my work is getting more and more religious and I’m an atheist

A reader writes:

I have no idea how to handle this situation. I have worked for six years at a secular nonprofit. This is by design — I am an atheist. I’m usually very private about this — I believe strongly that religion or lack of is a personal choice and I don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs. If anyone asks about church, I usually just say that I love brunch too much to give up my Sunday mornings.

For several years this worked great. I never “outed” myself at work and I never really ran into a situation where it mattered. I know my boss Mary is heavily involved in her church, and she mentions about those activities to me in small talk. However, in the past year, we’ve hired another executive, Rachel, whose past work experience has solely been with church-affiliated organizations and the church itself.

Now at our nonprofit, our events and our messaging are becoming increasingly religious. Letters mention being blessed by God. A meditation/quiet room became a prayer room filled with various faith objects. Dinner events include an invocation and a blessing. Materials given out at events include references to the Lord, our Heavenly Father watching over all, His will, standing before His throne. Most of these things come directly from Rachel.

I have talked to Rachel about my discomfort. Asking if we can soften the language to make it more inclusive of others. Maybe not call it a prayer room? Take out the line about “God blessing all of us”? I made sure to frame it as making sure we’re putting out the message that we are an inclusive organization. Rachel eventually pushed back, saying that “most” of our donors are of this same religion and would be fine with it.

After this, I had to out myself. I had a one-on-one with Mary and let her know that the increasingly religious language made me uncomfortable, and that I wanted to clarify with her that the organization was a secular one. She said it was and apologized, and said that she was glad I was pointing these things out because the two of them don’t notice the religious aspects because it’s “default” to them.

But it keeps happening. An event this week is being held at a church, with an invocation and blessing, and a speaker who’s giving a speech on not squandering the blessings of God.

I don’t mind people having their religions, I really don’t. I just don’t want my own work and effort going towards something of that nature, especially when I did my research before taking this job that this was a secular organization. Is there a better way I could be handling this, or is it just time for me to move on?

It may be time to move on. What you’re describing sounds pervasive enough that it might be hard to fully stop.

It’s worth a try though. Rachel’s line about the religious references being fine because “most” of your donors are the same religion is a huge amount of BS and deserves pushback. Point out that “most” isn’t “all” and it doesn’t make sense to alienate supporters by making them feel the organization isn’t for them. Point out, too, that the organization has specifically presented itself as secular, both to supporters and to employees, and that this is a significant shift that shouldn’t happen casually. If it’s going to happen at all, it should be a deliberate strategic decision, not something that occurs because someone more vocally religious happens to be hired.

If Rachel is the head of the organization, she may not care. But if she’s more like a peer to your boss (which sounds like it might be the case?), it’s worth talking to someone above her. It’s also worth talking to coworkers to see if anyone shares your concerns — and don’t overlook that even people of Rachel’s faith might share your concerns about whether this is the right direction for the organization.

I’d also talk again with Mary since she thanked you last time and seemed to suggest you should continue flagging this stuff. Take her up on that! Tell her it’s continuing to happen and give her specific examples. Ask her to tell you, realistically, how much of this she thinks can be stopped and how much of it the organization (the organization, not Rachel) is fine with. If she again seems genuinely concerned, then say, “It’s become pervasive enough that I don’t think addressing it case-by-case will solve it. I think we need a broader discussion as an organization, and clearer guidelines around what is and isn’t appropriate for our particular context. What’s the best way to approach making that happen?”

It’s incredibly irritating when people assume their particular religious faith is the default or something everyone is comfortable with. Sometimes, though, if you speak up enough, you can shake them out of that assumption and change their behavior. Not always, and maybe not here. But before you leave over this, it’s worth giving that a shot — especially if this is really driven by Rachel and not the broader leadership of the organization.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 476 comments… read them below }

  1. Hermione Stranger*

    Beyond “not seeing it,” Rachel seems weirdly committed to converting your non-profit… so to speak. The quiet room becomes a prayer room? That’s deliberate, and it is weird.
    How much power does she have? If she has the final say, I don’t see this changing at all, because someone who instigates such a drastic level of change isn’t doing it by accident, she’s doing it because she wants to.

    1. JJ*

      I had a peer who did something similar, not a religious conversion, but blatantly wanting the entire company to change its focus solely to the area he managed, i.e. instead of being a full-service llama support company, to drop the grooming and shearing programs and only offer hoof support.

      It took him a few years, but he succeeded. He cozied up to the management and eventually was in a position to fire everyone outside of his department (I left before that) and now it’s solely a hoof support company. Watch out how Rachel is positioning herself to the management (if she’s not the top person), it sounds to me like she’s doing the exact same thing and the best thing to do is leave.

    2. Zennish*

      Yep… My read is that it’s totally deliberate, and she was just trying to pacify the OP when called on it.

      1. Kumajiro*

        Rachel pushed back, it was Mary who could have been the one trying to pacify LW. Though, I doubt it since Mary was perfectly content to not have any of the religious stuff around pre-Rachel.

    3. KayDeeAye*

      OP, there *may* be some hope to turn this around – maybe not, but maybe. I am a religious person (Presbyterian, to be precise), and I work for an organization that, while its mission is not religious, does have some overtly Christian wording in its policy book and so on. I am fine with this, as a general rule, but we had a situation a couple of years back where one particular staff person was sending all-staff messages out via his company email that were not compatible with all forms of Christianity. One or two made me really uncomfortable.

      I struggled with how to respond (in fact I posted a question in one of the open threads here), and in the end, I wrote a very carefully worded email to the person here who holds a position equivalent to “staff administrator” or something like that. I don’t know exactly what she did, of course – and perhaps she did nothing – but what I do know is the “Good Lord, that doesn’t fit in with my form of Christianity!” messages stopped. Immediately. May you have similar success!

      1. Bibliovore*

        It’s great that you were able to get the not-compatible-with-all-forms-of-Christianity messages stopped, and I’m sure some of your colleagues are particularly grateful. You said your organization does not have a religious mission; is it a Christian-based organization otherwise? If not, please understand that while you may be fine with some overtly Christian wording in its policy book and other messaging, non-Christians may well see the organization’s use of Christian-specific messaging as being as eyebrow-raising as you saw your colleague’s not-compatible-with-all-Christianity-forms messaging, and may be just as uncomfortable with it.

        1. Librarian1*

          Agree with Bibliovore. If it’s not a Christian-based company, it’s not cool to have explicitly Christian messages in the policy book or elsewhere. It’s not inclusive of non-Christians.

        2. AnnaBananna*

          This is a good point to bring up. What is in the actual policy? If it’s secular in nature/language then the OP can be more comfortable pushing back since it’s going against the integrity of the org’s culture.

          But honestly, I would be sending out my resumes. Rachel sounds like a nightmare.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        Hmmmm. Did I write *anything* that implied that I thought stopping Paul the Perilously Pious from sending these particular messages made the organization inclusive for non-Christians? I hope not, because no, it definitely does not. :-) Someone who wasn’t at least reasonably comfortable with generic Christianity would probably have difficulties working here.

        All getting Paul to quite sending those messages did was make the organization a *little* more inclusive for practicing Christians of different kinds. That might not seem like much to you, but I consider it a win.

        The pro-Christianity language is in our organizational documents (think of something like a mission statement, but longer and more comprehensive, plus the policy book), and that language has been a part of the policy for close to a century. Nobody who comes to work here ought to be surprised by it because it’s right out in the open for anyone to see. This isn’t something that’s been sprung on people, unlike at the OP’s organization.

        I shared the story of those messages that made me so uncomfortable not because I thought they demonstrated that my organization has cured the problem of inappropriately applied Christianity. It has not. I personally don’t think those references to Christianity strengthen our otherwise secular mission, and in fact, I think they are more likely to dilute the message rather than strengthen it. I just thought that the OP and others facing a similar situation might benefit from knowing that sometimes, a reasonable and well-worded objection can cause management make a change – because I truly believe that even if those messages made them uncomfortable (and I think they probably did), I doubt they would have done anything if I and perhaps others hadn’t objected.

        You might not think this is a big deal, and probably it isn’t. But it mattered to me and I know it mattered to at least a few other people here too.

        1. Avasarala*

          So sassy!

          Bibliovore was rightfully pointing out that if you felt so much better once your religion was included in company messaging instead of explicitly excluded, think about how non-Christians might feel! Maybe you want to expand that action to everyone instead of just what affects you.

          1. KayDeeAye*

            Ooh, I kind of like “sassy,” so thanks! It absolutely would be nice if the organization were more inclusive – as I said, I don’t think the pro-Christianity stuff is necessary to our actual mission. But did you notice the part where I said that pro-Christianity language has been part of the organization’s founding documents for nearly 100 years? Our policy is voted on by the members, not leadership and not staff, so I have literally no power to change it. It will change when the members decide it has to, and that’s all there is to it.

            It actually has changed quite a bit in the past 20 years or so. There are members who have actively worked to get a lot of the language that isn’t specific to our mission out of the policy book – not just religious stuff but also stuff that’s too local or too outdated (or just too odd) and things like that. And they’ve had some success. But I have no say in that, and that’s all there is to it.

            What I can do is point out when a staff member has gone too far – tried to take us past what C.S. Lewis calls “Mere Christianity” and into A Very Specific Type of Christianity. So that’s what I did. If that makes me “sassy,” so be it. :-)

    4. GothicBee*

      This is what I’m wondering. I mean, I’ve worked for a religious organization and this sounds at last as (if not more) vocally religious on a day-to-day basis than they were. At the very least, it seems like Rachel might think being more vocally religious will be attractive to donors if she believes most of them are the same religion.

      1. Dragoning*

        She may have been taught this as her default wording and how things are “supposed” to look, doesn’t know what else it could look like, and is mad at having that pointed out to her, so she’s deflecting.

        But that’s still not a good situation.

        1. yala*

          If it were just wording in emails, that would be one thing (I’ll casually use religious phrases, though in social conversation or on my social media, not in a work setting, because, well…work setting), but the changing of a quiet room to a *prayer* room seems pretty particular. When OP says it’s been filled with “various faith objects” I somehow doubt that a prayer rug or bowl is included with those.

          1. Sleve McDichael*

            So I don’t have any direct experience with Islam, but the letter writer doesn’t mention Jesus, just God, so isn’t it possible that those are exactly the religious objects? Neither form of Christianity I have come into contact with requires prayer rooms and only Catholicism permits religious objects. I could have misread but I didn’t see LW mention a particular religion. But my real point is, I don’t think that whether it’s a prayer rug or a crucifix or a Shinto shrine adds to the required response at all.

            1. BluntBunny*

              For Islam it they would usually use the word Allah which is just Arabic for God so Arabic Christians would also say Allah. However I think Christians would be uncomfortable if they saw reference to Allah.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                FYI Syrian Catholics have been in the US since the 1800s. And a good swath of them are currently refugees. They’re Christian. They might be surprised to hear Arabic, but it would make them more comfortable not uncomfortable.

            2. ADHSquirrelWhat*

              As a member of a religious minority in the US –

              References to “God” without context pretty much always mean the Christian God. Mention of Jesus or not. Sometimes they MEAN “Judeo-Christian” – but even then, it means “Christian, but leaving out Jews isn’t cool, sooooooo … yeah we won’t mention Jesus and we’re cool, right?”

              It never means, say, Zeus. And believe me, it’s SUPPOSED to not mean Zeus. OR Allah, or Shinto kami or anyone/thing else. It’s “God the only real deity anyway our God and yours if only you’ll see the light”.

              1. Lisa*

                As a member of a religious micro-minority there is absolutely an assumption that you are either Christian or Christian-light (But not one of the “wierd” kinds or Jewish or Jew-ish or atheist/agnostic. Or Muslim or Hindu but only if you present with hijab or bindi. And people will make these assumptions and say awful things in the workplace just assuming that of course you’re not that. I can spot a Mormon or a Scientologist or a JW or a Wiccan from a thousand yards because I know the code. But most people can’t. And partially because of that, these assumptions can be extremely painful for religiously-marginalized people. Who are not comfortable outing themselves at work, I know because I’ve been one and have had the huddled conversations.

      2. Impy*

        I think she’s just an arrogant unthinking martinet who needs to be reined in. Imposing your religious beliefs on subordinates is vile.

        1. allathian*

          If the mission statement of the organization is clearly secular, I wonder why she even applied for a job there… Never mind that somebody failed pretty spectacularly when they didn’t in notice her proselytizing that they hired her! People like Mary breathe their religion, so it’s unlikely she would’ve seen a reason to mask it when interviewing.

      3. EPLawyer*

        Im willing to bet she is ass-u-ming that most donirs have the same religious beliefs. Because doesnt everyone believe her specific way?

        However I agree. Time to move on. Your boss doesnt really see a problem with it and Rachel is just spreading all over. Its not going to get better

        1. LunaLena*

          I wondered about that assumption, too. Especially since she came from a specifically religious non-profit. I’ve noticed that people have a way of getting locked into their little worlds – when they’ve been in one area long enough, they assume that the entire world is like that. I work in higher ed and have noticed that attitude with some faculty – surely EVERYONE cares about X, since the whole physics department cares about X, right?

          1. Caroline Bowman*

            And when you object in anything but the gentlest, most carefully worde terms, you ”don’t respect” the faith. You are persecuting them, pretty much.

            Yeah, no. It’s a secular organisation. The conversation needs to be had about whether that’s now changing, and if so, bye-bye. Inserting personal beliefs into everything isn’t on.

      4. Ginar369*

        It might be more attractive to donors but what about the people/groups the non-profit is supposed to help? Will this push of religion make some uncomfortable about using the services of his employer? Will his employer start to use religion to narrow those that it does help?

    5. Letter Writer*

      The prayer room, specifically, was a pet project of hers that is outside her normal responsibilities. We are a small staff so there isn’t a strict hierarchy, but she is for all intents and purposes second-in-command to my boss, and I act in many was as her assistant.

      I agree that she’s doing it because she wants to. The first few times I spoke to her about it, she did genuinely respond as if it was just a habit she didn’t realize she was still doing. But then she began to push back, specifically saying she wanted the language left in.

      1. Viette*

        I think this is the key thing to recognize, and yeah I don’t think this is ever going to change. I’m also an atheist and I’ve worked for faith-based healthcare organizations. Many people of the faith who worked in those places loved it because they felt most comfortable and happy in that environment. Being in an environment without any religious trappings was actively uncomfortable for them — they were the sort of people who have faith-based items all over their homes and who decorate their cubicles with them. *Not* having that stuff is a statement, an uncomfortable statement, for them. Rachel seems to be trying to create that environment for herself (she wants a prayer room; she wants to feel surrounded by the practices of her religion) and she has the power to do so. Anybody whose logic is that most of your donors are religious like her, so it’s fine, is not going to back off.

        She wants to put up religious stuff all over her cubicle! But her cubicle is your entire office. And she can, so she will, and I agree with Alison you are probably going to want to move on.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          You may want to check this with the board (I assume your non-profit has one) if that is in line with their vision for the org.

        2. Uncomfortable Amen*

          As an atheist living in the South, this is my life daily. Many people don’t consider Secular to be neutral – they view it as anti-religion. It seems like Rachel is one of those people, and since she has more power than you, with Mary being mostly passive, this is just going to be the way it is.

          You can continue to work in a place where you’re daily made to feel like an outsider, if you can bear it, or you can try to move on. It’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons.

          1. anonbenon*

            I grew up in rural midwest where everyone is a Christian and has associated religious items proudly displayed everywhere, they don’t even register that their experience isn’t a universal one, which is a huge privilege. It’s maddening.

      2. Observer*

        You need to go over her head, either to your boss or the Board.

        It’s OK to change your organization from a secular one to a religious one, but as Alison says, you don’t do that casually or by stealth.

        Also, especially in a secular organization, you don’t give benefits and resources to people based on their religious affiliation. Changing the quiet room to an overt prayer room with this kind of imagery is doing exactly that.

        If you can’t kick it upstairs, or that doesn’t work, I think you may have to start looking elsewhere.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I would specifically consider going to the Board with this one. It sounds as if LW’s boss is the organization’s CEO (from LW saying Rachel is “second in command to my boss”) and she’s already made it clear she’s not going to put her foot down when Rachel wants to do religious things. She may fret a bit that it is upsetting dear LW, but that’s different from telling dear co-religionist Rachel that she absolutely cannot do this with the company resources and reputation anymore.

          The Board, however, which signed up to run a secular organization, may have different opinions about it. Time to find out, I think. If they don’t see it as a problem, you’ll know that’s the new direction this organization is going, and you can get out.

          1. GreenDoor*

            This was my suggestion, too. It is the Board that sets the mission, vision, and goals of an organization. Executive officers merely carry it out on the day-to-day. If I had employees going rogue and drastically changing the messaging to our donors, clients, and the public, I’d be pretty ticked. Especially if the organization had employees contemplating leaving over it!

