my coworker prayed that I’ll return to Jesus, coworker went through my laptop bag, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker prayed that I’ll return to Jesus

I work in higher ed at a university that has roughly a 40% Jewish population. I have worked in my office for a little over four years. About a year ago, I converted to Judaism. I am quite open about this and often wear a Magen David necklace. In the office suite across from my department is a woman who is an evangelical Christian. Prior to my conversion, she had asked me to come with her to church several times. I always told her no. Tried to hand me religious pamphlets. I wouldn’t take them. In the last year, she has asked me to church several times — I told her I was Jewish and no thanks. She asked me what I was doing for Christmas, I reminded her I was Jewish so I do not celebrate Christmas. It’s all annoying and I now regret not pressing this with her supervisor and/or mine after what happened today.

I was walking down the hallway and she walked up to me, cornered me, put her hand on my head, and before I could run away told me she’s going to pray for me. She said this very long prayer that ended with, “And may you come back to Jesus.” I was floored. I honestly had no idea what to say. I looked at her in shock and walked away. I feel violated to my very core. And I am unsure what steps to take next. Even if I was a fellow Christian, this was not something that I think is professional in a workplace. I know I really need to go to HR, but is that the right path? Is there anything else I should do to protect myself? I fear what will come next if she’s not talked to.

That. Is. Outrageous.

Yes, HR is the right path. Tell HR that your coworker has made numerous religious overtures to you, including repeatedly inviting you to church and trying to give you religious materials, and you’ve declined them each time but this latest one crosses a new line and you you want her religious harassment to stop. Use those words.

It’s not clear to me if you’ve ever told your coworker directly to stop — you’ve declined her overtures, but have you ever explicitly said “please do not raise religion with me again”? If not, that’s worth doing too. You don’t need to do that in order to ask HR to intervene — your coworker’s behavior is so over the line that it’s not on you to address it yourself at this point — but if you’re up for it, ideally you’d cover that base too. Ideally you would have done that earlier on and it might have short-circuited what followed (or who knows, it might not have) … but either way, it’s reasonable to take this to HR because (a) her latest action is so over-the-top that it warrants it regardless and (b) we don’t want her to just stop doing this to you; we want her to stop doing it to anyone at work, and your company should want that too.

P.S. An acquaintance of my mother’s recently drove eight hours from another state to visit her to attempt to convert her from Judaism. When my mother wasn’t sufficiently receptive, she later mailed her a bible. This is deeply offensive. Do not do this to Jews, please. Do not do this to anyone.

Read an update to this letter

2. Requesting additional work clothing in a bigger size

When I started with my current employer two years ago, we got to choose several pieces of uniform clothing. Amazingly, my boss didn’t want us to all dress the same — we got to choose whatever styles and colors suited us from the corporate clothing supplier, which was a huge relief after years of trying to make my oddly shaped body fit into certain styles.

We don’t wear our branded clothing every day, only when we have external meetings or high-profile events. As a result, I’ve only got three tops and a jacket. I probably wear the top once a week and the jacket a couple of times a week.

My problem is, I’ve put on about 30 pounds since I started working here, and my work tops no longer fit well. One doesn’t fit at all, and the other two have to be worn with tummy control tights and a certain style skirt. I managed to quietly swap out the jacket for a bigger one that was left in the store cupboard after a colleague left, but there aren’t any spare tops in my size lurking around the office.

You’ve got some great guidance around requesting better fitting clothes up-front, but what can I say to my manager about needing new clothes two years in? To make matters worse, the clothing company no longer does in-person try-ons — we have to pick the right size from the catalogue and the products can’t be returned as they’re embroidered with our logo.

People’s bodies change! You don’t need to hide that or approach it like it’s anything shameful. Be matter-of-fact: “My sizes have changed and the branded items I have don’t fit. How do I get updated sizes from the clothing supplier?”

3. My coworker went through my laptop bag

I’m trying to decide how mad I should be.

I accidentally left my personal laptop bag at work yesterday, and my co-manager (we are equal in positions) went through it. He told me about it today. He said he was looking for a certain piece of my equipment because he forgot his and needed to use it at a work-related but out-of-the-office event. Mine wouldn’t have been compatible, is brand new, and cost me $300. And it’s mine. I bought it. He opened my office, and then opened and went through my personal laptop bag. He never called to ask if this was okay, and was apparently just going to take my equipment out of our offices without asking? My laptop bag has my calendar, my notes, my MacBook, my personal equipment, my makeup … all my stuff. It’s basically my briefcase. WTAF am I supposed to do with this? I was so surprised in the moment I just kind of stared at him until the phone rang. There are some underlying politics between us, and while we do work well together, we’d probably rather not work together at all.

