.g., stimulants or opioids)? Or associate with people who fall under one/both of those categories?

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      So at the bible college I contracted with, you couldn’t be an employee if you were not of the faith.

      So for example, a catholic couldn’t get an exception for wine at communion, because a catholic could not be hired in the first place.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t think they’re saying you can’t be friends with somebody who ever drinks wine in any situation. It just can’t happen while you’re there. And you’re not going to be attending mass while you’re working there. I’m also not seeing anything in the post that suggests prescription drugs are a problem for the employees, let alone for their colleagues.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Oh, I dunno – a place like this could very easily claim that OP wasn’t “promoting an alcohol-free environment” because she continues to remain friends with them.

        1. fposte*

          They could claim all kinds of things, of course. But what the OP describes is not that–it’s that the fact that alcohol belongs to other people doesn’t excuse her for being in its presence–and since they seem happy enough to make their absurd restrictions explicit, I’d assume that if they’d meant what you suggest they’d have said it.

          1. neverjaunty*

            That’s because you’re a reasonable person and you assume other people are reasonable. It also doesn’t, at least to me, appear that this is a situation where there are clearly-defined boundaries – ie. “don’t be with anyone who drinks” is an example, not a limit – and I don’t see any reason to believe that such an overbearing, invasive policy is going to be anything but usefully vague to the employer’s advantage.

          2. Zillah*

            The OP did reference their friends and family starting/ending relationships specifically, though – that’s not just “what you do in my presence.” It’s a much broader statement.

            1. fposte*

              Whoops–you’re right; I missed that. Not that things were in danger of being Not Crazy anyway, of course.

      1. ZSD*

        Wait, wait, wait. I thought my brother-in-law invented “scrumps” to mean “cheers” when he was a kid. Does that come from somewhere? Other people say this?

        1. MommaCat*

          Unless I’m mistaken, there’s an entire song about it in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Scrumps!

  28. Camilla*

    I think it’s possible that the part about family might be referring to your immediate family, but not parents. I attended and worked at a conservative Baptist college, and for employees and faculty, the expectation was for you and your family. So for a single person, it was just you. But for parents, it was Professor, spouse, and children. The expectation didn’t extend to extended family.

    I still think these rules are very, very horrible. But you might want to speak with someone higher up about your concerns. For example, I would have felt comfortable emailing the dean of the college and seeking clarification on this rule. Especially if your specific institution focuses on evangelism, you would have ample room to argue that a more strict interpretation of this policy would make evangelism difficult. (Even if you have no intent to evangelize.) One professor at my institution was known for going to bars to make friends with bartenders and evangelize to them. He never drank, so it was fine.

    This will vary by institution, and if yours is more conservative, then it might be more tricky. But I think clarification would be helpful here.

    1. MV*

      I particularly hate the ‘children’ one, especially when you are talking about older teenage/adult children who ought to be free to live their lives exactly how they please without the fear of costing a parent their job.

    2. Chinook*

      “I think it’s possible that the part about family might be referring to your immediate family, but not parents. I attended and worked at a conservative Baptist college, and for employees and faculty, the expectation was for you and your family.”

      If the faith was one that subscribed to the full 10 commandments, then it could easily be argued that shunning your parents because they drink or smoke goes directly against “Honour your mother and father.” I believe the 10 commandments would trump all other rules, right?

      1. Temperance*

        Not if you believing that drinking and smoking are sins. There is no greater way to honor your parents than by calling out their sins and trying to get them to live cleaner lives.

  29. BananaPants*

    *checks the calendar* Happy Wednesday, everyone!

    On-topic…start job hunting now. I know that religious schools and universities often have a morals clause but that usually just applies to the employee. There’s no way I would want to work for an employer who considers my relatives’ or friends’ choices to reflect negatively on my morals, especially not to the extent of terminating my employment over it!

    So they’re really going to fire someone whose sibling enters into a same sex marriage, or whose parent has a glass of wine with dinner in a restaurant, or whose young adult child has a baby out of wedlock? Do they not realize that even if it’s legal, it will play horribly in the court of public opinion? It’s basically punishing the son for the sins of the father (or equivalent), which is sort of ironic coming from a religious institution…

    1. LawBee*

      I wonder if they would fire someone for taking communion at a church where wine is used and not grape juice?