      3. SK*

        One thing I will say is that my very secular organization also provides a prayer room (in additional to a quiet room and some other rooms). It’s non-denominational and doesn’t have any overtly religious decorations and you’re encouraged to use it for meditation. I’m guessing it was provided at least partially as a place for Muslim employees to practice their daily prayers, among other things. I also ID as atheist and I think it’s kind of cool they made it available. Obviously your situation has a ton of other factors as well and I’d be job hunting too, but putting it out there that a prayer room (and JUST a prayer room, not all this extra stuff) can be a thoughtful gesture for an otherwise secular organization to provide.

        1. aebhel*

          Yeah, same. It’s not the prayer room that bothers me, as an atheist–as you say, Muslim employees (in particular, but not exclusively) may want a more private place to practice their daily prayers, and it’s nice to make that available for people who need it.

          The explicit religious imagery would bother me, though, especially with everything else that’s going on.

        2. Observer*

          The real difference here is that this is a prayer room *in addition* to other quiet rooms, and can be used for meditation, too.

          1. SK*

            Yes, definitely. Just want to dissuade people hearing of prayer rooms for the first time from this post from thinking that they’re necessarily a red flag if your organization provides one.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              I can see a “meditation” room or something like that..but specifically calling it a prayer room sounds strange for some reason. Maybe b/c I’m in the heathenly northeast, but I’ve never seen such a room in an office setting

              1. Mimi*

                When we have space, we often have a “meditation room” or “prayer and meditation room” and the messaging includes prayer as a use, particularly around Ramadan. Sometimes it gets called a “prayer room,” particularly if we don’t have one right now and Ramadan is coming up. We’re a secular organization, but see a prayer/meditation room as an amenity comparable to a nursing room.

                1. Mimi*

                  To be clear, there is no religious symbolism or iconography in the room. Usually there’s a rug and a chair.

                2. UKDancer*

                  We have a similar space in my company. We call it the prayer and reflection room. People can use it for prayer or contemplation or anything else. Like yours it doesn’t have any particular religious symbols. I know my Muslim colleague uses it during Ramadan for prayer and I know another colleague has used it as she’s been handling a bereavement and sometimes needs a place to scream.

                3. SK*

                  Yes, this sums it up well. My office is also in the ‘heathenly northeast’ (just on other side of the border) but we’re also in an area with a large immigrant and/or Muslim population. At my previous job a coworker had to do his daily prayers in a makeshift film studio when it was vacant. Not sure where he was forced to go when we had film shoots.

                4. pamela voorhees*

                  From my experience working in the southern United States, I often found that people were saying “prayer room” as shorthand for “this is a room where you have to be very quiet and respectful” but typically (not always, but typically) didn’t care what you did in the room so long as it was quiet. If we had patrons experiencing sensory overload, for example, we’d direct them to the prayer room. It’s not the ideal phrasing (meditation room is less secular and still gets the point across) but I want to agree with SK and others that a “prayer” room in and of itself is not necessarily indicating an overly religious organization. The decoration in the room usually makes or breaks it, though.

        3. smirkette*

          Another atheist here, and prayer rooms don’t bother me but explicitly religious language in a secular non-profit would absolutely have me job hunting or donating money elsewhere.

      4. Temperance*

        So not that you should say this to Rachel or Mary, but just remember …. Carrie’s mother had a prayer room, too. ;)

      5. Curmudgeon in California*

        If I was in your place, I would find a new job, then let them know that their religious assumptions and messaging are why you are gone.

        You signed up to work for a secular organization, and now they are changing that on the assumption that their donors share their religion. It’s only an assumption, and it’s an arrogance that only members of the dominant religion share. I would be fit to be tied, as an ex-Christian

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Would it be over the top in this scenario to cc the board on a letter of resignation?

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I think it would be good to go to the board before resigning. They may not be ok with it, and they might shut the whole thing down. Then OP won’t have to leave.
          I’m wondering if Rachel is from the type of church where it’s drilled into them their mission is to “save” everyone, everywhere, at all times. People from this type of church are always trying to save people everywhere they go, and will get extremely pushy and inappropriate with it.
          If Rachel is from this type of church she will try to fight back. It would be interesting and you should stay out of it and just watch.

          1. Something Clever*

            I think if OP went to the board with it, and it was then shut down, the ensuing hostility would probably still result in OP wanting to leave. The fact that Rachel’s boss is aware of the issue and does nothing is a huge problem.

            1. Tidewater 4-1009*

              Rachel’s boss is weak and wishy-washy. She has shown she won’t do anything, so someone who will needs to be notified.
              OP needs to know if higher management and the board agree with the more religious direction of the organization, or not. Then OP will know whether they need to leave.

        3. Chilly Delta Life*

          I would be very careful with your wording if you directly tie your leaving to the religious items/talk.

          Basically you want to get the message across that it was changing the organization to something different than you signed up for VS I left because I hate you talking about your faith! The second thing is what some folks will hear regardless… because they like to feel discriminated against maybe(?), but it sounds like at least one boss is semi-rational about this not being “Business As Usual”.

          Good luck and please update!

      6. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        Two really important things:
        One – do y’all receive federal funding? If so, you really need to take a look at what you’re doing – because you can jeopardize your funding when faith-based stuff gets added in.

        and Two: as a nonprofit, that means you’re serving people. Is the religious stuff being pushed on the people you’re supposed to be helping? It’s infuriating enough to have it stuck on the management end, and for that you DEFINITELY have my sympathy, because your situation sucks, but if there’s suddenly a religious litmus test /feel/ for the people y’all are supposed to be helping, that’s some VILE gatekeeping. No one wants to be told that their secular-world problems need to be dealt with by someone else’s religious morality filter. Having people /feel as though/ they have to conform to someone else’s religion to get help is VILE whether or not the requirement is real.

        I absolutely agree with going to the board, and I truly hope they see this as an overstep of some catastrophic proportions. And if the response is something wishy-washy like the prayer room being available for all religions and if people want their own scriptures they can have those left behind, the Principia Discordia is available online for free and is perfect for all such occasions.

        1. Radical Edward*

          *points up* Yes. Seconding all of this, so hard. (And I hail from the Bible Belt. It’s made me super leery of the sort of effusive Christianity described by LW and others in the comments, since it can often – not always, but often! – herald gatekeeping behaviour and some really insidious -phobias.)

        2. anonbenon*

          If the org receives federal/state funding and the religious changes could put that in jeopardy that’s something I’d definitely bring up if I went and talked to the board and use it as a big talking point in my concerns.

          1. pamela voorhees*

            +100, it can also change how your non-profit should be categorized and report to other agencies

      7. Lisa*

        Yeah but this isn’t something she gets to just do. If it’s a secular organization but she’s used to religious organizations, that’s a wakeup call on her part. Um, no, we are secular actually and even though you share faith with a handful of your coworkers you need to contain that. If we are going to pivot from secular to religious that is a decision for the BoD, not something for you to just slide us into because you have a preference, Rachel

      8. anonbenon*

        Like, how do you know that you’re not turning a general meditation/quiet room into a christian prayer room? That seems like a hell of an excuse. “Sorry, I didn’t realize I was bringing all of this christian paraphernalia and setting it up and actively requesting that the quiet room be referred to as a prayer room instead…” Wow, if that’s the case you either have bouts of missing time or I’m concerned about her going into fugue states. The point is, she lied. She knew she was doing it and was just trying to play it off. I’m actually super upset about her turning the meditation room, because that’s way beyond her duties and it’s a shared space she has no power over. If I was you I’d take all the stuff out and when asked say “Sorry, I didn’t realize i was doing it.”

    6. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, that is weird. I mean, for crying out loud, I worked at a church for a while and our quiet rooms were still quiet rooms, not prayer rooms.

    7. aebhel*

      That’s my read as well, although a lot of very religious Christians are weirdly oblivious to the fact that not everyone in the world (a) is Christian or (b) views pervasive Christian religious symbolism as neutral and unobjectionable.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        It’s because evangelicalism is part of most Christian practices, as well as the fact that America bills itself as non-religious while being actually very Christian. I know many Christians who feel like exposing others to their beliefs is giving them a gift- the Christian god is the one true god and it’s their job to make sure as many people as possible are saved. Along those same lines, because Christianity is so ubiquitous in America they also just think of it as “normal” and the way things ought to be.

        1. Anonymous for this one*

          Yes. That sort is always angered and insulted if you push back or try to avoid their religious display and proselytization. They do know that a lot of people are repulsed by it – that’s why they feel so persecuted despite their social power – but they think it’s a sign to just keep pushing harder, or that their audience is a aberrant, bad, unlikable person. I’d make tracks as quickly as possible with this person being supported by their organization. They are often not fair supervisors or colleagues to people who aren’t part of their faith community.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          I know many Christians who feel like exposing others to their beliefs is giving them a gift- the Christian god is the one true god and it’s their job to make sure as many people as possible are saved.

          Arggghhhh! I hate this attitude that they have.

          First, if anyone is the US has not “heard the word” they have been living under a rock their entire lives. They don’t need to “share” it. Everybody has already “heard” it.

          Second, it is not a “gift”, it is an insulting annoyance, this assumption that if they only tell us and push their cult that we will automatically “believe”. If we don’t, they need to tell us more and harder. No, we reject it, it isn’t a gift if we don’t want their brand of eternal life insurance.

          Third, there are lots of brands under the Christian umbrella, many of whom will tell you in all sincerity that the others worship evil. So religious trappings and phrases of one brand might even be offensive to another. For example, many Protestants, especially evangelicals, think Catholics are evil idolators.

          I’m an ex-Christian. Their proselytization practices are too familiar to me, and they infuriate me. If I was working for a non-profit that did this, I would already have one foot out the door the moment the “God” talk started showing up in emails.

          1. Xarcady*

            Hi, evil idolator here! Yes, I’m Catholic and yes, I’ve been told I’m not an Christian and am doomed to hell because of my religion, and yes, I have suffered through conversion attempts—and this has happened in the workplace.

            Which is why I think religion does not belong in the workplace, unless it is a religious organization, of course.

            Cubicles full of Christian tchotchkes make me uncomfortable because I don’t see why you need them at work—one or two, sure, but more than that and it gives the impression that work is not their main concern while they are at work.

            1. CastIrony*

              I’m sorry, but Catholics are being told they’re going to hell, too?! I thought Catholicism was part of Christianity. But I agree with you, Xarcady. Religion never belongs in a workplace. Ever.

              1. MentalEngineer*

                Yep, some Protestant denominations view Catholicism as a perversion of Jesus’ original intentions for his followers! Some of this is kinda reasonable in a historical context – the Roman Catholic Church of the 1500s does look pret-ty different from what Jesus was up to. Some of it is merging other conflicts with religion and then backfilling them into theology as appropriate – also something people have been doing forever. And some of it is, well, Martin Luther being Martin Luther and writing pamphlets depicting the Pope as the literal Antichrist because he was in a bad mood that day.

                1. pamela voorhees*

                  Almost every subset of Christianity views other subsets of Christianity as the “wrong” Christianity. Sometimes there can even be two churches that follow the exact same specific subset of Christianity in a town, but Church A thinks Church B is wrong because they use the wrong hymnal. It’s wild. Relating back to the question, Rachel might even think that she’s being truly “non denominational” because she’s just adding stuff “”everyone”” (aka, every Christian) can agree on like crosses or talking about God — it’s not like she’s being explicit about her specific subset! That would be isolating!

              2. V8 Fiend*

                Unfortunately in some places, especially the Deep South, Catholicism isn’t considered to be “Christian enough”.

                I grew up in Arkansas, which is heavily Southern Baptist. The church I was raised in considered anyone who wasn’t Southern Baptist to be not a true Christian and free game when it came to witnessing.

            2. Cap. Marvel*

              LOL, I’m going to use “evil idolator” next time someone tells me I’m not a Christian. At my Catholic school they used to tell us that Christianity is like ice cream and Catholicism is one of the flavors. So whenever someone told me that Catholicism is not the right type of Christianity, I told them that I didn’t like their flavor. It always confused them and amused me.

              I can’t imagine having religious items anywhere on my desk or in my workplace. The only time I let anyone at work know I was Catholic was when someone tried to wipe my forehead on Ash Wednesday (sigh).

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I like the “I don’t like your flavor” thing. I may need to borrow that.

            3. not going to say my name.*

              I am an atheist but I have Jewish relatives who died in concentration camps. I had someone try to convince me that I was going to hell because I wasn’t her religion. I let her know that I had family die in concentration camps due to their different religion and I did not appreciate her telling me that I would be going to hell because I had a different religious choice than she had and I asked her why she couldn’t let other people have their own religious choice and live in peace. I asked her to stop being so rude to me and walked away.

            4. Hey Nonny Anon*

              Another evil idolator over here! I was in college the first time I heard that I wasn’t truly Christian because I could not note the date that I’d accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior, and everyone knows us crazy Catholics worship Mary and the saints, so we can’t be trusted.

              I’m pretty hardcore in my faith (including praying the rosary in the quiet room sometimes), and I’m pretty appalled by Rachel’s behavior.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Definitely not! I think the Christians who are heavily into evangelizing make so much noise banging on about it that they attract all the attention, and no one notices the others who are just quietly living their lives and practicing their religion in a more private manner.

      2. whingedrinking*

        Yup. There have been times when I’ve had to gently explain to religious acquaintances that no, not everyone believes in “basically the same thing”. And I’m not talking about “all paths lead to the top of the mountain”, “everyone’s spiritual truth is valid”, the-blind-men-and-the-elephant ecumenicalism. More like “Everyone believes sinners go to Hell and you have to be ‘saved’ to get into Heaven”. Explaining that Hindus, Buddhists and atheists don’t believe that – much less that not even all Christians believe that – has given me more than one headache.

        1. Gerry L*

          Years ago, a friend who attended a catholic girls high school told me that “everyone is born Christian.” (This was her response after I explained that I was not Christian.) I challenged her by asking what about the millions of people who are born in non-Christian countries. So she backtracked and said that anyone not born into a specific religion is Christian… by default. I hope her world view has grown.

  2. Dust Bunny*

    “Not seeing it”, my foot.

    This is deliberate. They’re converting this to a de-facto religious organization but they’re too cowardly and dishonest to do it openly.

    1. Marysue*

      Yeah. I am a Christian and for many years I worked for a company that was explicitly guided by Christian principles, but not a ministry.

      And when it was small everyone there was a Christian. Most of them went to the same church.

      And I’m used to Christian orgs. I worked for a church, two other christian non-ministry companies, and a christian college.

      But, when the company started hiring more people many of which weren’t Christians, I was really, really aware of how certain company customs might feel to them – even though that’s absolutely what I am used to at work.

      And that’s at an overly christian place. If that started happening at my current company I would be SUPER aware of it.

    2. Dragoning*

      There’s no way you miss setting an event as a church with a speaker discussing God as “default.”

      Not in the US, anyway. I understand in some European countries that might be less noticeable?

      1. DerJungerLudendorff*

        I would expect it to be more likely in the US actually. It depends a lot on local demographics, and countries here tends to be less religiously homogenous and more interconnected than the US seems to be.

        You can probably get away with it in small, remote places. But a regional organization, or even a local one in many area’s wouldn’t never be doing this by accident.

        1. Dragoning*

          Lots of place in Europe view things as “cultural” that are actually “religious” (like…singing carols in churches and Advent Candles, and things. Had to explain to a Czech friend this winter that, no, that’s a religious thing).

          Setting an event in a church in America pretty much screams “religious” here.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              That is highly depends on who you are and what your background is.
              They are 100% religious to me, even though they are everywhere in the secular sphere. And there is a scale.
              I am fine with trees although I don’t have one at home.
              I never have and never will participate in any caroling.

              1. RussianInTexas*

                As an atheist naturalized American, these things are 100% religious. Just because you grew up in the atmosphere permeated with these things, doesn’t mean they are not religious and/or religion based.

              2. Cedrus Libani*

                Or people from that tradition, at least.
                My husband and I were both raised atheist, but he’s culturally Chinese Buddhist, and I’m culturally WASP. To me, all the Christmas stuff that isn’t explicitly about Jesus is secular – the lights, the trees, the reindeer, etc. It’s an excuse to get together with family, eat a feast, give the children some presents, and celebrate the fact that the darkest part of winter is technically over. Solstice celebrations were a thing long before Jesus was born; they’re not just for Christians. But to him, he didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas at all, so he doesn’t have the warm fuzzy memories. Instead, it’s just an unwelcome reminder of being different, and he’s different because he’s not Christian.

            2. Is butter a carb?*

              Carols would be religious songs, like O Holy Night, and not Rudolf the Rednose reindeer.

              Advent candles are specifically for saying prayers over. Christmas trees not so much. (also I’m Episcopalian, so we do not sing ‘Christmas’ carols until AFTER the 25th, because that is actually Christmas, not Advent – only in church, I still blast that Sirius XM Christmas station for a month prior).

              I do get that if you aren’t Christian this other stuff is still representative of a Christian holiday, I’m just trying to distinguish actual religious customs v non-religious ways to celebrate a religious holiday and the distinction between some paces outside the US and the US. In some cultures the more religious things are actually considered more cultural when they are actual religious rites. Hope I explained myself ok.