Yeah, that crossed a line and he shouldn’t have done it. That’s your personal bag with your personal stuff in it. And the equipment he was looking for doesn’t sound like it’s up for grabs — it’s yours personally, bought with your personal funds.

You said you’re trying to decide how mad you should be, and I don’t think that’s the right question. While he was in the wrong, this doesn’t require sustained outrage — but it does require a clear and direct statement to him not to do it again. Go back to him and say this: “Please don’t go through my bag again. That’s my personal bag with my personal belongings in it. If you’re looking for something that you think I might have and I’m not around, please call me. But I wouldn’t loan out my frog grooming kit anyway — I bought it personally and it was expensive. If you’d taken it without asking me, I would have been really bothered.”

4. Are we wrong to want to keep an employee who could earn more somewhere else?

We are a very small company – five full-time, two part-time employees. We are financially strong and are slowly growing. Payroll is about $400K/year. One of our part-timers is going to graduate this December with a degree that is highly valued. We’re thrilled to have had him here for four years and look forward to bringing him on full-time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to pay him the market rate for his degree and experience. We can pay him okay for our small town and the size of our company but financially he could do better elsewhere. Where we do excel is in benefits and opportunities – paid very good quality low-deductible health insurance, good time off. We are very flexible with hours and occasionally close for the day (with pay) because workloads are light, the weather is nice, or we just want to give folks some time off. We have a closet with snacks and sodas. We pay annual bonuses, often low-mid four figures. We have some new products in development and he will be the developer on some of these, supported by a manager who is an excellent leader and teacher. He typically isn’t motivated by money. He’s probably not someone who wants to relocate much beyond 25 miles.

Are we a bad company for wanting to keep him on, knowing we can’t pay him what he’s worth? Do you have any suggestions for how we might do this better?

You’re not a bad company for wanting to keep a good employee! You’d be a bad company if you guilted him when he tried to leave or tried to mislead him about his value. You can be a good company by being up-front with him about the situation: “You’re graduating with a degree that’s highly valued. We’re thrilled to have had you here for four years and want to bring you on full-time. I want to be up-front that we’re not in a position to pay what you could probably get somewhere else. We’d love to keep you if we can, and what we can offer you is…”

You don’t need to do that; you could let him figure it out on his own. But being transparent will probably add to the other incentives that might keep him there.

5. How to navigate food restrictions at a holiday potluck

My local office is doing a holiday potluck as a tradition, but the office has doubled in people in the last year. I’m wondering how to navigate food allergies and requirements? I’m writing out a card with ingredients for my dish, personally, but not everyone else is doing that.

Ideally whoever is organizing the potluck would ask everyone participating to set out an ingredients card. (That’s better than people just marking things “vegetarian” or “nut-free” or so forth, because otherwise you’ll get people who mark things incorrectly — not thinking about the chicken broth in their “vegetarian” pasta, etc.) If the organizer isn’t suggesting it, you can suggest they implement it … or just suggest it to everyone yourself.

That said, anyone with allergies or other restrictions likely already knows to approach potluck food with suspicion.

{ 872 comments… read them below }

  1. TooTiredToThink*

    LW2 – I would think that after 2 years those clothes would be starting to get a bit worn *anyway*. 3 tops over 2 years means each top has been worn at least 30 times each.

    I’m not sure how long clothes like that should last though. But surely they expect to buy replacement clothing for people from time to time.

    1. Lilo*

      I was thinking this exactly. I went to a school that required uniforms and my uniform clothes were pretty worn after a couple years. Accidents also happen (stains, rips). Employees need to be able to just order replacements without having to go into too much detail. 3 really is borderline on the “having to do laundry all the time” front.

        1. Ellen Ripley*

          2 years is 104 weeks. Wearing one top per week is 104 wears, spread across 3 different shirts is about 34 wears/shirt. They did the math correctly.

          1. Katie*

            And I think *you* missed the part where I answered to *Lilo* – unless you believe that doing laundry once in three weeks is borderline “having to do laundry all the time”.

        2. Lilo*

          In combo they’re wearing branded clothes a few times a week (jacket or tops). Employers should make sure they’re not skimping on those.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Just getting on here to say this: Your boss should want the company represented by clothing that isn’t faded or worn-looking, so you should be able to ask for new shirts even if you hadn’t changed sizes.

      . . . or there could always be an accidental bleach spill . . .

      1. Jaydee*

        My husband’s pants seem pathologically attracted to grease. My shirts often end up sampling whatever I’m eating. It’s honestly more surprising to me that LW still has the same 3 branded shirts from 2 years ago and it’s the need for a different size that’s prompting her to replace them not an errant sauce-coated noodle from lunch or a leaky pen or mystery grease or whatever.

        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          Great comment. Although at first my weird brain read grease as geese and I was trying to think how that happens…. I’m envisioning a Walt Disney type situation a la Cinderella. But then it’s really grease and I was disappointed. I saw your husband as the geese whisperer!