      1. motherofdragons*

        I mean, this place is hella cray, but probably not. When communion is given, the wine (or juice) is meant to represent the blood of Christ. It’s not the same as promoting alcohol use because it’s largely symbolic.

        It’s also possible this was a tongue-in-cheek comment and if so, touché!

        1. Temperance*

          As an ex-evangelical … I can honestly say that it is considered a sin by some to imbibe communion wine. Our church offered grape juice instead, and was harsh on those that did not.

      2. Turanga Leela*

        Honestly, they might—maybe because of alcohol, maybe because you’d be taking communion from a different sect. My friends who are mainline Protestants can take communion at each other’s churches, but that’s not true for everyone. My Mormon friends will only take communion in Mormon services, and I know from experience that non-Catholics are not supposed to take communion in Catholic church.

        At least one religious college—Patrick Henry, I think?—has a statement of faith that is inconsistent with Catholicism, so students who convert to Catholicism generally withdraw.

            1. Elizabeth West*


              It was very similar. They said the service (for St. George’s Day) was open to all and so was communion. I stayed because 1) hey, St. Paul’s; 2) my book character is English and would have grown up in the Anglican church, to which I had never been, so research; 3) they had a choir. :D

      3. OP*

        That’s been one of the concerns for those who belong to religion/denominations/sects/whatever word you want to use, that have ceremonies like communion with actually wine. Although originally given a shrug and a “They’ll have to choose.” mentality, it’s been brought up enough times that those in charge seem to be backtracking and saying that this won’t be the case.

  30. Rachael*

    This kind of overreach scares me. As an athiest and a strong supporter of nonprofits I acknowledge that I will have to partner with people of faith to fufill my calling of helping those in need. I currently work for a Catholic based hospital and, while they are in no way overstepping boundaries, I still become slightly uncomfortable with the religious atmosphere when I feel that I might have to “out” myself and not participate in certain conversations or prayer sessions. There are times that I feel “less than” because of my beliefs.

    If the hospital came forward and required, not only myself to follow Catholic principles, but my family (protestant) to also follow the principles I would quit in a heartbeat. I know that the hospital feels fortuntate to employ a certain type of person to fit their culture and they are well aware that to make the community that they envision it needs to include people from all backgrounds.

    What that employer is doing is attempting to control people outside their reach and instill the fear of their loved one losing their job. This would affect relationships and upset family dynamics and, frankly, satisfy some funamentalists belief that people who can “poison” a person of faith should be purged. It is really sad when faith based organizations lose touch with the fact that the reason why the world is so beautiful is because of all of our different beliefs.

  31. Creag an Tuire*

    See if you can get the “morality clause” to cover vendors, partnered companies, and/or lobbied politicians.

    That’ll learn ’em.

    1. Allison Mary*

      Ha! This is great – especially the vendors part, because I imagine that would create a serious limitation on their ability to conduct normal business.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        I recall reading about some fundamentalist organization that actually tried to instigate a boycott of all LGBT-friendly companies, then hastily backtracked when they realized that would effectively mean abandoning any online presence whatsoever. (Silicon Valley. Heathens, the lot of ’em.)

  32. Margaret*

    That’s pretty scary. I attended a college that had a lifestyle agreement for both students and employees (I believe it’s since been loosened up for employees), and even they acknowledged that sometimes you had to balance beliefs with family – e.g., there was a provision that was basically you can drink with your immediate family if it was a cultural thing, even though otherwise alcohol was forbidden.

  33. WhiskeyTango*

    I attended a university, possibly this one, that had similar policies – but it was 20 years ago. They had a hard time keeping employees that weren’t professors or senior administrators because of it. But then they tried overreaching to the students as well. It was a rule that you couldn’t drink alcohol on campus or at university events, which was fair enough I suppose. Most of us would just go off campus – housing was expensive, so it was cheaper to live off campus anyway. But then they started expanding the definition of “university event” – so I was chairman of a large organization on campus. If we attended an off-campus event, as chairman, I was liable (to the university) if anyone drank because we were representing the university. (Ha! Try keeping college students from drinking at conventions!) I would usually blandly remind people of the rule, but did nothing to enforce it.