              1. IT Heathen*

                Trees are religious, just not Christian. There are plenty of us Pagans who have them, as they represent Yggdrasil and the Wild Hunt, which are parts of Germanic/Norse Yule.

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  That the Christians appropriated for their celebrations, so now they are part of both. :(

                2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  A former cashier at my company cafeteria agrees with you… evangelical fundamentalist Christian who told all of us that Christmas trees aren’t Christian, that it’s not Easter Sunday it’s Pascal Sunday, because the word ‘Easter’ derives from a Pagan name, and that St. Valentine’s Day was is “a Catholic holiday not a Christian one.” Yeah she said it.

            3. DanniellaBee*

              That really depends on who you talk to in the US. There are some people who view Christmas trees and carols as secular and others who view them as deeply religious.

            4. M*

              I explained yesterday the religious origins of saying ‘Bless you’ after a sneeze, because I very specifically choose to say ‘Salud’ instead. Americans are clueless.

              1. Coffee Bean*

                There are clueless people in every country. Just as there are astute people in every country. I don’t think generalizations about certain countries are helpful.

              2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                This American grew up saying ‘gesundheit’.
                (Yes, partly German ancestry.)

                1. Violet Rose*

                  Oh interesting, I said Gesundheit plenty growing up, but have no German ancestry (that I know of). Maybe it was just trendy in my area (SoCal). Though, now that I think about it, it was slightly more common in the “I didn’t understand anything you just said so I will jokingly pretend it was a sneeze” context.

                  When I moved to Germany, I had some fun with that one!

          1. OneWeepyEye*

            Oh, I don’t think setting an event in a church in America screams religious. It may be because I live in an extremely liberal area but I’ve attended many secular events in churches over the years. Heck, I was part of a LGBTQ group which met in a church three times a month. Churches are often just meeting spaces.

            1. doreen*

              It definitely depends on area, but I’m not sure that”liberal” matters. There are relatively small churches in my area that rent out or donate space for events – and not only community events , but baby showers and such as well. But you wouldn’t see that at church with a large congregation and a school – they tend to use all of their space for meeting of church and/or school related organizations. There might be a dance or spaghetti dinner- but it will be organized by and held to raise funds for one of the church organizations.

              1. Azure a fish argent*

                Catholic churches make great event sites for my medieval history club… they usually have lenient alcohol policies for the church social hall. Just not past the doors to the school wing.

                1. pandop*

                  Yes, we often rent church halls for dance events, some of them even come with bars for such renting out (in the UK, so CofE churches) – and dancers of all faiths and none attend, and organise events in these venues.

            2. Margaret*

              Agree, I’ve been to plenty of meetings and concerts, etc. that use a church as an event space. If that’s all it is, renting the space, I have no problem with it. There was one choir my husband was singing with for a while, where they used churches for concerts, but also had the pastor of that church give an opening, I can’t remember if they specifically prayed but it definitely felt like a religious welcoming. I believe the leaders of the choir were affiliated with the church. It definitely made me uncomfortable! But it’s when the church feels involved in the event, not just using the space that happens to be at a church.

            3. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Holding the meeting in a church is not the problem in and of itself. There are a lot of areas where a local church may be the only space large enough to fit all the attendees. But the fact that the speaker at this meeting is essentially planing to give a sermon rather than a workplace-appropriate keynote is a big ole nope. And I say that as a religious person. I was very careful and intentional about my religious choices and finding a church I was happy attending. That was MY decision. I don’t feel that it’s appropriate for my workplace to meddle in that in any way.

            4. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Yeah, the Presbyterian church in my town views it as part of their mission to make sure the church facility is always being used for something, and so it allows the community chorus/band to use the church for free. Other than when our normal practice room isn’t available so we use the chapel, it’s easy to forget we’re meeting in a church.

            5. Something Clever*

              Yep. Lots of churches rent out space to community groups, like AA meetings, scouts, etc.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                In OldCity, a progressive church rented meeting space to our Buddhist group. They even came and sat with us once or twice and let us use their labyrinth. They never required us to do anything. I would not have expected that in the same city where someone in the big local evangelical mega-church preached that yoga is of the devil (seriously, look it up), but they were actually great.

          2. Mary*

            Cant speak for all of Europe, but in the UK at least, the kind of things Rachel is doing would stand out far more as overtly religious than, say, a staff choir singing Christmas carols. Talking about prayer, God’s gifts, blessings etc aren’t part of mainstream Anglican culture, which is still the dominant culture amongst people who don’t have strong ties to any particular religion, do it very definitely would be noticeable.

            Some churches can be and are used as venues for secular events, so using a church as a venue doesn’t strike me as egregious. But as soon as someone suggests an act of workshop like a prayer or an invocation, it’s not secular and it would be Weird.

          3. Tau*

            One of the reasons these things may be viewed as cultural is that a lot of the people celebrating them are some variation on atheist/agnostic, so will obviously not consider them religious events. Never to mention that for the Eastern countries, during the Soviet era the government may have made a concerted effort to cut the link between the common cultural holidays and Christianity.

            All of which is to say: don’t get fooled by the trappings, as far as actual religious belief is concerned Europe is significantly less Christian than the US on the whole, and a lot of countries also have cultural norms where religion is a private thing and not a suitable topic for work. Anything in OP’s post would basically have me running to HR screaming that my boss had lost her mind.

            1. somebody blonde*

              It’s true that there are fewer believers in Europe than in the US overall, but there are also some practices that would never fly in the US. For example, I interned as an English assistant at a public school in Madrid, and they had stuff about First Communion in the classroom. Or the way that everyone participates in saint’s day festivals in Catholic countries even if they’re not religious. There’s a cultural religious default in European countries the way there actually isn’t in the US- Christianity is the most common, but there are so many kinds that there’s not really a default in the same way.

          4. Cherries on top*

            Just like Americans think everything is religious? (Hyperbole)
            Could this, among other things, have something to do with old vs. new? As in “in the homogeneous country of Europe” you might visit a church solely because of it’s historical architectural aspects or se christmas as an old tradition with christian aspects, not a purely christian celebration, were as the US doesn’t have many old things and the country was founded on religious grounds?

        2. UKDancer*

          I’d agree with DerJungerLudendorff in general.

          There are a number of times I’ve been to events in the UK in church halls which are not religious, including various social dances, local history lectures, and town hall meetings about redeveloping the local park. This has more to do with the fact that churches have reasonably large halls which are available for a relatively low cost. In somewhere like London where rents are very high, church halls are good value for money. In small villages they can be the only available space. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see secular events in church premises but it’s usually pretty clear that this is a convenience rather than anything linked to the church’s purpose.

          On the other hand I would not expect any “god stuff” unless I was going to a religious event which was brigaded as such. It’s usually just that the event is using the church’s space. Occasionally I’ve seen a vicar pop in, check everyone is alright, smile vaguely and leave. If someone started praying or talking about God I’d leave at the next opportunity as that’s not what I would in any way expect unless I was going to a church service.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Very common in the US, too. I’ve been to lots of events that were held in church social halls for exactly the reasons you give here. But nobody was handing out tracts or leading prayers–we were just using the space.

          2. Batty Twerp*

            Yup – in UK here. I go to an aerobics class that’s held in a church hall, precisely because it’s an independently run class and the hall is big enough to accommodate us (cheaply!) – and there’s a car park! There is *nothing* religious about it (it’s mixed age/ability and there’s a gaggle of 70-year-old women who swear like sailors!), apart from whatever posters the Sunday School classes have been making pinned to the walls.
            I’m very much non-religious (live and let live, I say), and the worst thing about using the church hall is during summer it can get a bit hot and sweaty and… ripe, and there are no on-site showers, so…
            (I wonder if we’re contributing to the phrase “stinking to high heaven” lol!)

            I think the vicar has made one appearance, and that was to explain that the kitchen was being refurbished so we wouldn’t be able to use the fridge that week. He seemed nice, and not at all phased by the odd ladies limbering up. Honestly, if the instructor hadn’t said: “Oh, thanks, Reverand Simon!” I don’t think any of us would have known.

            1. DarnTheMan*

              Same with my dad’s church here (in Canada). They have a dwindling congregation and a very large space so they’ve been renting out the church hall and former Sunday School classrooms for a number of years now. There’s been a number of groups who use it but the ones that come to mind are a Montessori school, a weekend drama school and a secular shelter outreach group.

      2. Impy*

        I don’t know about other European countries, but unless you are explicitly religious org, this would not be done. You’re not supposed to impose your faith on your employees or coworkers. In certain circumstances it could even be illegal.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It is remarkable how deeply Christian a country the US is, given its official proclamations of separation of church and state. I live in a country where the head of state is literally the head of the church and bishops get seats in the upper chamber and we are less than half as functionally Christian as the US.

        It would be absolutely unheard of for a nominally secular organisation in the UK to issue communications with that kind of religious flavour. It would make me deeply uncomfortable, and I’m a practising Christian, so I’m sure it’s excruciating for an atheist.

        That said, in the circumstances it may just be the way things are going, and time for LW to look elsewhere.

        As an aside, it’s odd that Rachel is focusing on the demographic of the donors. The religious character of the organisation is also presumably extremely relevant to whoever the organisation supports, and that is getting zero attention.

        1. Impy*

          Was discussing this the other day – it’s interesting that an American president pretty much has to be an avowed Christian to get elected, whereas when a former British Prime Minister admitted he was Catholic, a lot of us felt angry, tricked and glad he was no longer in office.

          1. MsSolo*

            Though I agree that the revelation that Blair was relying on his faith to make choices that really shouldn’t have been led by faith (God told you to go to war? Really? But it’s definitely wasn’t another crusade, you say) upset a lot of secular Britain, you can’t underestimate the proportion of people who were upset he was Catholic because they’d assumed he was CoE. That we have a state religion pervades more aspects of government and governing that we generally like to think about as a country.

        2. MayLou*

          This is almost word for word what I was thinking! Far from being separate in the USA, church and state seem practically fused.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            It’s because politicians use religion to get votes.
            The whole thing is more complex, of course, but that’s the end result.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Parts of the US more than others. A friend from California visited me on the East coast and he kept commenting on how very many churches there were.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I didn’t mean general religious practice of individual Americans; I meant the influence of Christianity on the workings of the administration, for example prayer meetings in the White House.

      4. Quill*

        That’s probably very location-specific. Some regions are dominated by very specific factions of Christianity.

    3. Letter Writer*

      I didn’t think it was deliberate at first, and I don’t know if I’d go as far as calling it that now, but it is on purpose. After the dinner (and after I had written to Allison) I spoke with Mary candidly about it, that the speaker made me very uncomfortable, and if we were going to do things like that that I would like the option to opt-out of attending. Which at first she agreed to, but then it looped back around to a no, because I am the one setting up events (not just this speaker, but all of our events in general) and they needed me there. It was a very frustrating conversation that left me feeling like I shouldn’t have said anything at all. Mary didn’t want to agree with Rachel about anything, but she also didn’t want to disagree with her.

      They are talking about bringing the same speaker back for a different event later this year and I am just dreading it.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I didn’t think it was deliberate at first, and I don’t know if I’d go as far as calling it that now, but it is on purpose.

        What is the difference between “deliberate” and “on purpose”?

        1. Letter Writer*

          I think she is allowing these things to happen, but I don’t think it’s with a specific end-goal of making the org more religious. It seems more passive than that.

          1. Kira*

            aka – there’s not some master plan or agenda in the background. They’re aware they’re doing it and plan on continuing, but don’t have an overarching vision to intentionally change the workplace.

            Letter Writer, based on my personal experience I’m leaning towards saying you can’t change it. I worked at a secular non-profit where the Executive Director has a passion for religion (was taking classes after work to get a master’s in theology, liked to cite obscure religious philosophers in our fundraising materials, and connected our organization and her personal church in a lot of different ways). It wasn’t my cup of tea, and at times it was really jarring. But she’s in charge of the organization, and decided this is the way she wanted to run her small part of the universe.

          2. Doralee Rhodes*

            I may have missed this addressed because admittedly, I have not read all of the comments. But is there a board of directors in play?

          3. rigger42*

            Is this a local charity or national? Because if the latter, the main office may not be happy at all to have their ‘secular’ nonprofit turned faith-based in your town. If this is impacting public spaces and messaging, it can be seen as excluding those who don’t share her religion, which is antithetical to serving the community. It does sound like you’d be the first suspect if the home office got an ‘anonymous’ report.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        You have a Mary problem on top of the Rachel problem.
        “Mary didn’t want to agree with Rachel about anything, but she also didn’t want to disagree with her.”

        Is there anyone above Mary that you can talk to?
        If not, can you point to any evidence of non-Christian stakeholders – donors, people you serve? Can you show Mary who this take over could affect?

        If neither of those is an option, yeah, it’s time to think about whether you can continue in a religious-based non-profit. You’ve been to Mary twice, she has weaseled out of both commitments to you, and Rachel’s above you in the hierarchy, they’d let you go first.

        1. valentine*

          I think Mary is paying lip service to not forcing religion on you at work, but I wonder if Rachel went in saying her religion is her life and her work needs to be in service to her religion.

        2. Threeve*

          One thing to consider if you do want to move on: in a lot of contexts, this is the rare situation where you can network a little more openly without seeming negative or disloyal about your current employer.

          If you have contacts at other nonprofits, it could be okay to put a bug in their ear that your organization is moving in a religious direction that has surprised you, and you might consider it a reason not to stay with them in the long term, so you’re beginning to explore your options, would love to hear if they know of anything.

          Many people will appreciate thoughtful, non-negative but 100% valid reasons someone wants to leave an employer.

          (And “to me, religion is very personal and I have always sought jobs at secular organizations” is a good way to say it without mentioning atheism if you don’t want to.)

        3. WantonSeedStitch*

          This, very much. If there’s a chance that Rachel’s meddling will cause alienation of donors, that should be a huge red flag for Mary. If she’s unwilling to do anything about it, that’s a serious problem for your organization.

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I think Mary very deeply does not want to be the bad guy. She’s got two employees with opposing religious beliefs and she doesn’t want to make either one of them upset, so she’s just not doing anything at all.

      3. Shirley Keeldar*

        Giving Mary a hard side-eye here. She says you don’t have to go, but you have to go? Lady, choose a side.

        I wonder if you’d have any success with “I’m uncomfortable being required by my employer to attend a religious ceremony.” Because that’s what she’s doing, right? She’s saying that as part of your job you have to attend an event at a church with a blessing, a prayer, and a speaker talking about your personal relationship with God? Sounds like a religious ceremony to me, and it’s pretty icky for your boss to tell you that you have to be there.

      4. Observer*

        She’s REQUIRING you attend events that have OVERTLY RELIGIOUS content? And content that is NOT actually required for the purposes of the organization / meeting?

        I’m sounding like a broken record here, but this sounds like it meets the rather high bar for religious discrimination.

        Employers have to make only the smallest effort to accommodate religion in the workplace, but not forcing you to listen to religious speeches takes NO effort. And you can’t force someone to engage in religious activities as a condition of employment, which is what they are doing.

      5. Secret Identity*

        So…don’t religious protections come into play here? Legally speaking, I mean. When the law says we can’t discriminate based on religion, that protects atheists as well, right? Or am I wrong about that?
        Wouldn’t forcing the LW to attend run afoul of those laws?

      6. Lady Heather*

        Next time there is a religious event, can you use Alison’s staple script of “I’m not going to be able to do that!”?

        And if they push back, remind them of your previous discussion, of your religion, and perhaps of any legal minefields they’d enter into by demanding their employees attend a religious service.

      7. Curmudgeon in California*

        WTF? Unless it’s chartered as a religious organization, I don’t think they can make you attend religious events without opening themselves up to legal liability. This is starting to head towards religious discrimination territory. YMMV, IANAL

      8. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        If the speaker made you uncomfortable in a way that involved religious commentary, imagery, or morality, you can say that you feel as though your religious rights are being stepped on here. Being atheist DOES NOT mean you have no rights – you are allowed to not be preached at on the job! And if your concept of morality is specifically one that says that a deity is not necessary, being told to give everything over to God, or something along those lines (I’m guessing based on the types of things I hear most often, correct as necessary for your situation) is ERASURE. You as an individual with your own beliefs are being erased to fit what they want.

        It might be time to point out that being forced to go to events like these is against your moral systems. Being preached at on the job isn’t what you signed up for – and they can set up their own meetings if they want to have a church service!

  3. Czhorat*

    Pet peeve:

    By “religious” do you mean “Christian”?

    There’a a difference in working somewhere with a multi-denominational prayer room and working someplace focused specifically on one faith. Letters mentioning a “blessing by God” invoke a specific god and a specific idea of what the relationship is between that god and worshippers; Jewish people won’t write the name, Muslims would use the Arabic name, and others might have different ideas as to what a blessing or attention from a god even means.