    3. Lacey*

      Yup. Or a tragic accident could befall them.

      I accidentally donated my work shirts because they were in a drawer of clothes I never wear. When we had an event where we were required to wear them I opted to tell my boss I’d accidentally ruined a whole load of laundry and the shirts were in it. Because… they’re gone either way, but I didn’t think he’d appreciate knowing I’d donated them!

    4. WonderWoman*

      My company gives a “refresh” logo wear item to employees every year if they want one, and the storefont is open if they ever want to buy something on their own. As an aside, we use LandsEnd and they do accept returns, even of embroidered items.

    5. pugsnbourbon*

      At a former job some staff were required to wear uniforms, provided by the organization. You got three shirts and two pants (these were part-timers who worked ~4 days/week) and were entitled to a new set every year.

      If we didn’t have pants that worked for you, you could buy your own and submit receipts for reimbursement. HR told me they wouldn’t reimburse for maternity pants, so I paid for those out of another budget line. That rule was so stupid.

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Not a lawyer, but that sure sounds like sex-based discrimination to me unless pregnant women are exempted from having to follow the dress code.

        1. LoFiCafe*

          Agreed, this is not OK. I’m glad she said it’s a former employer but I also hope any current employees who are pregnant don’t still have to deal with that BS.

  2. MB*

    I worked at a financial services office owned by mega-church fundies who made staff pray before staff meetings and tried to convert me away from my “blasphemous” and “idolatrous” Catholicism. They also refused to hire a highly qualified Sikh candidate due to “cultural fit”. This stuff is rampant.

    1. Grey Coder*

      Yikes yikes yikes.

      I wish I knew how to distinguish between uses of the phrase “cultural fit” when it means, say, “we’re a very collaborative workplace which you might not like if you prefer to work on your own all the time” vs “cultural fit” which is code for “we discriminate against people not like us”.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        If it’s the former, a hiring company could actually say, out loud, to the candidate “we’re a very collaborative …” and the rest. You may not choose to, but you could. And no one could really fault an organization that chose a candidate in that circumstance who had prior experience working successfully in a collaborative environment or had indicated a preference / willingness to do so vs a candidate who has only of individual contributor experience or indicated the prefer to work as a lone wolf.

        If it’s the latter, they will use weasel words like “cultural fit” to avoid making it blatantly obvious they are purposely breaking the law by discriminating based on religious affiliation (or lack thereof)

        A candidate could ask about cultural fit “what do you mean by that?” or “can you give me a sense of how you think my approach, work style might not be a good fit with your organization?” which, if there’s a good faith actual work/experience reason, gives them a chance to clarify and the candidate the chance to understand or clear up a misunderstanding if there was one. And which if it’s a bad faith or discriminatory reason will likely result in word salad or no response.

        But, thinking about it … it’s 2022. Any organization still using “cultural fit” to make or explain hiring decisions has a good chance of having other issues which would make them a not-ideal workplace for many candidates, so might be a bullet dodged either way.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          Even then… I got that “collaboration” BS in response to asking to wear headphones as an ADA accommodation request at a new job.

      2. ExGoogly*

        When I worked at Google, they had to get rid of the “culture fit” rating in interviews because it was just a way to let bias (conscious and unconscious) into the process.

        They replaced the “culture fit” rating with an explicit rubric of the company’s values (e.g. “Does the candidate thrive in uncertainty?”).

      3. Timothy (TRiG)*

        “The idea of cultural fit is mostly a smokescreen for hidden biases.” Isaac Lyman, on the Stack Overflow blog.

        I remember reading that Stack Exchange have an internal rule whereby if a manager declines to hire a candidate on the basis of cultural fit, they have to write a short essay explaining exactly what they mean by that, to overcome that hidden bias. But I can’t find that now.

    2. STAT!*

      Oh boy, that is so true. I live in a country where our Prime Minister used to sneakily lay hands on people he visited in disaster recovery centres (well, for the disasters where he hadn’t absconded to Hawaii). Quote: “I’ve been in evacuation centres where people thought I was just giving someone a hug and I was praying, and putting my hands on people … laying hands on them and praying in various situations.” Fortunately, we turfed him in May of this year. OP, I hope your HR deals with this harassment and assault swiftly and thoroughly.

      1. Beautiful Tropical Fish*

        Ugh, I had totally blocked the memory of that “laying of hands” thing from my mind. It would have been way less offensive if he’d just asked people “hey do you mind if I pray for you” instead of awkwardly forcing handshakes from people who hated his guts, then talking it up as some sort of pious religious thing during an election campaign. What a slimeball.

        I wonder what it was like to work for him.

        1. Brisvegan*

          I can’t imagine it was easy.

          I still admire the bushfire victims who refused handshakes and basically told him to f**k off.