    My senior year, they expanded “university event” to mean any gathering of two or more students – on or off campus. So if my friend and I went to dinner and had a glass of wine, it was technically a violation. There was a BIG blow back from the students (and parents, even) and the rule was rescinded. (The school was a bit hypocritical though – they owned a house in town that they used for fund raising that was exempt from the “No Alcohol” rule — probably because its hard to raise money without providing some sort of libation. Since a lot of parents knew about the fund raising house, it was hard for the school to maintain its rule.

    My favorite part was when they hired a guest professor from New Orleans. He asked my class once if we could have a “Hurricane Party” for the last day of class… Apparently, he’d missed the “no drinking” memo and wanted to celebrate. It was incredibly awkward for us to have to explain to him… but then we all agreed to release class early and if some of us happened to meet up the bar in town… well… no one would be any the wiser. (Also, he did not accept the full time position offered by the school… too bad, he was a good teacher…)

  34. Amber Rose*

    Run like your pants are on fire. And when you leave, print this whole thing out, give it to them and say “this is why.”

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      What she said. Get a copy of this document for your records and in the future if anyone asks why you left, you have your reason in black and white.

    1. OP*

      I sent a note to AAM letting her know of my appreciation of both her and Ms. Ballman for answering my question and shedding some light on the legality of the situation. I don’t know how to thank Ms. Ballman personally, but would if I knew how.

  35. penny*

    This sounds like the kind of story that the media would love to run with. I can only imagine there are other employees who aren’t happy and this could anonymously find its way to the media. The court of public opinion can often be a bad thing but helpful in some situations. They are way over reaching acceptable boundaries.

  36. Rivka*

    Ironically, this is probably a “family values” religion and institution. When speaking to them about any of this I would emphasize “family” at every turn. You might say that abiding by this policy will, in fact, keep you away from family members and family groups. It will put a strain on the loving relationships you have. To the point of possibly breaking the family relationship. This may open their eyes to their policies that are actually counterproductive to their core message.

  37. OP*

    Hey everyone!

    OP here! Thank you all for your responses! One of my main concerns wasn’t an “Is this legal?” concern but more of an “Is this normal ( for a religious, educational, or non-profit organization)?” Your responses have let me know that this is definitely not normal and confirmed in my mind that this is an overreach of professional boundaries. I really appreciate it because half the staff here are “lifers” and have never held a job outside of the university. Those of us who have seem to have the most issues with things like this.

    I have already emailed my concerns to my staff representative (still no response), talked to my department chair about my concerns, and asked HR how they would plan on implementing this policy. I do know that if we don’t sign the policy when they give us the final draft, we will be terminated. Many of my co-workers have mentioned they want to push back, but feel like they will be black-listed if they do. They all have told me privately that they won’t sign, but I’m not sure if they’ll do that if it comes down to a feed my family or sign this document stating I will abide by this new policy and so will my family.

    I do want to clarify something. They document the school sent out was a draft. Both the faculty and staff have pushed back to some degree, but the general consensus seems to be that the school will do what the school will do and they won’t be able to enforce it either way. We are having another meeting with some of the leaders here soon in order to further discuss this new policy. We’ll see how it goes (and I’ll keep the AAM community posted).

    Thank you again for your reponses! I really appreciate this community!

    1. Temperance*

      OP, thanks for the update! My advice would be to dust off your resume and start applying to other higher ed institutions near you, because the competition will be fierce when your coworkers also try to jump ship. Good luck.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      Thanks for engaging with us! Good luck—and if you and the other employees can push back together, you’ll have more of an impact. I hope it works out, or alternatively that you find a new job that you love.

    3. Erin*

      The “lifers” comment is really telling – it’s so easy to have your work norms skewed if you’ve been in one place for a long time, especially if that place is (arguably) dysfunctional.