    This doesn’t much change the advice, but does at least reframe the situation – your workplace isn’t becoming religious. It’s becoming Christian.

    1. Clorinda*

      Sounds Christian to me. LW mentions a meeting in a church, and that’s a specifically Christian term, as opposed to temple, mosque, place of worship, sacred grove, etc. What flavor of Christian? … given the sermon on not squandering God’s blessings, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a strong prosperity-gospel vibe.

      1. Mama Bear*

        And, frankly, the prosperity gospel thing doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, so if that is the message it could turn folks off, Christian or not.

        I have seen before how one person can begin to “lead the horse” and how people slowly peel off as the message gets louder. I wonder if the organization has seen any changes in their supporters, the amount of support received, or anything concrete to show that they are no longer reaching out to as broad a base as they used to. This might be something for OP to bring to Mary as proof of the underlying concern.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, it seems pretty clear that the OP means Christian, we should absolutely name the religion instead of just saying “religious”.

    3. Plant is Here*

      Thank you!

      It’s also an important part of the framing when you push back – it’s not just about alienating atheists or agnostics, but those of any other religion. Even within Christianity, different denominations may feel differently. Also, as Alison mentioned, even people who share the fundamental beliefs may be *really* uncomfortable with this at work.

    4. Green great dragon*

      Both are true, no? The issue is that the org is becoming religious when OP, by design, wanted a secular organisation. The issue is not that it is becoming Christian as opposed to Pastafarian, or Catholic as opposed to Methodist, though it does seem that the religion in question is (a branch of?) Christianity.

      1. Plant is Here*

        The root issue is the same. The larger “pet peeve” being referenced is that because Christianity is so pervasive (speaking from a US perspective), people often say “religious” when they mean Christian specifically. I imagine any sort of strong religious practices would be problematic for the LW, but because Christianity is the largest religion and tends to be the default, it can be harder to push back against.

      2. Smithy*

        Where I think the issue of Christianity is relevant is that should the OP’s org be in a majority Christian country, then a shift to Christianity is both a switch to being religious as well as accepting relying on that majority status quo to position this as a nonissue. Additionally, it can lead to blindness in thinking that language applies to “all monotheistic religions” when translations and interpretations really only apply to Christianity.

        Lots of secular nonprofits work with religious organizations – both in a donor context as well as program partners. Think of coalitions of actors working with the homeless, and how that could involve a number of religious institutions as both donors as well as actors operating food banks,soup kitchens or shelters. All of that is very different and does not appear to be what is happening here.

        If there is a growing group of executives that both sees their inclusion of religion as “default” as well as perhaps an advantage for the communities they want to reach for volunteers or donations – this could easily be a losing battle for the OP.

    5. Tera*

      I’m pretty sure if there was a post that specifically talked about Islam or Judaism or another minority religion in that way, people wouldn’t like it. As you say, the advice doesn’t change so why does it matter anyway? I’m genuinely unsure what ‘reframing’ the situation has to do with it… From an atheist’s perspective, it’s ‘becoming religious’ that’s the issue, not ‘becoming X religion’.

    6. RussianInTexas*

      Would it matter though? I am an atheist, and I would be peeved if my secular workplace was becoming religious in any way, specific or multi-religion.
      The point is, the religion is being brought in to where it wasn’t before.

    7. Letter Writer*

      I mean, you have hit the nail on the head. It is becoming more Christian, but because I am atheist, I don’t know specifically what kind of Christian. I didn’t want to get lost in the descriptors, as there are many flavors and don’t want to come across as accusing all Christians of this sort of behavoir. As someone else as replied, the issue to me is it becoming religious of any kind, not just Christian.

  4. Kimmybear*

    I would say that this is a big enough shift in organizational direction, and you are potentially losing staff and donors over it, that it may need to go to the organization’s board.

      1. Just J.*

        Check the founding documents and mission statement of your non-profit. Is being committed to being secular defined there?

        You have some leverage that Rachel is operating outside of your non-profit’s defined reasons for being, defined goals, etc.

        1. Nita*

          Yes, I’m wondering about that too. OP says they never “outed” themselves at work. That sounds like even before Rachel showed up, OP felt that the coworkers might give them a hard time about being an atheist. Why? Is this organization somehow connected with a religious mission? As in, technically secular but tends to attract practicing Christians, lots of interactions with the local church, the mission statement is connected to Christian ideology. If that’s the case, OP is really going to be fighting an uphill battle. If the nonprofit is really nothing to do with religion, OP might have more luck pushing back.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I live in a fairly conservative area, although my job and social circle are pretty moderate to liberal, and I still don’t advertise that I’m an atheist. You never know how somebody might react and I really don’t need the hassle.

            1. Alexandra Lynch*

              And this is why I don’t volunteer that I’m a pagan in most circumstances. I live in a large city but this area of the country is not all that tolerant. I should know, I grew up rurally.

            1. Salty Caramel*

              When I lived in a certain state in the Bible Belt atheists legally were not allowed to testify in court (can’t swear on the Bible). I looked up what the laws had to say about atheists and agnostics.

              1. SAS*

                Whoa! If you were a non-Christian person of religion would you be allowed to swear on your own text? Off-topic sorry, but fascinating (as a non-US atheist).

                I feel deeply for the LW, especially imagining they are passionate about the cause they work for, that leaving seems to be the best option here. The idea of pushing back against any religious system is daunting and the increasing Christian element makes me so uneasy!

                1. UKDancer*

                  Interesting, one of the things I like about the first session of parliament post general election in the UK is seeing the range of ways MPs are sworn in. Some affirm, some swear on different books from their religions and some do either in Welsh. I love watching for the variety.

                  I couldn’t conceive of a situation where we’d not let people make oaths and testify in the way that works for them. It just seems wrong.

              2. Random Brit*

                IANAL, still less an American lawyer, but to this foreign layman that sounds like it would fall foul of the 1st Amendment.

          2. Threeve*

            I know several highly religious people who keep an airtight lid on their beliefs outside their religious community, because it’s something deeply personal and they don’t want to discuss it or be seen as representatives of their faith.

            And organizations where messaging reflecting personal, non-universal beliefs of any kind, even an email closing with “Smile! Positivity and gratitude are the key to good health!” would be considered somewhat inappropriate.

          3. Le Sigh*

            Depends. I’ve lived in conservative U.S. areas working for strictly secular companies and industries (just for-profit, run of the mill companies). I avoided discussing my atheist beliefs because Christianity (esp. evangelical) was pervasive and people looked at you funny (and sometimes got upset, judged you harshly, made little digs at you in conversation, or started trying to invite you to church) if you didn’t at least go to some kind of Christian church. It was a common enough topic at work (how was your weekend, etc.?), so to avoid tripping up those work relationships, I just avoided it altogether.

        2. Letter Writer*

          We are connected to a well-known national organization that does have this sort of language defined in their founding documents, but we, as a separate org, do not. But it does give me a little leverage in discussions, so thank you for reminding me to look there!

          1. Anon comms*

            Does the larger/well-known national org have messaging or communications guidelines that affiliate orgs like yours are supposed to stick with? The national comms staff and leadership might be very unamused to learn that an affiliate has gone rogue and started messaging in a way that’s counter to their mission—bringing the situation to the attention of someone at the national level might be a more effective way to escalate the issue than trying to escalate it on the local level, in what seems like a very conservative, Christian environment.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I was just wondering if this was something that should be escalated to the BoD. If they don’t already know I think they might want to, but if they know and are cool with it then you have a clear answer about needing to find a new job.

      1. Bree*

        I don’t know if the LW is necessarily in the right place to do the escalating, but this sounds like a significant enough shift in the org’s mission and values that if I were on the Board I’d want to know.

        1. MissBliss*

          In the right place how? Like it should be coming from someone higher up? Because any staff member has the option of going to the board. It sounds like LW’s boss and Rachel are at the top of the staff hierarchy, so it seems like the next step would be going to the board.

          1. Bree*

            In some places I’ve worked, a staff member going to the board without CEO approval would probably get them fired. So I meant place in the sense of able to cope with possible consequences. But it can vary.

    2. Letter Writer*

      Unfortunately, the board has seen some of these activities and seems fine with it? The dinner that was held had multiple board members (including the chair) in attendance.

      1. Allypopx*

        Maybe it needs to be raised with them as an issue – just because they were there doesn’t mean they were thinking about what was happening with the appropriate scrutiny.

      2. Alli525*

        I might suggest pushing back on that assumption. The Board may not have realized that not everyone at the org feels the same way as managers. And they’re less likely to see it as a pervasive issue because they’re not in your work environment every day. (The meditation room being converted to an explicitly religious space is particularly egregious to me, and definitely not something one of the board members at MY organization would ever notice if it happened here.)

        1. Bostonian*

          Good point. If they just attended that event, they might not realize how pervasive it is.

      3. Anonymous Engineer*

        The board members present truly may have never thought about it. I recently attended a diversity and inclusion event at my workplace…at which a specifically Christian prayer was said. When I asked the event planners whether they had thought about the ramifications of that, they said it literally had never occurred to them, and immediately recognized that a prayer is not an inclusive action. They live in the same pervasively-Christian area I do, but since they’re all Christian they just literally do not notice these things. I had been afraid to point it out, but ultimately the resolution was completely positive.

        1. Thette*


          I once declined an inclusion event, because it was held in a church where I, as a queer person, would be explicitly unwelcome. I don’t think anyone even noticed before I pointed it out. (And yes, that church had the largest gathering hall in the town.)

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            I used to go to a regular family gathering that was held in celebration of a much older relative’s birthday.

            Some distant cousin’s husband was a minister of some kind, so of course we had to listen to him give a blessing before eating our delishus hotel banquet room lunch. I don’t think anyone else in the extended family were grace-sayers. I know it bugged me every year, but I sat thru it passively while wishing he could just bless his own plate silently instead of forcing the entire room to focus on him.

        2. university admin*

          I had to go to a day-long diversity and inclusion event, where lunch was provided.
          Except for me, because kosher is too hard.

          (I kinda wish there were some religious Muslim or Jewish coworkers at OP’s workplace, who’d use the ‘prayer room’ for their prayers, just to see what Rachel’s reaction would be to that. (Yes, I realize it’s all gedankenexperiment, but it’s fun.))

          1. Observer*

            To be honest, as someone who keeps kosher, I find that more forgivable than what’s happening here. The irony of an all day inclusion and diversity even without kosher food for the person who keeps kosher is not lost on me, though.

          2. UKDancer*

            Very annoying for you and ironic in the circumstance.

            I’ve organised events and my company’s caterer can’t do kosher apparently. The last time I had Jewish attendees for whom kosher food was a requirement, I sent a junior member of staff to the large Waitrose nearby with a shopping list and some petty cash and instructions to bring back something vaguely appealing looking. I got very positive feedback from the attendees because I had made the effort to provide something.

            The point is that kosher food is undeniably more difficult but there is usually a way around this, even if it involves thinking more laterally.

    3. Hornswoggler*

      I came here to say this!

      I’ve been employed by and on the board of various charities in the UK, so I’m not au fait with how it’s done in the USA. however, if a change like this was brought in by the executive, which was not part of the organisation’s original brief, intentions or (legally speaking) Charitable Objects, then it would definitely be an issue for the Board of Trustees to deal with.

    4. MissMeghan*

      YES!!!!!! I’ve been in the nonprofit world for a few years now, and this feels to me like a massive shift in core mission, vision, and values whether it’s been outright stated as such or not. It is definitely not okay for such a drastic shift to happen without the inclusion and input from the Board. Maybe, in the end, this is going to become a religiously driven organization. I think that would be a shame, since I don’t think any nonprofit’s values should be this malleable.

      Just a suggestion, but I think it would be useful to put this in a letter to the board chair (or full exec committee), cite specific examples, and time it so that you send it to him/her about two weeks before the next board meeting so that it can get on the agenda and not get lost. You may not win this, but at least it’ll be an intentional shift rather than mission creep.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      Same! I volunteer at a non-profit that is secular but has a large amount of religious employees and volunteers, but it’s ALL religions and I have never felt excluded as an atheist. This does not seem like the case here, and I wish you the best.

    2. Tera*

      I relate to the OP quite a bit. A secular organisation that I’ve volunteered with for years turns out to have strong links to a local religious organisation in my new area, which I only found out after transferring over and turning up. I’m the only person in my organisation in the room, and there’s a sort of uncomfortable assumption that everyone in the building is religious. Lots of ‘god is good’, talk which I politely ignore, and enthusiastic chatter about how the rapture’s coming which I also ignored but very awkwardly. It’s honestly super alienating, and I’m looking forwards to switching roles and getting away from it soon, especially as they’re talking about moving it to a church.

      The annoying thing is that a lot of them seem to think that religious people do volunteering and atheists don’t. They ignore the fact that they recruit through churches and make their workplace uncomfortable for nonbelievers, and just assume the general lack of atheists around is because we care less.

      1. emmelemm*

        Yeah, I have a friend whose husband is more conservative than she is and they have this book on their bookshelf that’s titled something like “Why Religious People Are More Charitable” or some nonsense like that and it’s obviously a book for right-wing people to argue for dismantling social safety nets because “religious organizations will step in”.

        You don’t mix your religion in my social safety net because when religions get to do it, they do things like, discriminate against same sex couples in housing, etc. etc. Charity gets to be *on their terms*, and that’s not how a true social safety net works.

        Sorry this is a bit off-topic but that particular bugbear really bothers me.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          One thing religious organizations will do is try to force their religion on the people they’re helping.
          I used to hear about men who needed shelter going to a well-known organization and “taking a dive” – i.e., agreeing to be saved and become part of the religion to get a bed and a meal.
          Fundamentalists already target the most vulnerable for conversion, so mixing this with social service will give them more targets.

      2. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Chatter about the rapture coming seems very extreme to me. IME only very hard-core Christians believe the rapture will happen in their lifetimes.

        1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

          Or at all – the Rapture is NOT something all Christians believe in. It’s a very specific way of reading very specific bits of (I believe) Revelations – but really, the idea that the special people will be saved /before/ the world goes to fighting and anarchy and all that? VERY specific denominations. NOT /mainstream Christian/.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Yes, and it really feeds the idea that the people of THEIR church are special and will be saved before anyone else. Very egocentric!

    3. Letter Writer*

      Thank you! After the dinner (and I had written to Allison) I spoke with Mary again about it during my performance review. I told her how deeply uncomfortable I was during the dinner and the speaker’s talk (not only was it very religious, but she went over her time by 30 minutes and no one would stop her!). I asked that if those things were going to continue that I be given the option to opt-out. At first she agreed but it looped back around to a no because we are a small staff and I’m the one who sets up all our events and runs tech. Mary didn’t necessarily agree with Rachel, but didn’t want to contradict her, either. It was a very frustrating conversation that ended with me wishing I had said nothing at all.

      Since then things are calmed down considerably, so I’ve backed off a bit on wanting to leave over it. They are, however, talking about bringing the same speaker back for another event this year so I am dreading it.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          You can’t do that if you’re running tech. Anything at all can go wrong with no warning.

      1. lost academic*

        You need an exit strategy. It can take a long time to find a new job so get on that ASAP. You can always turn down a job offer but you’ll be stuck at this place where it’s only going to increase your discomfort until you do have that option.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Agree, this is not an encouraging update. Sorry you are dealing with this, OP!

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Put your resumes out. It’s not going to get better. They’re just frog-boiling you.

        Once the proselytizers get a foothold, they never leave, especially if they practice a very evangelical brand of Christianity. (Google “steeple jacking”)

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          OP, don’t give up without a fight. Make sure the board and any others above Mary know about this and find out if they’re going to shut it down.

      3. Paulina*

        They’re talking about inviting someone back who went half an hour over time? That’s WTF even without the religious aspect (which is very WTF itself). Mary’s inaction suggests that the same conservatism is coming into play: she doesn’t want to push back against Rachel’s changes because that could make her look bad to others. I agree with letting the board know, since a change like this should be done deliberately by the organization as a whole, not by a single hired executive-level employee who doesn’t have this in her mandate, but they may just go along with Rachel’s pushy changes anyway.

      4. Arts Akimbo*

        Honestly, I would start my job hunt now. The way things are going, it’s likely to be a misery there before too long.

    4. ursula*

      Same. Your concerns are so reasonable and your actions to deal with them have been extremely fair-minded and responsible.

    5. No bees on Typhon*

      Same! Good luck, OP.

      Honestly, if it was me, I would consider leaving over this – but I live in a region and work in a field where people very rarely talk about religion at work other than in a “how was your weekend?” “Good, my church had a BBQ, the kids loved it. You?” kinda way.

  5. Stitch*

    FWIW, I am a Christian (although not an evangelical one) but would be deeply uncomfortable as a donor receiving religious messages from an ostensibly secular organization. It feels inappropriate to me. I don’t like being prosthelytized to in that kind of context.

    You could really alienate your donors doing this.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Agreed. If I’m going to donate to religiously affiliated organizations, that needs to be a specific choice of mine. And there will be research done on my part, because so many non-secular orgs are discriminatory, and I do not want to support that.