      2. Mavis Mae*

        Given that we’re on AAM, would this by any chance have been same PM who held five concurrent secret Givernment ministries without telling the public, his colleagues or Cabinet? (The one who made such a meal of fixing anti-discrimination legislation that it torpedoed the whole thing. There is actually a problem which needs to be dealt with, but the then Government cose to go the weaponise road rather than simple protection.)

      3. just some guy*

        A then-friend of mine did it to me, and I only realised some time later why she was putting her hands on me so intently. She also told me about how when she said “I’ll pray for you”, she’d actually been praying for God to hurt me until I realised I needed him on side :-/

        We don’t talk any more.

        1. seriously?*

          Yeah, iirc my brother said this wasn’t particularly uncommon in my mom’s church. Or maybe just with my mom.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      I wish I was doubtful about it, but I’ve seen similar things.

      All I can say is that I am ashamed and embarrassed by the behavior. I hope that LW goes to HR and the harasser get severely punished. BUT, their take on it would be, “Good, I must be doing something right because I am being persecuted for my faith.”
      (ex Evangelical-current Catholic)

    4. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

      Refusing to hire a “highly qualified” individual because they’re a member of a different religion/ethnicity/sexual orientation has a seldom-mentioned downside. Employers who do that are depriving THEMSELVES of excellent employees who could bring great skills and innovative ideas to their jobs!

      Note to any employer foolish enough to do that: If YOU don’t hire that highly qualified applicant, your competitor certainly will!

      1. Emmy Noether*

        1) that’s true
        2) one would certainly hope so, but history has shown us that there are often entire industries perfectly willing to shoot themselves in the foot just to avoid hiring or promoting anyone who doesn’t fit the mold. The competitor may be just as stupid. Change is slow, and the free market doesn’t move this along as fast as it logically should.

        1. ferrina*

          This. I feel lucky to work for a company that understands that diversity is a business strategy (as well as the right thing to do as a business strategy). You want an array of perspectives and experiences that have complementary approaches to support the business objectives- when you limit yourself to one perspective, you’re stuck with it by default, not because it’s the best.

        2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          As my wife likes to say, corporations’ primary product must be hierarchy, because that’s the only way to explain business decisions that are actually bad for the business.

    5. The OTHER Other*

      I am good friends with a Sikh and she faced this kind of thing when she moved (briefly, thankfully) to a city in the Midwest. Endless questions about which church she went to, does she believe in god, if so why isn’t she going to church, will you come to my church, etc and after many polite declines it often became “concern”, and threats of damnation were quick to follow. And this was in a state capitol!

      A similarity between Judaism and Sikhism in that neither religion seeks to make converts (I asked her about this shortly after meeting her and she actually laughed at the thought). But while the decline or refusal may be stated politely (sadly, chances are they have heard it all before) make no mistake, it is extremely disrespectful and offensive.

      If your faith is really that great, let people ask YOU about it. Preferably not at work.

      1. 123*

        Did the state capitol begin with the letter “J” by any chance? My midwest state capitol & my largest city/burbs are not the same thing.

      2. SadieMae*

        I lived in rural-ish Minnesota for a while, and my workplace had a few people who were like this. Lots of invitations to church, intrusive questions about religious beliefs, etc.

        During a water-cooler conversation, one coworker said she had heard that during Hanukkah, Jewish children get presents over a series of nights, not just all at once. She said she thought that was a good idea, to spread it out instead of having just one day of overwhelming gifting.

        “Oh!” said one of the coworkers who’d been bugging me endlessly about going to her church. “That certainly would be better. Wouldn’t it be great if *Americans* did it that way?”

          1. DJ Abbott*

            When I was little my mother used to get us advent calendars. IIRC they were for longer than 12 days – the whole month of December? And there was a little treat for each day.
            It may have been a Mennonite thing, so maybe not “American”. /s

            1. Klara*

              Advent calendars are supposed to be for Advent, which is the period preceding Christmas, beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. Secularized Advent calendars tend to count down from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25.

            2. C. Baker*

              The Twelve Days of Christmas, unlike Advent, occur *after* Christmas – from St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day (the 26th) until Three Kings Day/The Epiphany (the 6th).

            3. Sasha*

              We have them in Europe and Canada, didn’t realise they were not common in the US.

              The traditional ones had pictures behind each door, chocolates are common now, and you can get Lego and Playmobil ones with toys in them. My son has a Jurassic World one this year with little plastic dinosaurs. Or you can also get refillable wooden or fabric ones that parents can put little toys and candy in.

              I thought beauty advent calendars for adults were widespread – do you not have those in the US either? Contain little miniature perfume and cosmetic samples (the ones you usually get free with another purchase, so not amazing value).