      Hopefully there’s enough push back and legitimate concerns raised that they’ll revise the document accordingly.

      Good luck, looking forward to the update!

      1. Erin*

        …one more thought: I suppose it would be entirely possible to sign the document, in the interest of keeping your job and not burning a bridge, but then also start job searching. Unless of course, there’s something in the document you’re signing forbidding you from doing so. :P

    4. Observer*

      Ha! I’m betting that they want you to sign the document in the hopes that you will feel bound by it. Because they must know quite well that it’s an unenforceable thing.

      Smart organizations, religious or not, don’t do that kind of thing, but this doesn’t sound like the work of smart leadership.

  38. RVA Cat*

    Also, assuming that the university is fundamentalist Christian, does anyone else find it ironic that Christ himself would run afoul of this pledge? What with the turning water into wine and hanging out with prostitutes, lepers and tax collectors?

    1. Temperance*

      Ex-evangelical here. Not really? They have explanations for all of that stuff, actually. There is no “gotcha” with that group.

      1.) The water into wine thing is because grape juice needed to be fermented into wine to be safe to drink. You could get botulism from grapes.

      2.) He was evangelizing to all of those people.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Yes; I always think of this as the “LOL shrimp” argument. That is, people often go “lol and God also hates shrimp!” as if that was some kind of trump card. Problem is, the explanation for why Christian can eat shrimp is millennia old; pulling a “God hates shrimp” is less a gotcha than a sign of how little you know about the religion you claim to be criticizing or debunking.

        Most other “gotchas” are the same: apologetics have addressed the issues long since. Non-believers may not find the arguments compelling, but that doesn’t mean that “oh gosh I never thought about the shrimp thing!” or whatever is… news. It’s just interpreted in a different context.

        There are a lot of ways to address issues of religious tolerance and so forth, but the standard ‘the religion makes no sense’ stuff is well, well, well covered, and is only compelling to other nonbelievers. Ironically, it’s a form of preaching to the choir, and it’s not at all useful.

      2. neverjaunty*

        I agree with you that they always have an answer (however convoluted) for anything but…really? Jesus can turn water into wine, but can’t neutralize botulism?

        1. Hapax Legomenon*

          If I had the choice, I’d probably go with turning water into a known safe drink instead of trying to convince people they could drink something that traditionally wasn’t safe to drink. But I’m lazy.

        2. Observer*

          Nope. Context – since wine was a standard drink, rather than just for whooping it up, it was different then. Secondly, people needed to be able to see that the stuff was safe and the only way to do that was to turn it into wine.

          I’m not even a Christian, but this one is pretty elementary.

  39. Fred*

    I assume this is a Christian organization?
    In that case they would have fired Jesus. He used to hang out with “undesirables”.

    1. Willow Sunstar*

      He also turned water into wine and, as I recall from my days in Lutheran elementary school, also drank it.

  40. The Strand*

    OP, if this new language does pass and you and your colleagues are faced with signing or losing your jobs, I would ask that someone – anonymously if necessary – contact the media that covers higher ed.

    Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education are the two best names to reach. You don’t have to personally go out on a limb, but my suggestion is to think of the many people who might want to work for your school, or who might suffer if other schools decide to follow your institution’s lead.

  41. Willow Sunstar*

    I would quit. But then, most of my relatives are either German Lutherans (who also drink German beer) or Catholics, and neither religion prohibits drinking in moderation, though both frown on being drunk.

  42. Corby*

    “Higher learning” is such a massive misnomer. This is a cult. Cults try to cut you off from your friends who they don’t approve of.

  43. Matt*

    I hope the OP is able to find a new position at a saner, less judgy organization very soon. When you depart, you should nail a copy of your resignation letter to your boss’s door, ala Luther. :D

  44. LabManager*

    I had the misfortune of getting sucked into a private Christian school that ended up being more religious than they let on. It’s amazing what they get away with, including things that effect education dramatically to the point where you’re not learning what you should be. Private colleges have so little common standard and are pretty much just a scam that needs to be shut down.

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