      1. Stitch*

        Exactly, especially because religious organizations have used religious freedom arguments to justify discrimination against people who are LGBT, for instance.

        1. Tera*

          As well as religious minorities, different sects of their own faith, and atheists. And not to forget that religious organisations that do ‘help’ people from other religious often focus on converting over actually assisting, or just focus more on the act of helping than positive results.

          I’m by no means saying not to donate to religious charities (I’m sure there are some great ones out there that do amazing things), or to always trust secular ones, but it’s crucial to carefully research beforehand.

        2. Quill*

          Yup! Not here for that, and I have learned enough about the exclusionary activities of several well known charities that I’m not going to give increased christian messaging the benefit of the doubt, especially now.

        3. Tiny Soprano*

          Hell I even pick what op-shops I go to based on how the organisations treat people. If they believe that, for example, LGBT+ people are not worthy of human rights, I’m not buying a cute second hand teapot at their charity store.

    2. Smithy*

      Depending on the size and overall plans of the Executive team – it could also be part of their donor strategy.

      Overall, these are decisions being made with a particularly large amount of blindness to how “Christianity as default” is viewed or it’s part of a more intentional strategy. Either for the mission of the organization or specifically for donor or community engagement.

      There are loads of nonprofits out there are varying sizes, and my gut would be more inclined to see this as deliberate than naive.

    3. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed, as yet another Christian.

      The notion that just because your donors share a broad-umbrella faith, they can’t possibly be troubled or object to the Christianization of your organization is… pretty damn flawed. Denominations aren’t interchangeable, and depending on what your nonprofit’s mission is, this could have significant impacts on how that mission is pursued. As a donor, I’d absolutely be concerned about that.

    4. Quill*

      Raised catholic and it would absolutely be a warning sign to me about the organization. Proselytizing tells me that your organization has a conversion mission as well as a helping people mission, and it’s going to give me second thoughts about who your services might be excluding.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Plus as another Catholic here, usually the kinds of Christians that go around proselytising are the kinds that think we’re ‘not real Christians.’ I am extremely leery of people who go around touting their Christianity at others.

    5. motherofdragons*

      Same same. This got my hackles up reading it. I am both a Christian and a board member of a secular nonprofit, and I would be livid if a fellow member of my org started referencing God in any of our materials.

  6. Specks*

    Its interesting that when you brought it up Rachel immediately defaulted to it not be othering the donors. What about your clients/patients/constituents? Is this going to alienate some of them? Do they have other options available in the area to get the services, or will they have to put up with the religious aspect, no matter now uncomfortable that makes them, to get something they desperately need? A nonprofit is there to serve people, so it’s a lot more important to ask what it’s clients need than staff or donors, because those can go elsewhere whereas the clients often don’t have a choice. The fact that one of your leaders doesn’t recognize or care about that is very problematic.

    1. Specks*

      Bothering, not othering. Although othering frankly works really well too… that’s exactly how it makes people feel.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just to clarify, not all nonprofits serve people. Service-based ones do! But many nonprofits are advocacy oriented (and not always for people — think animal charities, for example).

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Like Alison said, not all nonprofits serve people; some are them have missions to preserve a species, or a historical site, or clean up the environment… the “client” could be a turtle, a beach or a lighthouse.

      But most service-oriented nonprofits consciously limit who receives their services, so I imagine that Rachel, Mary, or even Board members, won’t be persuaded that it might put off clients. The people who rely on services provided by a nonprofit, are the least influential over the operations or philosophy. Donors really have the most power.

  7. Politically incorrect*

    Matthew 6, verses 1 – 9.

    I’ve reminded people of this passage and told them I don’t agree with how they express their religion, and hope they can take the word of their Lord as Gospel, and leave me alone.

    Sometimes it works. Sometimes they’re so invested in what they’re doing, they can’t hear it.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      And, because not everyone has the time or inclination to look it up:
      “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do.” and it goes from there.

      1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        Thank you! Might keep this in my pocket to literally give out to proselytizers.

        1. DarnTheMan*

          I’m an awkward turtle so on the rare occasion that I do run into proselytizers in my city, I’ve so far fended them all off by blurting “thanks I’m agnostic!” and then skedaddling.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I was going to suggest the OP print out the prayer verse and stick it on the door to the prayer room.
      (Nothing enraged me as much recently as the woman in Alabama whose whom was struck by a tornado, and all of it was flattened except her prayer closet, and her pastor tweeted, “God is good!” I was like, “Creating a special room for prayer is actually the exact kind of thing Jesus was talking about here–making the ritual, and the outward performance, more important than your actual conversation with God.” And I’m absolutely certain that woman told everyone she knew that she had created prayer closet in her house.

    3. Accalia*

      As an … I don’t want to say atheist, I’m more of a “want to sit down and talk to the god for ten minutes before joining” sort of person… but regardless… One thing that does get on my nerves is when someone makes a citation and then leaves me to go look up the citation so that I know what they’re on about…

      It’s the same for bible quotations as the rules of baseball, or even the specific laws and statutes relevant to a copyright troll’s case we’re discussing. By making the citation and not including the text or at minimum a link to the source it puts me off because it seems you’re telling me that I’d be stupid not to immediately know what the reference is…..

      Which doesn’t feel nice on my side.

      Could you consider including the text of your citation or a link to the source in future? Thanks.

      1. Politically incorrect*

        I can do that. Just didn’t want to over-share.

        The verses are the ones right before the Lord’s Prayer.
        They say
        Don’t pray on street corners to be seen by other people. If you do that you get your reward from other people.
        Don’t go doing good deeds only in front of other people. If you do that, you get your reward from other people.
        When you pray, don’t use lots of words and fancy phrases to impress other people.
        Those are things hypocrites do.
        But when you pray, go into your bedroom and shut the door and pray quietly so people can’t hear you. If you do that, God, who can always hear you, will reward you.

    4. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I’m not American and the idea of religious messages at work is completely inimical in my culture so I am very sympathetic to the OP. However, I am a Christian and I am sorry but I do not think this verse will work/ is necessarily applicable here. In fact it would just open up debate. It is very difficult to pull one verse out of the bible and apply it without an understanding of the context and from the Christian point of view it weakens the arguments of people who do it. Better to just say “I don’t think this is appropriate for work/our mission/our organisation” or whatever and be done with it.

      To be clear I am not saying that you should not have the discussion. Just base the discussion on your own motives rather than trying to base your argument on what you think another person’s faith should be (after all, presumably you don’t put any stock in Matthew as a credible authority if you are not a Christian). It isn’t great to be telling anyone they are living their faith ‘wrongly’ especially if you are outside of their group.

  8. Wing Leader*

    I feel for you, OP. I’m an atheist at my job. I don’t deal with anything this bad, thank goodness, but I do have one coworker who regularly invites me to her church and occasionally gives me little bible tracts (which go straight into my bin after she walks away). I’m pretty sure she just assumes I enjoy them, even though she’s never asked me what my beliefs are.

    1. Specks*

      Have you tried asking her not to, in a friendly and warm, but firm, way? This sounds like a waste of paper.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        This. You can do it politely, but firmly. I am in the South, and dealt with coworkers presuming I am of the same faith (because if you are white, you are an Evangelical of some sort by default, is the thinking), and managed always to stop this.

      2. Wing Leader*

        No, because I have deep rooted issues about sharing my beliefs, or lack thereof (I come from an ultra religious family and my mom hates that I’ve left religion).

        1. Fikly*

          Not wanting to receive religious texts from coworkers at work has nothing to do with your religious beliefs. It’s just inappropriate behavior.

          1. fposte*

            Right? “Please don’t leave religious tracts on my desk any more.” “Why?” “Because that’s not appropriate at work.” Repeat as necessary. No personal disclosure required.

          2. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Depending on how enthusiastic coworker is, though, she might try to make it about religion and cause even more problems.
            Maybe take the tract home and put it in recycling? At least then it’s not a complete waste.

            1. Fikly*

              You don’t have to engage further.

              This is inappropriate work behavior. Rinse and repeat.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          And you are under no obligation to start a confrontation that would be uncomfortable to you. Throwing them away is also a fine response.

          I personally consider it as ‘draining their resources’ and am happy to do so in whatever petty way I can.

          I might also return pre-paid responses for orgs I really dislike with scrap paper. Haven’t had time / supplies to do the ‘glue it to a brick’ trick, but I haven’t seen pre-paid envelopes in a while either.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      We had a co-worker who had to be told explicitly several times not to leave her tracts on co-workers’ desks. She was free to worship and take her religious holidays but when push came to shove, she couldn’t try to convert people on company time.

      1. Wing Leader*

        These little fold open booklets that look like they would have a joke or a cartoon inside, but instead they have bible verses or a bible story.

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        The most common sort is called a Chick tract, named for Jack Chick the publisher.
        Little booklets, about the same size as a business card but a little wider. (Or depending on your age, about the size of a Tijuana bible – don’t google that at work.)
        Cartoons about how the Devil is hiding in things like Dungeons and Dragons, the Freemasons, the Catholic Church, etc. and how folks must REPENT!
        In my old neighborhood, the conservative Christians would hand them out instead of candy for Halloween.

        1. Adric*

          I now want to acquire a stack of Chick tracts and a stack of Tijuana bibles. Then I can shuffle them together and either have hours of fun or offend EVERYBODY.

          1. Donkey Hotey*

            Bonus fun: A Wiccan church in the Pacific Northwest made up a couple of “anti-tracts” – one explaining Paganism in Biblical terms (ever wonder who Cain’s wife was?) and one with a bunch of Vikings showing up at a school and insisting that since the school wanted prayer and the days of the week (in English) are named after Norse gods and goddesses, it only follows that the kids should have sword fights for Tyr on Tuesday, etc.

        2. Else*

          I knew about these being available in rest stops and so forth, but I cannot imagine my reaction as a child to someone who did that on Halloween. We all understood people who just weren’t into it and kept their lights off – but if they’d deliberately given out something so contrary to the holiday! They’d have had tp every night for weeks.

          1. Queer Earthling*

            Growing up, m super Christian friend’s parents were at least kind enough to give out candy *with* the tracts. The tracts still got thrown away, though. (And I was super Christian at the time, too!)

        3. Cap. Marvel*

          Yep, even when I lived in LA we had some houses giving these out on Halloween. I showed it to my mom and she threw it away, but not before I read that celebrating Halloween meant you were going to Hell.
          That was a fun conversation to have as a six year old.

        4. Arts Akimbo*

          Sadly, Chick tracts are no longer as common as they once were! My friends and I used to love collecting these and sharing a laugh over them– they really were over-the-top hilarious!

    3. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      That one gets “I’m happy with my current church, thanks” – you don’t have to say it’s the church of mind your own business! Or, for that matter, the church of the empty grocery store Sunday mornings, or whatever – just “thank you, I have that covered already”. For a lot of people, community = church, and they just want to make sure you /have one/ – because oh no, poor dear, all alone, etc etc.

      I agree it’s annoying, and you shouldn’t have to deal, and etc – but sometimes the easiest solution, especially at work, is to make it just /go away/. and “happy with what I have” has a decent chance of doing that – especially since you can then tack on “and I don’t like talking about religion at work” and change the subject.

      And good luck!

  9. Jennifer*

    I’m not atheist but I would feel uncomfortable with this as well. I just don’t like being pushed to worship in a way that someone else thinks that I should and that a coworker was trying to take over the office with her specific brand of Christianity or style of worship. Feel free to escalate this, but it may be a lost cause. I’ve seen this before and ended up just ignoring it until the person left and things slowly went back to normal.

    1. TootsNYC*


      Also, I’m a Lutheran, and usually we are VERY reserved about this stuff.
      I just really don’t like performative Christianity. it feels like it diverts the energy away from how you treat others and into how you feel, or how you are seen by other people.

      1. Sled dog mana*

        Christian from a reform tradition here too and I agree that many people (myself included) are also reserved about their faith for whatever reason.

        I have never heard the term performance Christianity before but I am filing that away, it’s so accurate.

      2. Jennifer*

        I don’t have a problem talking about my faith in an appropriate setting but I agree that people should show by their actions instead of going around telling people how blessed they are. That starts to grate on my nerves.

      3. Else*

        Same. I’m not observant anymore, but I was raised Lutheran, and there’s nothing more of-putting to me than performative Christian display like that. It feels so fake! Doesn’t bother me from other religions, but with Christians it is both too similar and too different to what I spent years enmeshed in to feel acceptable.

  10. Stormy Weather*

    It’s incredibly irritating when people assume their particular religious faith is the default or something everyone is comfortable with.

    Thank you, Allison.

  11. ZSD*

    I’m Christian, and I would find all of these invocations extremely uncomfortable when working for a secular organization. OP, please know that even plenty of your co-workers who share Rachel’s faith might find this prevalence of God-talk alienating and inappropriate. You’re not alone!

    1. Employee of the Bearimy*

      I was coming in to say this as well. I consider myself reasonably devout and practice regularly, and I don’t find any of what Rachel’s doing appropriate. In the past, I’ve been the one standing up for the non-Christians at my company because I have more standing as part of the “majority.” I’m sorry that it looks like Mary isn’t quite willing to do the same.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Oh–as a Missouri Synod Lutheran, I would be really uncomfortable with invocations, and I wouldn’t be able to participate. I’d feel alienated.
      Because we have a hesitancy to “share the pulpit”–we don’t actually believe exactly the same things.

      1. Kira*

        +1 I was raised Catholic, and a lot of the practices done by other denominations of Christians are uncomfortable to me because I don’t know what I’m expected to do/respond.

  12. kittymommy*

    Freakin’ A!! This is one of my major irritations. I work in government and actually am very religious (born-again Christian to use the easiest terminology people are familiar with) and there are some in my work who try hard to infiltrate it with very Christian-like influences. I find it obnoxious and offensive. – if people work in a non-religious/secular environment they shouldn’t have to put up with this crap. Gah!! /endrant

    LW, I think you may need to move on. Based on my experience Mary and Rachel aren’t going to stop this. It’s ingrained in how they view their faith and their obligations to its practice. I’m really sorry you are having to deal with this. It’s not right and they may find that just because their donors and supporters might be of the same faith it doesn’t mean they support this type of behavior. I, for one, would cease my donations.

  13. RUKiddingMe*

    “ Rachel’s line about the religious references being fine because “most” of your donors are the same religion is a huge amount of BS…”


    No real advice OP, but tbh, if it didn’t change *significantly* and *fast* personally I’d be out the door. If I were a donor and saw this happening, my money would already have dried up.

    My main charity is St. Jude’s. The guy who started it was Catholic and he chose St. Jude for a reason.

    That said it is not a religious focused org. If it was, despite my very much supporting their work and mission, I’d pull my not insignificant donations, so…

    1. Beth*

      “Okay, let’s say that 85% of our donors are the same religion as you are. Does that mean you’re ready to lose 15% of our donations?”

  14. KimberlyR*

    If it sounds like Mary is open to listening to you (and it seems like she is, from the previous conversation), she would absolutely want to know that this is happening. If the organization is becoming a religions non-profit, it needs to do so deliberately. If it isn’t, you may need to escalate it as high as you can. If Rachel is the highest, then you might be SOL. But hopefully not! It is entirely possible that Rachel will move on to another organization at some point, but the changes she wrought will stay or become muddled and confusing in weird ways to the new employees. Its best for the nonprofit, the donors, the employees, everyone if this organization clearly defines religious versus secular and acts accordingly.

    1. starsaphire*

      The thing is, though, how can Mary miss what is happening? I mean, she’s right there, as far as we know, and she should be more aware now that it’s already been brought up to her once.

      I would be super worried that Mary is tacitly OK with all this too.

      1. Dragoning*

        If she does care, I suspect she doesn’t have a lot of power in the situation.

        And if she does, well, maybe being annoying as heck about it while job searching is the way to go. She might not care, but she might care less about making the org Christian than she does about not listening to complaints about it.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I would bet money that Mary is tacitly OK with it and just isn’t willing to admit it.

        1. Letter Writer*

          I feel like I’m being unkind, but I agree with this. Both Mary and Rachel have worked in super-religious environment (Mary at a religious private school, Rachel for the church itself) so many in their networks of influence – including many of our largest supporters – are the same level of devout they are. My worry is mostly that at some point their circle will go away, and what supporters are we going to be left with?

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            This might be a really good place to start, helping Mary understand the potential impact of not broadening the donor base. What happens if Rachel leaves and influences her network to stop donating?

          2. Dust Bunny*

            I might very well be cynical but my experience with people who are serious enough about [cause of choice; it’s not always religion] to allow/enable/actively participate in this kind of mission-creep is that they know exactly what they’re doing, they just hope not to get called out on it so they can deny later that that’s what they meant.

    2. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. If they are no longer going to be secular, then they need to be upfront about that.

    3. lulu*

      It sounds like Mary hates conflict, so she will agree with OP, but not do anything about it. She is more than happy to go along with the changes Rachel is making. OP needs to move on I’m afraid, she has done everything right and get the push for the organization to be more exclusively Christian keeps happening.