              1. LutherstadtWittenberg*

                President Eisenhower popularized the chocolate advent calendar in the US thanks to a 1950s newspaper photo with his grandkids. It’s spread out from there into the madness of LEGO and Disney and so much makeup. We’ve had the Playmobil calendars for decades, though they weren’t widely available at first.

            4. Engineer Gal*

              We always had advent calendars -and they are selling them at the grocery store in Northern California right now so I think they are pretty common in US

          2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            My American family’s traditional twelve days of Christmas started on the Solstice (confusing any number of people whose families do not include crypto-solarpagan practices) and continued at a rate of 1-3 books per day until the gift books ran out, hopefully not before winter break was over. Non-book presents and presents from outside the immediate family were on Christmas day, but the steady supply of books kept the kids out of my mom’s hair and provided a few hours’ relief from squabbling out of boredom.

      3. Peter Basch*

        As my granny would have said, oy vey. A couple of comments:
        1. The assumption that Jews somehow don’t know the Bible is hilarious and insulting. New Testament? Or the “New Covenant” as the Jews for Jesus rather coyly rename it. Jews don’t care, unless they’re a secular Jew (such as myself) who likes to know what the Christians are talking about. You never know when it comes up.
        2. Speaking of J4J, they claim to be Jews who evangelize. They exploit the ambiguity in the word Jew, which can be an ethnicity or a religion. In fact, they are simply fundamentalist Protestants who are ethnically Jewish, which is less astonishing than they’d like to believe. Their mission is to convert the Jews, which I find insulting and borderline anti-Semitic. They used to swarm the campus gates when I went to college (in the 70s) and they are still active around impressionable young people today. They are distasteful. Not illegal, they have every right blah blah blah.
        3. If it comes up, the Lubavitchers do “evangelize” but only to other Jews. They encourage women to light shabbat candles and men to lay tefillin.

    6. Anon for this*

      Yup. I used to work for a retailer that partnered with a well-known logistics company for shipping our merchandise to our stores. The logistics company proudly claimed they were a “Christian” organization and had religious banners and stuff all over their warehouse. We had a few of our employees who worked onsite, one of whom happened to be gay. He wasn’t open about it, but it wasn’t a secret, either. He was harassed so much by people trying to “pray the gay away” that we ended up having to move him to another location. I think we also terminated our contract with that provider.

  3. CL*

    #5- Please suggest the ingredient cards. It also saves those of us with food allergies the discomfort of saying broadly “I’m allergic to X; is there anything I can’t eat?”

    1. Aggretsuko*

      From what I’ve seen friends with allergies do, they usually can’t/won’t be able to eat most potluck food and can only eat what they brought themselves.

      Implementing ingredient cards is a good idea.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yup, I have allergies and I’m not touching any of the food at a potluck, ever. Ingredient cards are fine for those who want that info, but they do need to be comprehensive. I’ve had reactions to black pepper in the past, but a lot of people probably wouldn’t think to list it.
        Also, put “prepared by” and your name on the card so that people can ask you questions if necessary.

        1. Balto*

          If it gets to that, I’m noping out of preparing anything for the potluck. Too much risk of legal liability if I forget something.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            I am not a lawyer, but I think it’s pretty unlikely that anyone would get sued in that situation because: 1. If you know you have a food allergy and consume potluck find anyway, you have chosen to accept a certain level of risk and 2. You would have to prove that it was a specific ingredient at a specific quantity in a specific dish that gave you the reaction.

            On a different topic, I always hope that people who intentionally feed food containing an allergen to someone they know to be allergic to that ingredient in order to “test” their allergy or as a “joke” get charged with attempted murder AND sued into bankruptcy. There’s no excuse for that nonsense, because you could easily kill someone if they didn’t have a current epi-pen or the reaction was too severe for the epi-pen to work.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Or if they don’t go to the ER after needing to use the epipen and their symptoms are too much for just an epipen. (I’m told it’s a time-extender, not a complete treatment.)

              1. Bagpuss*

                that, and the impact on your body of using an epipen is pretty significant – when I was prescribed mine I was tolthat you always call an ambulance if you need to use it, both becaue you may need further treatment for the anaphylxis and becasue you might need monitoring or treatment for the effects of the epinephrine.

                1. Carlie*

                  Yep – it sends your heartrate skyrocketing, and that can be problematic on its own and if you have any other underlying health issues. It also sends your entire body into having the shakes/microconvulsions, which is wild if you aren’t ready for it.
                  (And you definitely need more treatment after for the rest of the allergic reaction and any biphasic symptoms that can pop up later.)

              2. soontoberetired*

                yep, that’s what it is. My nieces have all been to the ER over peanut allergies when people have told them things aren’t cooked in peanut oil. People are ignorant.

            2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              So, this is all true, and I’d also like to flag that “food allergy” does not necessarily mean anaphylaxis, because I’ve heard too many people say that if it doesn’t send you to the ER, it’s not an allergy. Food allergies are like other allergies, with a range of reactions. Signed, someone who doesn’t want their eczema to flare up for weeks because of an egg.

              1. Selina Luna*

                I tell people I’m allergic to bell peppers because while “projectile vomiting” is not technically an allergic reaction, it’s still not something anyone wants at the potluck. I’ve had people test me, and when I smell bell peppers and refuse to eat their food, they get all crestfallen, but it always makes me glad I don’t have a nut allergy or a mushroom allergy.

                1. Ripley*

                  Replying to Another JD: Allergies and intolerances are different things. Allergies do cause a specific constellation of symptoms (sneezing, watery eyes, shortness of breath, hives, anaphylaxis, etc). Intolerances often cause GI symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach, etc. However, it’s worth noting that the Mayo Clinic lists vomiting as a symptom of anaphylaxis, so that one could be allergies or intolerances.

                  I have IBS, so I have a laundry list of intolerances. While eating my trigger foods doesn’t cause an allergic reaction for me, it does cause some major GI symptoms that would cause me to miss work, so I would want to know the ingredients of anything I was putting in my body. Intolerances are a real thing that can cause major problems.

                2. MsSolo UK*

                  I have the same with white fish; ingredient lists work fine for me because it’s rare people forget if they put cod in something, though if it was something like garlic I’d be a lot more cautious.

                  (fish stock can be an issue, so I’d probably dodge otherwise-safe seafood dishes at a pot luck, but still, it’s fairly straightforward)

              2. Hannah Lee*

                And also, people don’t realize that allergies where the typical reaction to the allergen is “it makes my nose and lips itchy and tingly” can, on ANY given subsequent exposure, unexpectedly become “I can’t breathe!!!” said through gasps.

                1. Rainy*

                  I had three glorious years when I could eat shrimp. (I grew up keeping kosher, so I didn’t have shrimp til I was 29.) About two and a half years in, I noticed that my face started feeling puffy after eating shrimp, so I stopped. Six months later, I went for dim sum with friends, figured a little bit wouldn’t kill me, ate some really delicious shrimp, and things escalated to the point that…well, suffice it to say I haven’t eaten shrimp since 2008. And now I can’t eat spiny lobster either (if it says lobster and it’s cheap and/or not lobster-shaped, it’s spiny lobster).

                  It really can escalate between one exposure and the next.

              3. Serenity*

                Also, anaphylaxis means “two body systems,” not necessarily “throat closing up.” Someone who gets hives (a skin reaction) and diarrhea (a GI reaction) is actually having an anaphylactic reaction. Just because the reaction isn’t inflammation blocking the airway doesn’t mean it’s not anaphylaxis, doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk (now and over time), and doesn’t mean it’s not serious. (Ask me how I know.)

              4. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                Thank you for mentioning that there is more than one type of food allergy! My daughter is very definitely allergic to eggs (not as a child, it developed in adulthood), and her symptoms are primarily gastrointestinal. They are also non life-threatening, but so extremely unpleasant that she avoids eggs like the plague.

              5. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                yeah, I “only” get tummy trouble, but I’m feeling bloated and farting and burping and need my tummy kneaded like bread to no longer feel any pain and it can last for two weeks depending on what triggered it.

          2. JSPA*

            Even without cards, it’s a potluck faux pas to not be able to answer, “what’s in this?”.

            If you can’t reliably track what’s in your cooking, you can be the person who brings the store-bought corn chips.

            Or makes bread that contains flour, water, yeast. Or cake made with box mix and an egg.

            Or simplify. You special roasted peppers and onions may have 20 herbs and spices; your potluck ones can have peppers, onions, olive oil, salt.

            Or just write things down as you toss them in.

            You delight in cooking without limits? Do it the other 364 days of the year.

            1. aebhel*

              ^ this. I’m very much a ‘throw in whatever and season it until it tastes right’ kind of cook most of the time, but if I’m cooking for someone else, or something like a potluck where people I don’t know might eat it, I’m going to write down what I used. It’s not really THAT complicated

            2. JustAnotherKate*

              Also, you can just take a pic of the recipe and print it out. I’ve done this and people have appreciated it — some because they could see it contained something they didn’t eat and some because they wanted the recipe. If you’re a creative cook and don’t use recipes (but also don’t want to make your coworkers sick as a dog), just write down each ingredient as you throw it in. You wouldn’t need a ton of detail — no one cares if you used two teaspoons or two tablespoons of their allergen — they just want to avoid it!

            3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              As someone with allergies and who also does occasionally cook for potlucks, the hardest part of “what’s in this?” is if I use anything prepackaged or, say, a chili powder blend. I can certainly write down that I made x thing that included y ingredients, but if those ingredients themselves have a long list of ingredients, either I’m doing a lot of writing or I’m just writing down “chili powder”. I find that people who don’t have allergies are also very unlikely to know if, say, the brand of mayonnaise they used in their potato salad contained soy and will have just written down “mayonnaise” as the ingredient.