    4. Letter Writer*

      Mary is in charge here. We’re a very small staff so there isn’t much of a hierarchy, but ostensibly Rachel is second-in-command. My latest conversations with Mary regarding this have just been loops, it feels like, of her trying to smooth my concerns without actually doing too much. It has been frustrating.

      Much of it has calmed down since I wrote to Alison, but I don’t know if that was because something was actually done, or just that the holidays (and much of our content creation/letter writing) are over.

  15. IT Department Relationship Manager*

    LW, if you do leave, I would make it very clear that this was a big reason that pushed you away.

    Say that this was not what you took the job for, that this person came in and changed the tone of the org. Then when you stated to her that it was uncomfortable, she dismissed your concerns because she assumes that everyone thinks her way. Then, that you told your boss who did nothing and shares similar feelings with Rachel.

    They need to know that this kind of behavior that they think is benign is actually hurting their organization because it causes good people to leave.

    1. KayEss*

      You can do this, but it’s unlikely to change anything. People committed to this kind of course don’t abandon it in the face of logic.

      I worked at an explicitly Catholic organization (with a non-religious purpose that served people of a very broad spectrum of religious affiliations and non-affiliation) for a bit, during which they began to include more and more overt Christian language and cultural markers in their job listings, hiring, and onboarding processes. This was clearly driven by a small cadre of highly-placed individuals. Many of us directly expressed that we would not even have applied for our own jobs if the new processes had been in place, as the language and requirements of the postings were extremely alienating and reflected poorly on the organization’s mission. Didn’t matter ONE BIT, because the devout HR director was high on her faith and explicitly WANTED to hire only fellow Catholics or Christians.

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      That could ruin OP’s chance of a good reference. I would stop commenting/pushing back immediately and just quietly look for another job which will be positioned as “an amazing opportunity that I just couldn’t turn down but so sad to be leaving this wonderful organisation”.

      References don’t grow on trees and sometimes we need to cut our losses and protect our future prospects (i.e. said references).

  16. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    Wow. I once did a project for the Church of Sweden and I don’t think they *ever* mentioned God to me.

  17. nnn*

    Depending on the nature of your non-profit, maybe messaging about your clients or mission would help? Rachel says the donors would be fine with it, but how does it interact with the organization’s mission and/or relationship with its clients? Might some of your clients feel alienated or unsafe? Might they feel forced or coerced to perform false piety in order to receive the services your organization provides? Could the religious stuff be taking time and resources away from your primary mandate?

  18. KimberlyR*

    I don’t know enough about nonprofits to know:

    Is there a difference between religious and secular nonprofits in the eyes of the law? Are there different rules, regulations, laws, tax statuses, etc? These differences may not matter to the LW if its not their place to deal with them, but if the nonprofit could get in trouble, that does affect the LW’s job.

      1. Lifelong student*

        Actually sometimes there are differences. I worked for a non-profit entity which was founded as a mission of a religious order but was not designed to and did not promote the religion (although there were signs of its origin in art work and decorations in the facility. As a mission of a religious order, it was not required to file a Form 990 not for profit tax return. I worked for another not for profit which was founded as a Christian organization but was non-sectarian and open to all faiths or those without a faith affiliation. It was required to file the 990. Neither were subject to state and local taxation but both were subject to labor laws and other regulations.

      2. Lurker*

        ^ That’s incorrect. It depends on what type of 501c they’re registered as. Churches are usually 501c3, but not all non-profits are 501(c)(3)s. There are 29 different types of 501(c) organizations, and within those are sub-types. (501(c)(3) can include churches, museums, universities. Social welfare organizations could be 501(c)(4).

        Also, just because an organization is a 501c, doesn’t automatically meant they are tax exempt. While 501c is a federal classification, each state also has laws that apply to non-profits, so yes, there could be different state regulations.

        1. Lurker*

          Just to clarify – I was responding to ACDC. Lifelong student is correct. I work for a 501(c)(3) and we have to file both federal and state tax returns. (Even though we don’t pay income taxes.) Even within the same 501(c)(3) registration there are different regulations depending on what type of charity it is.

      3. Kimmybear*

        There are differences. For example, “Some non-profit religious organizations — like non-profit religious hospitals and institutions of higher education that certify they have religious objections to contraceptive coverage — don’t have to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for contraceptive coverage.” – From

      4. Aquawoman*

        I think the EEO rules might apply differently re religious discrimination. There can be hostile work environment claims based on religion.

      5. Observer*

        That’s actually not necessarily true. Religious institutions, faith based organizations and secular organizations have slightly different rules in regards to many issues. It’s something I deal with on a regular basis.

      6. Was a Church Lady*

        I never took tax law in school, but I do know that churches can prefer faith members when hiring – that’s about all I know about that.

    1. Clisby*

      Not sure about secular v. religious – but doesn’t this nonprofit have some kind of board of directors? If so, they’re the ones to talk to.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        That really depends on the org. In some, an non-director going to the board is a firing offense.

        But LW talks about this being a local branch of a national org, there should be someone to talk to.

    2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      There is a difference in the way the IRS treats them. They certainly won’t raid a church’s records without warning. Plus churches can hide much more than non profits (such as salaries, etc.)

  19. ldierker*

    ALSO, secular and religious non-profits are inherently different. They are not always eligible for the same grants so this may fall into some very murky legal territory.

    1. aebhel*

      Yeah, that was my thought. It’s not something that comes up in my job since I’m in civil service (and therefore turning the workplace into a branch of the director’s church would be a HUGE nope), but I know some of the grants that we’ve applied for specifically exclude religious organizations. That’s potentially a big can of worms that I’m not sure that’s something that Rachel has entirely thought through.

      1. Observer*

        I’d go further – I suspect that neither she nor Mary have through this one through at all.

  20. Aly_b*

    Is there a board of directors for the organization? This is exactly the kind of direction they are there to set, and should either make it clear to all that it is a secular organization, or they might decide they’re good with making it more religious, in which case you have your answer and can move on.

  21. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    As a self-identified atheistic heathen, this would bother me a lot. By the actions of one person, your organization is closing itself off to many people who don’t share the same belief system. This is something worth bringing to the board’s attention because the nonprofit may lose donors who no longer feel accepted or included.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Unfortunately, the board has seen some of these activities and seems fine with it? The dinner that was held had multiple board members (including the chair) in attendance.

      1. Bree*

        Oh, bummer. That does indicate suggestions about taking it to the board aren’t likely to help. I think you’ve got to start job searching.

      2. Employee of the Bearimy*

        I wouldn’t be so sure about that – a lot of people aren’t willing to make waves around religious expression but would support someone who spoke up about it.

        1. Letter Writer*

          They might be, but I don’t have the political clout to make that happen. Mary is well-liked and respected by the board.

          1. Karo*

            I know you still have to consider references, but if you opt to find a new job it may be worth reaching out to the board on the way out.

            1. Bree*

              I did that once – wrote a letter explaining that the ED was the reason I’d quit – and was asked to join the board! (I declined.)

              They fired the ED a couple months later.

      3. MissMeghan*

        Have they seen all of it though? They may have interpreted the prayer at the dinner as appealing to the donors present and not realize the organization is shifting under their feet. Board members don’t see the day-to-day, and their opinions could be very different if they knew the full extent of the shift.

      4. I'm just here for the cats*

        I would still mention it to the board. It may be that they are not realizing how widespread the transitions has been. They may not see all of the correspondence that mentions gods will, and they probably don’t know about the prayer room and religious symbols at work. Is there someone on the board you have a good report with who you could me think these concerns.

      5. Observer*

        You need to bring the PATTERN and the effects to their attention. As others have noted, seeing just the dinner or a couple of events might not make them realize just how far this is going.

        1. Daffy Duck*

          Yes, the pattern is important. If you have a good relationship with anyone on the board I would suggest you bring them the pattern, list all the religious changes made, and talk about how you are worried this will limit the donor pool to those only comfortable with this type of output.
          In any case, I would start looking for another job. Even if the board rolls back the changes Rachel will very likely continue her campaign or she will change focus to make your life difficult.

  22. AndersonDarling*

    They absolutely need to address how this permeates the organization. If the leaders and the board want to reestablish the non-profit as a Christian non-profit, then they need to do it. Organizations change and morph and if that is where they are going, then fine. But they need to be honest with their employees, donors, and the community they serve. Taking money with the guise of secularism and then promoting religious teachings in the background is dishonest. They need to be open, let some donors leave and let some employees leave, and I’m sure they will find other donors and employees, but they need to declare their faith connection.

  23. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, I hope your organization remembers it’s a secular one, but don’t hold a lot of hope. This shift is happening because your colleagues and leadership are okay with it, and they will somehow feel persecuted when reminded they’re supposed to be secular.

    I’m also atheist and keep it to myself, but that’s easier for me to do; my employers are/have been large, publicly traded corporates. On the rare occasion that a colleague and I talked about faith-specific matters at work, I was fortunate that they didn’t witness to me. On the even more rare occasions when someone tried to win my soul for their Lord and Savior, I told them ‘If you try to convert me again, I’ll consider this a two-way street. Get ready for some straight talk about conversion to my beliefs.’ End of conversion talk.

    But that’s not the situation here. You shouldn’t have to be part of a company-sponsored religious exhibition, even if no one is trying to convert you.

  24. CatPerson*

    Positioning your secular organization as faith-based has a lot of serious ramifications. Can you address your concerns with the organizations Board?

  25. Dadolwch*

    I’d be curious if the board of directors for this organization is onboard with this massive change in philosophy and public image. This shift is very likely to alienate some supporters and donors, especially if the org has presented itself as a secular nonprofit. I also don’t think there’s anything accidental or unintentional about it – one or two people on staff have decided that this organization needs to be converted to an extension of their particular brand of religion. And the argument that “most of our supporters” share these beliefs, even were it true, smack of privilege and anti-equity efforts.

    I’ve been in OP’s position where a nonprofit I was working for started morphing into a conservative Christians-only club with prayers before staff meetings, religious icons popping up around the office, and the general tone getting much more preachy and devout. And it’s incredibly harmful to anyone who is not a part of the religious clique. I ended up having to leave the org where I worked, not only because I’m atheist and don’t believe I should have to pray before a meeting, but as a gay person, it became pretty clear that leadership was not supportive of diversity and inclusiveness.

    I personally think that if OP strongly believes in her organization’s mission, it’s worth expending as much political capital as she can to get a real discussion started about this. Nonprofits especially should not be dictatorships where one or two people determine the culture and values for everyone else.

    1. AKchic*

      I know, personally, that any organization that I donate to that mentions that specific religion, or shares any content by any known faith leader of ill-repute is automatically stricken from my list of approved receivers of my money. I am even hesitant to donate to organizations that knowingly take money from certain organizations or peddlers of hate.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Ditto. I’m pagan and LGBTQ. Any religious org that discriminates, even subtly, against me and those like me doesn’t get my money. There are a lot of orgs that “say” they don’t discriminate on religious grounds, but in fact do discriminate. Oh, they’ll call it “lifestyle” or other such minimizing language, but it’s religion based discrimination.

        1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

          The entire point is the moral litmus test – only those Worthy of help shall be helped, and all else shall be left to founder helplessly, because that is what is Right. /gags/

          IMO, that’s one of the most important things to keep in mind here – they WANT to separate people into the worthy and unworthy, and only help those that beg properly for their largesse. It’s not a bug – it’s a feature.

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      If this is a smaller branch of a larger non profit (ex: United Way), they may have some interest here too.

  26. Free Meercats*

    How well do you know your contributor pool? Is there one you know well who is a significant source of resources to the organization who might share your concerns (no matter their belief system?)

    If a major patron went to the board and expressed concern with the new secular tilt, they will shut it down, unless they are actually pushing the change.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Rachel did have it right that most of our donors share her beliefs. Those that have been involved with the org since our founding all attend the same church, and their children all attend the same church-run private school. My concern runs more toward the cultivation of new donors, as there is a new push for younger donors.

      1. Smithy*

        From your comments on this thread, if it is true that most donors share her beliefs, and attend the same church and board members have witnessed this – then I’d see a lot of what is being done as very deliberate and would just look to leave with a good reference.

        As much as you are correct that this may hurt the cultivation of new donors, it’s going to be incredibly hard to make that case if Rachel has some immediate results of raising more from the current donor base by invoking more religious themes and rhetoric. I’m incredibly sorry this is happening to you, but I based on how money is currently flowing – I just don’t see an alternative that doesn’t risk burning bridges or being labeled a trouble maker.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Unfortunately, I think you’re right that just leaving with a good reference is what I will end up having to do. This place has been half of my professional career, so I’m very hesitant to do something to jeopardize that.

          1. DarnTheMan*

            You’ve actually got a great out if you’ve been there for a while, LW! Moving on can be scary but if you don’t want to make waves by focusing on the increasing presence of religion in the workplace, you can always default to “I wanted a change” or “I’m really interested in how [X Organization] works” Most people do not think twice about someone moving jobs because they’re looking to try something a little different.

            1. Letter Writer*

              You’ve really got a great point. Last year they paid for a certification for me so I’m in the best position now to say that I want to move up to something more robust. Thank you.

          2. Smithy*

            Just to repeat – I am terribly terribly sorry this is happening to you. Truly.

            But on the scales of “this is a mission I care about” and “this is a career I care about” – I don’t know how you do both in this case.

          3. RUKiddingMe*

            It’s time to move on.

            Rachel’s good with this, Mary’s good with this, the BOD is good with this, donors are good with this.

            You have a de facto religious org now.

            1. Letter Writer*

              You know, until you listed it out, I hadn’t really thought about how everyone else seems to be saying This Is Fine. And honestly, you’re right that all I can do is start setting myself up to leave.

          4. Old and Don’t Care*

            OP, as my grandmother would say you sound like you have a good head on your shoulders and I’m confident you’ll make the best decision for yourself. I’m sorry you’re in this position.

      2. Robbie*

        Also, just because they share the beliefs doesn’t mean that they *need* or want them in a secular organization. I am currently working in a church, but also volunteer with a few secular organizations. If one of the other groups suddenly moved towards religious language in their official work, regardless if I agreed with the statements, it would weird me out.

      3. Batgirl*

        What you said about Mary not realising there was a Jesus hijack going on made me a bit nervous. When people are all “Oh is the cross in the meditation room religious? I just thought that was just the default thing to do” then you’re not going to be able to rely on their having any sense.
        I’d fear that when Mary says she’ll make it more secular, she means they won’t actually become a church or start any missions, but visiting one is fine. It’s what non clergy secular people do!
        Your additional detail makes me even more nervous about their ability to even discern what is or isn’t secular.
        I think the church culture is baked right in at the founding level and that they are too homogenous to even see that they might be excluding people.
        I think you may have a shot to try and agree a plan to formalize the type of language and events used; but you’ll have to make it paint by numbers for them.

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        A possible script:
        “Hi Mary, since we’re working on new, younger donors, I am concerned that these religious actions will discourage them. People under 50 are not engaged with churches the way our existing donor base is, so we really need to get out of our comfort zone to engage them. If they become interested because of our secular mission, we risk them walking away once they see [the prayer room] [our church service] [this religious speaker].”

        1. Observer*


          Do some donor research on the demographics you are trying to raise money from, and bring it to Mary.

  27. Fabulous*

    Is there a Board of Directors you can take the issue to? They would be the ones with the power to enact any real change.

  28. Buns of Cinnamon*

    LW, regardless of how you handle this with the higher-ups or the board, I think it’s time to GTFO. Even if mandates to dial it back or cut it out completely come down from the powers that be, that’s probably going to stir up some resentment and make the atmosphere unpleasant. People will probably cry, “Freedom of religion,” even though in a secular organization, religion has no place in shared spaces.

    Allowing religious trappings in what was a quiet/meditation room says to me that people have dug their claws in.

  29. lilsheba*

    I’m an atheist, and a secular witch. It really irritates me that people think it’s ok to just push Christian religions onto people without their consent, that it’s just normal behavior. If *I* started pushing my beliefs on people there would be a huge outcry, it wouldn’t be considered normal at all. It’s not right.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      Good point. I’m agnostic and haven’t outed myself at work because while it’s a secular organization, I know there would be discrimination. Yes, technically they’re not supposed to legally, but they find other reasons besides your beliefs to not promote you or not hire you for a job that pays more. I don’t even live in the deep south, and this goes on. It isn’t only done for religions, either. Companies make sure that you can’t prove it in a court of law, but it does still happen.

    2. Stormy Weather*

      This. I’m agnostic and Buddhist and I don’t want any religion pushed on me, especially Christianity which I left behind decades ago.

      I also hate seeing blessings, religious quotes, or ‘have a blessed day’ in professional email signatures. It’s just not appropriate in a secular setting.

      1. lilsheba*

        exactly, what if I started saying “blessed be” on everything? Sheesh. I get people on the phone saying have a blessed day every single day though.

  30. AKchic*

    Rachel especially knows she is doing this. There is no “accidental” to this. Go over Mary and Rachel since talking to them has not actually stopped them. They will start alienating donors and potential donors. Sure, it might bring in some new donors, but it will also change the entire dynamic of the organization, and the new donors will expect changes that the organization may not want, as well as the board and the articles of incorporation may not allow for.

    If Mary and Rachel want to serve in a religious capacity, they need to do so elsewhere. Period. You are right to push back, and if that means bringing in an outside organization to fight this (Freedom From Religion Foundation, for example), then do so.

  31. Lady Heather*

    Does anyone know whether this is legal? I thought that in the US only church-affiliated nonprofits were allowed to do ‘churchy’ things/discriminate and forcing employees to attend an event that includes a church service and a prayer seems murky to me for a secular organization.

    1. Dream Jobbed*

      And can LW refuse to attend religious based events on the basis of their religious beliefs? You cannot be discriminated against in the workplace because of your religious beliefs – including having none. How can avoiding religious events not be seen as legal/necessary workplace accommodations?

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Because she’s running the A/V tech for the presentation.

        If your job is to run A/V tech, your ability to opt out of certain presentations based on their content is a lot weaker, because it’s part of your job to be present when there is a speaker/presentation/class/performance/production.

  32. Delta Delta*

    Several thoughts:

    1. Go to the board. The staff serves at the pleasure of the board (although, depending on the reporting structure, perhaps this is a Mary issue to deal with). If Rachel is single-handedly changing the mission of the organization or is operating outside the bylaws or constitution, the board may choose to put a stop to what’s going on. I’d have a conversation with Mary about this before taking it to the board. Also, it may require voting of the membership to change the bylaws/constitution, so even if the board wants to get on board with turning into a religious org, they may not have the backing of the larger organization to do it.

    2. LW is fully within her right to tell Rachel to knock it off.

    3. It may very well be that many of the donors and Rachel are of the same faith. Maybe many of them attend bible study together. Good for them. If Rachel uses those community contacts to the benefit of the organization, good for her. However, it sounds more like Rachel is becoming myopic, and potentially harmful to the organization if her focus is solely on maintaining those donors and not cultivating new ones.

    3a. Even if Myrna Warblesworth writes a $5000 or even a $50,000 check every year, Myrna doesn’t get to say how the organization itself runs. A donor doesn’t get to tell an office staff that they have to move religious relics off the conference table every time they want to have a meeting. Nope nope nopity nope.

    1. Maxie*

      Donors absolutely have a voice when a nonprofit strays from its mission, bith by contacting the board and stopping their donations.

  33. Falling Diphthong*

    “Most” of our donors are of this same religion and would be fine with it.

    Oh Rachel. Just because people don’t raise something with you doesn’t mean they are all silently agreeing with you in unison.

  34. ynotlot*

    I could be mistaken, but aren’t 501(c)(3) nonprofits governed by certain regulations to maintain that status? I’m pretty sure that a 501c3 CAN’T have a religious affiliation. There is a different nonprofit status for religious organizations. You can’t (I’m pretty sure) accept donations and maintain tax-free status for those donations as a secular nonprofit and also have a religious affiliation.

    1. ynotlot*

      Okay, looked this up and I am mistaken, but I think it would still matter greatly what your 501c3 status is FOR. If your main qualifying activities are educational and charitable, and the org didn’t list religion as a part of their mission, then they’d probably be running afoul of their own specific 501c3 status, even though religious orgs do fall under 501c3.

    2. Orange You Glad*

      That is not true, at least in the US. The IRS includes in section 501(c)(3) religious purposes as part of its definition of exempt purposes. “Advancement of religion” is specifically part of its definition of “charitable”.

    3. Letter Writer*

      It’s not really an issue. We provide emergency services to those in specific situations.

      1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        okay – seriously, emergency services becoming religiousy? I’m now actively horrified.

        A homeless shelter/women’s shelter/whatever shouldn’t have religion shoved in. What if the person in the emergency is the “wrong” religion? What then?

        Are people gonna get preached to when they’re already in shock? Get told the problem is their god?

        You can bet that I’d pull my funds from that. And if you’re affiliated with a national org – yeah, they’d probably want to know as well.

        Emergency relief is the wrong time for any religious intervention that isn’t at the behest of the person receiving the services.

        1. Dadolwch*

          It’s super-common, though, for emergency aid and shelter services to have a direct tie to religious organizations. St. Vincent de Paul, one of the largest direct service charities, is an arm of the Catholic Church. However, there are laws in the US that say you cannot discriminate regarding who you provide those services to and cannot require conversion to a specific belief system to receive aid.

    4. Coverage Associate*

      There are rules requiring 501(c)(3) nonprofits to maintain their charitable purpose. Those rules are mostly at the state level. But churches, etc. are also 501(c)(3)s.

  35. August*

    I’ve worked for a nonprofit with a vaguely Christian mission (think “helping people through X service but also through the grace of God” or what have you). Half of the staff members were atheist (including myself) and occasionally had to push things in a more secular direction. It was all about picking battles. We didn’t mind having a moment of silence/prayer during weekly meetings or quoting a Psalm during event speeches, but we did successfully lobby to keep our public outreach and promotional documents secular. The argument was that the nonprofit wanted to serve *everyone* in need, and we wanted people who might be interested in our programs to know that they wouldn’t be turned away because they weren’t Christian. That might be an argument you could use, depending on how your nonprofit operates.

  36. Maxie*

    The two things I would add to Alison’s response is that this negatively impacts the people the organization serves. Clients are coming for services, not religion. This also needs to brought to the board. If it is a good board, they will shut it down. As a grant writer, I can tell you this likely violates many grant contracts, both government and philanthropic foundations.

  37. Buttons*

    I research where I donate. One of my criteria is that the organization is not religious and doesn’t support other religious organizations. If I showed up to an event or received communications like the OP described I would be very upset and would pull my support. I would also let them know why.
    If an org is presenting itself as secular but is not practicing those principles I would contact the board. I don’t know if as an employee, that is acceptable to do, but as a donor, I would.

  38. Marny*

    LW: I’m so sorry this is happening to you. I would be incredibly upset and uncomfortable if this happened at a company/organization I worked for, and it would absolutely drive me away. I don’t have advice, I just wanted to express my sympathy.

  39. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

    I’m atheist, and I have a personal ‘rule’ that I don’t donate to religious charities (whatever the religion). Were I a supporter of the charity you work for, I would cease my support at once and let them know why.

    I do realise that’s just me and that community in which you live seem to feel differently and, indeed, to be very different from the community in which I live. But I fervently (see what I did there) hope that I have not recently donated to this charity.

  40. MicroManagered*

    LW if you hear any of this from the clients/donors, I’d pass that feedback on immediately or encourage them to send in that feedback as well.

  41. Impy*

    This is disgusting. Why on earth do they think it’s acceptable to force their religious beliefs on you? Especially in the workplace? How is this even legal?

  42. DarnTheMan*

    Ugh. I can only second Alison’s advice, OP but you have my sympathies. I would be curious to see what happens with “most” of the donors as things get increasingly faith based though; there’s enough faith based charities/organizations out there that most people, if they want to donate to one, can find one without a charity they’re already donating to pulling a sneak values switch on them. Not to mention even a lot of people involved in the/a church have issues donating to faith based charities specifically because of the values they can represent.

  43. Leela*

    Oh this is gross. If you can’t stop it, I’d get out!

    First of all this just shows massive cluelessness on their part. Even if it’s true that most, or even all of their donors are religious, what happens when this organization falls out of favor with them for some reason? And you’ve all branded yourself as an organization that’s so religious you had an event IN A CHURCH??

    Is she going to start praying to decide what to do from a business standpoint, instead of using business sense? Is she going to base important decisions on the idea that God will protect her and therefore the organization because she’s religious, instead of really digging in and making sure that she’s making the best decision for the organization?

    This stinks to high heaven, I’d be job searching like nobody’s business

  44. Formerly Known As*

    Many years ago I worked at a secular university in a department that had nothing to do with religion. The office bully touted herself as a big Christian and often walked around the office singing random religious lyrics to people as she walked past you. For instance, she would be walking silently until she passed your desk and then out of nowhere she’d sing something like “Jesus will save you!” It was weird. And then she used company e-mail to invite us to her church for a screening of the movie “The Passion of the Christ.”

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I’d be tempted to invite folks to a movie night to watch Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.”

    2. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      If someone sang “Jesus will save you” at me, I’d almost certainly snap back “From you?” before I even stopped to think …….

      Or, of course, “Hail to the Sun God, he’s a really Fun God, Ra! Ra! Ra!”

      Confusion is the best policy!

  45. Observer*

    I haven’t read the comments, yet so I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet. But if there is any government money, public / private partnerships or partnerships with organizations that also do work that is seen as typically incompatible with the religious expression going on here, all of that would be endangered by this.

    It should be obvious what the problems are with the government money issue is. But think, for an example, of an organization that works with victims of sexual abuse, that you have a partnership with, and also with sex workers (not an unreasonable combination, given how large the overlap is.) The other organization may feel, not unreasonably, that your group is very unwelcoming to that constituency and decide to end the partnership.

    Also, donors are not the only people you need to satisfy. There is a constituency you are supposed to be serving. Are they comfortable with this? Again “most” is not good enough.

    Lastly, I’d be willing to bet that you are not the only employee who is having an issue here. And that could even be edging on religious discrimination – The idea that a “quiet / meditation” room, usable to people of all faiths / no faith has essentially been turned over to the people of only one faith tradition is really, really problematic.

    1. Arctic*

      George W Bush’s administration changed the game for federal funding of non-profits. Obama’s administration didn’t really walk that back. And this administration will not do anything about it.

      Depending on the state it may be an issue. But the big source of funding is the federal government. And they will not pull funding based on this.

      1. Smithy*

        Exactly. I don’t think there’s a legal or administrative quick fix to this.

        I think that it’s also worth flagging that there are a numerous religiously affiliated organizations that provide “secular” services and qualify them for public moneys as well as expression of their faith. A number of hospitals for a start all around the US. And should you have a case referred to their Ethics Board, their religious ethics will come into play around best care even if it is contrary to a doctor’s advice.

        True – the differences at play are the expressed mission, but I think the larger point is there isn’t going to be some donor compliance audit that sweeps in and compels this change while the LW can stay quiet. To push back on this, the LW would have to make a lot of noise and push back against current leadership.

      2. Observer*

        While the rules around faith based organizations have changed, it is still not an “everything goes” situation. Some funding is still explicitly not accessible to faith based organizations. And other funding is conditional on providing services in a faith neutral way, as well as adhering to religious accommodation rules. Of course, there are not always bright lines, but requiring people to listen to overtly, non-mission related, religious speeches as a condition of employment or receiving service almost certainly is almost certainly a problem.

        And, this is true for organizations that are EXPLICITLY faith based. If this is a secular institution and you act like a religious organization, all bets are off.

        I doubt that any government funders are actively looking for violations, but smart organizations don’t depend on that because stuff happens. A disgruntled employee or client (current or former) complains to the right place, a Board member or high ranking staff member has a falling out with someone important, an enterprising journalist is looking for a scoop, someone with an agenda starts digging, etc. There are a LOT of ways stuff can go bad, very quickly.

  46. Super Anon for This*

    As a nonprofit professional – all I can say is prepare your resume and leave. While there may be a strong mission and moral cases to make in continuing to push back, it’s going to be a challenge that may ultimately result in the OP leaving without positive references and expending a lot of energy.

    The organization I work for now has a mission that makes our staff heavily favor one political party. Twenty years ago our mission had more bipartisan support and that reflected in the staff. Exactly when the scales started to tip and how that affected the vibe in the office, I wasn’t around for. But there certainly came a point where supporting a certain party became more at odds with our mission, and then over time – more at odds with the majority of staff.

    Our organization certainly strives for a culture of inclusivity – and I do get that may seem contrary with everything written above. But we’re also mission driven so there’s the cover of wanting to support policies (aka candidates and parties) that support our mission. So strongly pushing back against staff culture around politics would be a difficult and potentially isolating road to take.

    I work for a nonprofit because I do care about supporting a mission. I also do this because I need to work for money. If I experienced a tip in the opposite direction of what I mention above, as distressing as it would be – I just don’t see wanting to make the professional risk of fighting it.

  47. Bubbles*

    I feel for you, LW. I have worked in public education for nearly 15 years and am absolutely not used to Christian or other religious practices so openly used. But my husband started working for an agency that is government-based but not fully State or City or County. For 40 years, the Executive Director has been of a particular Christian denomination, as have most of the executive staff. They would have Christmas parties for the staff, but they would prohibit alcohol from being served anywhere on the premises, there would be no music played, and no raffles. Then they would open the dinner with a prayer that was heavy on “our Lord”, “Heavenly Father”, “Lord Jesus”, and other titles. When I said something to my husband, he told me it was tame compared to how they start their Board Meetings. I’m in awe that it hasn’t been a larger problem.

  48. Specialist*

    Why don’t you sign up to give the “prayer” before the next big meeting? You can give a nice short speech about understanding differences and including people who are different. You’re looking to leave anyhow.

  49. RandoPersonsNameHere*

    I’m assuming this Non-Profit has a board. Do you know how they feel about the changes? Have the changes in direction, vision and strategy been approved by them?

    Even if you decide to leave – it might be worth talking with the Chair (or another board member) about what’s happening.

  50. nnnnnnotme*

    Being an LGBTQ person, I’d be terrified if this happened at my workplace. I check more rigorously for an EOE statement that includes me whenever I apply for a position somewhere religiously affiliated than when there’s no religious affiliation, and I’d be worried that the culture change at work could spell bad news for my job security or turn the office into a safe space for people to voice their homo-, trans- or biphobic thoughts.

    1. Quill*

      Yeah, given that this is a recent development I would 100% be very, very uncomfortable and I’d assume it was being done for deliberate, current political reasons.

      1. AnonEmu*

        Same, I am in the LGBTQ community and I would be on edge as all get out and eyeing the exit. Too many denominations think me and my family are inherently broken and are trying to legislate us out of existence. Once religion gets hold in an org like that, too likely it will be used to push out anyone who doesn’t belong to their particular brand, or who doesn’t fit what they view acceptable. When I was a kid in public school in the US, a particularly right wing sect of Protestantism had a chokehold on the school and it did not go well for smol!me. Any overt display of Christianity in a workplace would have me prepping my resume and planning on getting out.

    2. AKchic*


      I am already queasy enough with the supervisors and their daily Faux News streaming and “debates” amongst themselves. The union made sure the 45 memes posted on the bulletin boards got removed (after nearly 2 years).

  51. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*


    I am religiously observant and I would absolutely hate to have my workplace morph into a pseudo religious organisation.

    1. I would hate it if it was my own religion. Like you, I chose to work for a secular organisation. My beliefs and observance are not a secret but not something I put on display at work. I want to work somewhere where I can meet and engage with diverse people outside of my religious community.

    2. If it was a different religion to mine I would find it hugely overwhelming and alienating, and I’d probably have serious concerns about my job security.

    I’m blessed to work with people who are Greek Orthodox, Seventh-day Adventist, Muslim, mainstream Christian, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, atheist, Hindu, and probably other things that I’m quite unaware of, all tolerant of each other without being overly curious, and I like it that way.

    OP I think you should start looking for something else. Good luck and please send an update.

  52. Observer*

    Alison, I have to respectfully disagree with you about the fact that the OP is talking about Christianity not affecting the advice.

    For one thing, it might be useful for the OP to point out that while *Christinaity* might be the most common religious affiliation of donors, staff and constituents, different denominations could have WILDLY differing approaches, so it’s a lot more likely that there are more people who are uncomfortable than just the non-Christians.

    Secondly, the fact that it’s Christianity is why they can make the excuse that it’s “the default” and the “standard background that they don’t notice.” It’s baloney, of course. But it does give the OP standing to point out that may make it hard for them to recognize how intensive these actions are and the active harm being done to people in minority faith traditions and those who reject those traditions.

    1. Quill*

      Also it’s not like infighting between sects of christianity is new, and many sects that only publically say that they’re “christian” will deliberately exclude other sects.

    2. AP*

      There’s another important difference between Christianity and other religions. Most Christian denominations explicitly encourage proselytizing. They seek converts and feel that exposing non-believers to Christian messaging is important to their mission. So, concerns about annoying those outside their religion are likely to fall on deaf ears as they consider that a feature not a bug.

  53. Annie Porter*

    Just came to say UGH! I’m with ya in every aspect here. Left an org that was very liberal/secular but owned by a dude who became born-again Christian later in life and Very Christian Things started happening as he got older (and probably a bit more senile).

  54. M*

    Go to the board! They’re the governing body. I I they expect it to remain secular as well.

  55. Happy Pineapple*

    Please do continue to push back on this. You know first-hand how deeply alienating these practices and phrases can be, and your organization needs to understand how some, possibly many, donors will feel the same way. I know I personally choose not to support certain businesses and NPOs because of their religious affiliation, especially when it doesn’t align with my own beliefs.