              (Of course, the fact that commercial labels are allowed to just include “spices” or “natural flavors” is its own problem, since my usual potluck group contains two people allergic to different common spices. We’re a fun group unless you’re trying to cook for us.)

            4. fluffy*

              Just listing “herbs and spices” isn’t great for those of us who have an allergy to one specific herb that some folks wouldn’t think to list. For example, I’m allergic to lavender. It isn’t incredibly common, but a lot of fancy spice blends contain that (many, but not all, brands of Herbs du Provence for example), and it’s also somewhat popular in various peppercorn blends these days.

              My least favorite response to me saying I have a lavender allergy is, “Oh, but this only has a little bit in it.” Okay, then I’ll only have a LITTLE allergic reaction.

              (My second-least-favorite response is people engaging in whataboutism on it, like “But you ate that thing that has rosemary in it!” even though rosemary and lavender aren’t related at all.)

              1. NutellaNutterson*

                I have a new-to-me cinnamon allergy. (Related to latex and all those associated foods, it turns out!) But the really frustrating thing is that I can have expensive and uncommon ceylon cinnamon, and not the common cassia – they are two different species! So if I’m willing to make it myself, I *can* have cinnamon rolls, etc.

                I was recently at a weekend event that took allergies seriously, and it was absolutely delightful -for example, for the french toast, they offered cinnamon-sugar on the side; the salads were prepped into portioned containers, with anything that was an allergen offered in a separate sealed container. I was able to eat with confidence the whole weekend!

              2. Grandma*

                I once played with a large group (50-200 members at a time) that included one member who was violently allergic to rosemary, either eaten or floating around in the air. It was a known thing that if X was coming, no rosemary was allowed anywhere. I remember one event held in a large public park where someone missed the memo or thought “just a little” rosemary on their bbq-ing chicken was OK. He was about 50′ away when he started gasping and the chicken had to be whisked away to the car. Fortunately, several inhaler puffs, fresh breezes, and some time worked their magic.

              3. JustaTech*

                We just had a bake sale and a chili contest today and I made sure that the ingredient cards I wrote for both of my offerings included the specific spices, and called out common allergens (nuts, dairy, wheat), and on the one with nuts said CONTAINS NUTS (because it isn’t obvious).

                Just in case the commentariat thinks that they don’t have a positive impact on the world!

          3. Observer*

            If it gets to that, I’m noping out of preparing anything for the potluck. Too much risk of legal liability if I forget something.

            Please DO nope out.

            It’s not like you are actually facing any legal liability. But if you REALLY find it SUCH a burden to actually write out the complete recipe for the food you are bringing, I have to wonder why you are bothering to make anything anyway.

            And it’s also pretty clear that it would make no sense to trust your list of ingredients.

            1. Lydia*

              And it’s not even the entire recipe you have to write out. I have seen it written out in a list. Contains: Eggs, Wheat Flour, Sugar, Pecans, Cinnamon, and Cloves. You don’t have to talk about how long you cooked it, or how much of what you put in. Holy smokes, people, it’s really easy!

              PS I totally pulled that list out of the air and now I want to try it and see what I can make it into.

              1. Random Biter*

                Visions of cinnamon pecan rolls were dancing in my head. And now I’m sad because I don’t have a cinnamon pecan roll.

        2. Bryce*

          The moment the utensils start moving around is when I nope out of it. Now if I could only get people to stop taking it personally that I won’t eat their Death Brownies…

          1. Lilo*

            Yes, I have a family member with celiac and cross contamination is just killer for potlucks. My family member has also learned the hard way she can’t really trust anyone she doesn’t know to say something home made is gluten free.

            1. Golden*

              Celiac here, can confirm! Just let me bring my own food and we’ll be good!

              Things like sponges, cutting boards, cast iron cookware, etc. can all hide gluten if they’re not dedicated to GF cooking, so ‘gluten free’ and ‘celiac safe’ are two different things. I also once watched a coworker set his plate down so hard that cake crumbs flew all over the fruit tray, so yeah, as a celiac I don’t eat from potlucks.

              1. Rain's Small Hands*

                Gluten is such a spectrum anyway. I’m gluten sensitive, as in, too much gluten and I’ll have tummy problems. But I can have a brownie if I really want it – I’ll just need to make sure I’m not in the car until I use the bathroom. So I just don’t say anything because someone will apply my “Well, Rain avoids gluten and can eat a brownie” to someone with celiac or a wheat allergy that will send them to the hospital.