  56. The King of Spain's Daughter*

    One of the joys of reading “Ask A Manager” is that one week I come away thinking “Gosh, all Non Profits are insane! I’ll never work for one!” and then the next week I think “Gosh, all Academics are nuts! I’ll never work for a college or university!” and then the following week I think “Gosh, Corporate jobs are looney! I’ll never work for a corporation…”

  57. Karo*

    How do they not see it?! Especially Mary – she clearly was used to standard business communications before Rachel came along.

    I have no idea how you’ve dealt with it thus far. My organization does a prayer before our twice-a-year potlucks and that’s bad enough; I can’t imagine dealing with it on the reg.

  58. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    I’m also an atheist, and I’m strongly considering officially joining The Satanic Temple because of hijacking like this. It’s a recognized religion, and highlights justice (over laws and institutions if need be), a person’s body is subject to only that person’s will, and beliefs should conform to the best scientific facts available, among others. No mention of any deities, devils, or “higher powers” at all.

    1. Free Meercats*

      Rather than joining The Satanic Temple, join us in the United Church of Bacon. Quoting the Second Bacon Commandment, “We fight discrimination. Atheists and non-believers are not inferior and should not be hated and marginalized.”

        1. Free Meercats*

          In case this is a link the Alison prefers to sit on, just google the name and it should be the first result. Name of the church dot org.

  59. phira*

    I had donated to what I thought was a secular organization (its mission was one that was non-religious, and there was ZERO religious information on its website), and in December, I received mail from them asking for more donations. The letter was overtly and explicitly religious, written by the organization’s head. It made me so upset and uncomfortable that I had donated to them in the past that I contacted them, told them to remove me from the mailing list, and outright told them that if they were a religious organization, they needed to make it clear on their website.

    So, all this to say: you, LW, are right that this is probably going to upset some donors.

    And this was an organization that *did* have a religious affiliation! Just one that was invisible unless you were on their mailing list during Christmastime. Given that your organization is secular, it’s really unacceptable. I’d push back hard and leave if they can’t commit to leaving religion out of it. They were capable of leaving religion out before, and they can do it again.

  60. Impy*

    In the UK we have specific non discrimination at work laws, which include religion and the lack of. There is also a very strict clause about ‘not infringing on the fundamental rights of others’. So under British law, OP could successfully claim discrimination on the basis of her atheism.

    Invocations and prayer at work are not accidental or excusable; they are flagrant violations of her moral beliefs, and are discriminatory to anyone who isn’t that particular flavour of Christianity – e.g. if I were still a Catholic and my boss attempted to force me into C of E prayers, that would still be a violation of my faith and beliefs. I’m kind of baffled that everyone is being so calm about this – is it common in America?

    1. nnnnnnotme*

      IANAL but I believe here in the US, it would be discrimination if the employee was punished for refusing to participate in a prayer, but it’s okay to have prayers at work. In addition, these laws don’t apply to all organizations.

      1. Impy*

        Thank you for the clarification – this seems mad to me. As I say, apart from prayers at work violating atheism, being forced to be around other denominations prayers can be inherent violation.

        When I was a Catholic I wouldn’t necessarily have been auto-excommunicated for being around say, C of E prayers / church, but if I had been considered to have joined an org run by a different faith that could *absolutely* have been considered a violation of my faith. One that could have led to me being excommunicated. These people DISGUST me.

  61. Mr M*

    A few years ago, I started work in the R&D Dept of a well-known, privately-owned, consumer product company. I went to our first all-employee meeting & almost burst-out in shocked laughter when the director of our engineering outpost bowed his head, everyone followed suit & he said ‘Thank you Jesus for our jobs’. I had been there almost a month & no one told me about this! I was laid-off 38 months later with half the company, when our operating budget was slashed in half & my department eliminated. I always wonder if Jesus just didn’t want us to be employed there anymore…

  62. Lady Kelvin*

    I can feel your discomfort OP. I work for a federal agency and we have Christmas parties, complete with religious carols, prayers over our meals, etc. and it makes me soo uncomfortable. But unfortunately, we’re an organization where either you’ve been here for 20 years or for <5 so I don't have the standing to tell the people running the socials that it probably shouldn't be done. I also don't want to out myself as non-religious and alienate my colleagues. Its a tough spot to be in and I commiserate with you.

    1. Impy*

      Discomfort? I’m sorry but I find the language y’all are using really, really strange. ‘Discomfort’ is a word for bosses who rant, or yell, or colleagues that whinge. This is a gross violation of personal and professional autonomy, and the commenters here are acting like the boss is double dipping Doritos.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Absolutely, there are many of us who hate it and do feel our basic rights are being violated when we’re proselytized at and subjected to unwanted religious trappings and prayer in the workplace. And yet in some parts of the US it is just part of the air we’re forced to breathe. In the Deep South where I live, it’s so ubiquitous in the culture that we can face very real social or economic consequences for pushing back. And we do push back, but there are Just. So. Many. Of. Them. And the violations just keep coming. Sometimes it feels like trying to beat back the sea with a broom. So yeah, I’d describe it as being exhausted into discomfort, rather than incandescent rage, which you can’t keep up forever without some breaks.

        1. Impy*

          Thank you for the explanation – it clarifies things, because so many commenters were acting like this is normal, and to be expected. Like it’s on a par with your boss just being a bit mean. In the UK this would be splashed in the papers and mocked on our comedy shows. A lady called Wasteney, basically Rachel in this scenario, was suspended from work for similar behaviour (attempted to convert a Muslim subordinate) and lost an employment tribunal.

          I’m not trying to say Britain is amazing here – more that this is why this story is so alien to me.

    2. Impy*

      And isn’t separation enshrined in the constitution? Surely a federal agency would be subject to that?

      1. AKchic*

        You’d think, but when it’s considered the “dominant” religion, and when the laws are being written to continually protect that specific religion, it is really hard to push back with impunity. Especially in “right to work” states.
        I am constantly frustrated by the religious quotes in signature lines coming from military email addresses while at work. At the gate during my mandatory ID check the constant barrage of “have a blessed day” and “gawd bless you” and the like. My mother eats it up because she is overly religious and thinks of herself as some born-again southern woman (she married a southerner, and treats it like some kind of communicable disease, I dunno) (FYI – working with your mother is its own personal brand of hell, even when you can separate personal from professional). I generally just sit in the passenger seat and crochet and ignore them because anything I have to say wouldn’t be nice.

  63. Ciela*

    Defaulting to thinking everyone else shares your religion?
    Attending Catholic schools for 13 years, I did default to “everyone here is also Catholic” until Freshman year of high school. Maybe 75% of the students were Catholic, at an all girls Catholic school. It was assumed that even those students who were not Catholic were okay with praying, or at least sitting silently, going to Mass once a month, etc., but there was zero chance of anyone believing these were secular schools.

    Now even being a religious person, I am not comfortable with religion coming into my work place. My boss asks for “anyone inclined to do so, please keep my wife in your prayers. Doctors said the cancer is back…” I understand. He is very stressed, and it is 100% optional for anyone to keep his wife in their private prayers. Anything more than that, *I* would alert him that not all people share the same religious views he does.

    It seems odd that no one at the top of the food chain has told Rachel and Mary to cut out the religious overtones, but maybe they didn’t notice?

  64. Scott*

    Came here to second Allison’s point to not assume that all your coworkers approve of this shift, even those who may belong to the religion itself. The company I work for, while independent, is affiliated with a religious organization of which I am also a member. While in many non-work situations I am a strong advocate for my faith, I am always uncomfortable when my work and religion begin to mix since I know that while many of the employees here share my beliefs, some do not. I would be very eager to help put the kibosh on this kind of thing if I were your coworker! I think it’s extremely difficult for people who have been engaged with, accepting of, and comfortable in religion their whole lives to understand how uncomfortable it can make people when, to them, they see it as completely inoffensive and neutral.

  65. Lord Gouldian Finch*

    So you’re in a position where your boss won’t do anything, your boss’ right hand is making the changes, and the board is behind your boss. You really have no choice but to leave. It sucks, but there’s no alternative. It sounds like at best one of the board members would politely remind Mary not to be so overtly religious, and then Mary would just do nothing.

  66. Gravitas*


    This is obviously an issue for you, but not just for you. If I was a regular donor to a llama rescue group and then found out they’d become a Christian llama group without telling me, I would feel incredibly misled.

    Even more than that, hiring new staff into an organization that IS explicitly Christian but does not CLAIM to be explicitly Christian is setting everyone up in that scenario for incredible discomfort and, likely, disrespect. If an NPO is going to be religious they MUST be explicit about that, and exactly what that means to them. To do otherwise is incredibly dishonest. Imagine what would happen to both the new hire AND the existing staff if they managed to hire someone with strong religious convictions that didn’t align with the organization’s (unstated) ones?

    If this is how it’s gonna be, they MUST be explicit about it so new hires, and donors, can self-select out.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      …and now I’m picturing a christian llama group, where there are schisms based on whether it was sheep at the nativity, or actually llamas… and then another schism because it was actually *alpacas*.

      1. AKchic*

        And another schism because one group feels the anointing was actually the spitting of a llama while another group feels it most certainly was not, it was an alpaca, while a third group thinks both ideas is heresy.

  67. cmcinnyc*

    I’m an atheist and I give as much money as I can to a variety of nonprofits on the little-bit-every-month plan. I’m the donor you want to have, who just keeps plunking money into your coffers every month and occasionally makes a bigger one-time gift. I do not give one dollar to a single religious organization. Many do great work. But they’re going to have to do it without me. If I got an eblast or mailing from one of my charities that included “blessings from God” or any other Christian-y phrase, I would cancel my giving immediately and redistribute it to others I already support, or look for a truly secular organization in your niche. To me, sending something like that out to a general audience from a specifically NON-religious organization would be a huge lapse in judgement. I don’t give my money to fools if I can help it.

    1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      This +10000! The moment god is mentioned, the wallet shuts.

    2. Anonnington*

      And that gives OP a great reason to bring it up! The org will need to address the past communications and assure people they are secular or reach out to new donors who will support their new direction.

  68. Chronic Overthinker*

    LW, I applaud your desire to want your organization to remain secular and open to all faiths. However, it does sound like Rachel has other plans and wants to make the organization less inclusive. I agree with many of the other posters about trying to reach out to the Board and making sure that everyone in the organization is following the mission and verifying the mission truly is secular. It doesn’t matter if you are of any faith; Heathen, Pagan, Pastafarian, Agnostic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, whatever. Secular is non-religious and meant to be inclusive to all, not exclusive. See if you can go above Rachel’s head, but in the meantime, put some feelers out for other jobs. If this truly is the way the organization is headed, you may no longer be comfortable working there and should look for something else just in case.

  69. Dancing Otter*

    Take a look at the organization charter, and their status with the IRS and whoever regulates charities in your state. Typically, they have to disclose any religious aspects. There are different sections and subsections of the Internal Revenue code for different types of NPOs.
    This may not help in your situation, but finding out that the organization charter specifically says it is NOT a religious organization would seem to give you a little more leverage to protest.

  70. Frankie*

    There are a lot of Christians today who are told by their churches that the main criteria of living out Christianity are inviting people to church and talking nicely to people about Jesus. So the definition of being a Christian is not just a personally held belief, but commitment to helping grow the church and essentially convert others.

    This sounds like Rachel. No matter what, she will see it as a good and positive thing, and you’re unlikely to persuade her otherwise. This “I don’t see it” is so telling, and I think a bit of an excuse, because how can you not?

    It’s deeply frustrating (as someone raised Christian, now not). There are ways to be Christian in the world that focus on the major content of Jesus’ life as reported in biblical text, which was mainly helping the poor and disenfranchised and critiquing structural religion, none of which hinges on any conversions or forced beliefs. But there are a lot of churches out there that don’t quite get that. Not sure where the LW is, but at least in the States, I think it’s because many of the early European settlers were religious extremists. So without wanting to generalize, conversion and proselyting is sort of baked into the American understanding of what it means to be religious.

    All that to say, LW, it sucks and is really indefensible, but it might be time to leave. There are forces much bigger than you at play here.

    1. Idril Celebrindal*

      This attitude you mention is one of the things that makes me so angry about Christianity in the US. I mean, I used to be an Evangelical Christian, was confirmed Anglican, and now identify as Orthodox, but I am absolutely against organized Christianity’s stance regarding LGBTQ+ identities (yes I’m a walking contradiction, no I don’t identify as completely hetero, no I haven’t figured out how to reconcile everything) and I hate this emphasis on evangelizing. This is part of the attitude that being “right” is more important than being loving or kind and it is so contrary to the actual teachings of Jesus. Based on my experience, they think they are right and that it’s just a matter of time before everyone realizes it, and they won’t ever listen to anyone else’s perspective and they probably are thinking that they are “planting the seed” in LW and that maybe down the road it will “bear fruit”. It’s gross and disrespectful and unfair and I’m sorry you are dealing with this LW, but for people like this any pushback you attempt will only make them dig in their heels and try harder. They’ll probably keep trying to tell you that they agree with you and want to make changes while never actually “getting around to it” because both Rachel and Mary sound like quintessential Nice White Christian Ladies, but I don’t have any hope for them ever really listening to you.

      As someone who fled a Christian institution while still a Christian because I couldn’t stand their brand of Christianity, I will say that you can’t convince them to change and you should get out while they will still give you a good reference.

  71. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    Definitely go to your board. Are you receiving any federal/state/public funding? This is a huge no. Also, if you work with the public. you can see if any of them are annoyed and give them your CEO’s number. Alternatively, start decorating with FSM items as well as the Satanic Temple. Especially the Satanic Temple. It’s a church and you can simply say “it’s my religion.”

  72. MCMonkeyBean*

    I would be very upset in this situation, I’m honestly just so sorry. It really sucks when you have a job you like and everything changes around you!

    It’s not the same, but I was working happily at one company for many years and then out of nowhere they started this huge outsourcing project. My job personally was not in danger but the structure of it changed significantly as we partnered with a team in India and had to train them on a bunch of our assignments and I ended up having more of a reviewer role than a preparer role. I stuck with it for another year waiting to see if things got better, and kept saying things like “well I really liked it here before.” But the fact was the office was just not the way it was before, and it would not be again.

    I think you unfortunately will need to deal with the fact that your company is not the way it was before Rachel joined and it seems unlikely at this point that it will be again, or at least not any time soon. It’s time to start searching for something else.

  73. Former Employee*

    It appears that a supposedly secular organization is now moving towards becoming religiously affiliated. Presumably they obtain money through donations and/or grants. It’s possible that donors and grant providers would not be giving the organization money if they were aware of this change in the way this nonprofit operates.

    Could the organization get in legal trouble for soliciting donations and grants under false pretenses?

  74. Anonnington*

    I second going to the board. Be really objective, state the facts, and phrase it as a question.

    “The organization is described here as secular.” Quote the mission statement.

    “Recent communications include the following.” Quote coms containing religious references.

    “And our quiet room has been transformed into a Christian prayer room. Is the organization changing from secular to Christian? If so, how will that affect our work? I assume there could be a shift in sources of funding. Are we planning for a transition phase and if so, what should staff expect?”

    You might need to raise these questions with your boss first, or at least include them when you contact the board.

  75. Osipova*

    What they are doing could seriously jeopardize funding if you are in fact a secular nonprofit. Many foundations/corporations have clauses saying that they don’t support religious nonprofits. Its possible that if one of these foundations saw some of the letters saying someone was “blessed by God” that they could pull your funding.

    If they won’t be moved by good HR arguments then this could be the strategy to pursue. Do you have an ombudsman that can take anonymous staff complaints? Some states require that with nonprofits. If so that could be an avenue to pursue as well.

  76. CocoB*

    Assuming you are in the US, your non-profit should have a board and by laws that govern the mission and direction of the organization. If your organization governing documents speak to the matter, that should solve the issue unless the board would like to alter, vote and approve changes to them. And unless a couple key employees are a part of the governing body, they are seriously overstepping and the board is negligent in letting it happen. (I agree with LW and I actually work at an evangelical non-profit.)

  77. Nee Attitude*

    The thing that seems especially problematic to me with injecting Christian flavor into a secular nonprofit is that the type of Christian who seeks to infiltrate secular spaces seems to also be the type of Christian who then tries to direct activities/services in such a way that it begins to minimize, and then eliminate charity to “certain populations”.

  78. CircleBack*

    This whole conversation in the comments reminds me of a small organization that my company often works with who sent an *extremely* religious Christmas card this past December, signed by all the people in their office.
    It was so off-putting because their mission isn’t at all “Christian” – they basically create educational materials for our small, non-religious industry. To send this out to corporate offices across the US & Canada was tone-deaf and just reinforced how out-of-touch we already suspected the organization of being. Guess who’s throwing less money their way this year?

  79. Valerie*

    Where is the board in this? The board sets the mission statement and strategic vision for the organization. They may be dumbfounded to hear what’s been happening.

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