                And it really is wisest just to avoid the potlucks when you have food sensitivities/allergies that are serious. Cooking really gluten free is impossible for most people since cross contamination is just going to happen in any kitchen that contains flour. People who cook with peanut oil often don’t think about it as PEANUT oil, its just cooking oil like Mom always used – and yes, they are ashamed when you point out that its made from peanuts and therefore a problem with peanut allergies – but they’ve never thought it through.

                1. Rainy*

                  I can’t be around in the oil thrown around when you peel oranges. I can eat oranges and drink orange juice, I can even eat orange zest (though I cut it, I don’t zest it with a microplane). But if you peel an orange around me I have to grab my inhaler and go somewhere else for an hour or two, and those organic cleaning products with orange oil in them cause significant respiratory distress.

                  It’s one of those things where, is it an allergy? I have no idea how a doctor would classify it, maybe it isn’t. But since I need to breathe, and if there’s orange oil around I can’t, well…close enough.

              2. Lilo*

                Yep, I wash things with new sponges, dry with paper towels, put foil down on pans, etc. And I’ve messed up too.

            2. Noblepower*

              When a good friend was finally diagnosed as having celiac, I tried so hard to make food for her that was safe, but it can be incredibly difficult to do in a non-gluten-free home. For her comfort and safety, we now order food from reliable sources. I wish we could make food for her, but it just takes a single contaminated utensil or cutting board!

          2. The Editor in Chief*

            I’ve brought kosher food in my kosher slow-cooker with my kosher utensils to potlucks in the office….

            and promptly had co-workers stick a messy non-kosher ladle from the next cooker over into it.

            Thus ensuring I can’t even eat the food I brought, and now my slow-cooker and utensil are trash. There’s no way to kasher the ceramic.

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          As an allergic person, the name on the card tells me more than the ingredients list. There are people who understand this stuff, and people who have never had to.

          Honestly, though, the major problem at potluck and buffet meals is cross-contamination, particularly from careless handling (eg using the same spoon for all six pasta salads, having to reach over the bread to scoop up chilli). Good labels from a reliable cook are still no guarantee.

          If LW were in charge then she could make useful changes, eg suggesting a certain proportion of store-bought or (fresh) takeout dishes, having multiple but dedicated spoons for serving each dish, letting allergic coworkers go through the line first, etc.

        4. No to Pepper Potts*

          OMG a fellow black pepper allergy sufferer… we’re so rare…. it is such a pain, no one thinks about seasoning. And the trend to put black pepper on everything, even things that don’t usually have it. Someone put it on pancakes recently… pancakes… and I didn’t say it when ordering because I had no expectation that there would be pepper on pancakes. The humanity

        5. Becca*

          Even then things can be hiding! Last potluck I went to I wrapped my food with a beeswax wrap because I didn’t want to mess with plastic wrap, and one of the participants was allergic to beeswax. I’m so, so glad I left it out and she noticed it. I did make it vegan for another participant, though. I’m pretty good about ingredients, but cross contamination makes me nervous; I just don’t trust myself to clean well enough for it even when that’s possible (that is, it’s not such a severe allergy (or strict religious requirement) that separate utensils/pans/etc are needed).

      2. Moi*

        As someone with allergies, i do this but it s as little bit sucks, I’m so appreciative of people who include ingredient lists so that I can about some of the delicious food as well

      3. J!*

        A friend with allergies recommended these “potluck pal” cards that she came across online and I’ve used them when I bring food places ever since. They have a spot for your name, you can check off the major allergens that might be in it, but there are extra lines for other ingredients. Distributing a template to people might make adoption easier than if you just said “write down the ingredients.”

        I’m going to put a link in the next comment.

      4. Ann Perkins*

        I’ve seen it both go ways, depending on what the allergen is and its severity. My colleague with celiac doesn’t eat most food that’s brought in (unless I bring it, since my spouse also has celiac and I know how to prepare gf food). I had a former colleague with a strawberry allergy and she participated in potlucks, since strawberry is incredibly unlikely to be snuck into dishes like a green bean casserole.

        1. Cheshire Cat*

          People don’t think about the unusual allergies though. I have a berry allergy. One time at a restaurant I ordered plain cheesecake for dessert, and made sure to tell the wait person that I can’t have berries on it at all. And when it arrived … they had substituted raspberry glaze. And were surprised when I sent it back and asked for “plain” again.

    2. John Smith*

      Let’s not also forget cross contamination. The dish might not contain nuts as a specific ingredient, but I bet no-one would think to add “made in a place where nuts are present”, for example. That meatloaf John bought in might be nut free, but was John’s pecan pie prepared in the same room with the same equipment?

      It’s difficult enough for professional caterers to prepare non allergen food, but I think most people with allergies are wise enough not to touch food they can’t reasonably assume to be allergy free.

      1. Ayla*

        Not every allergy is life threatening, and for people who have a mild allergy or intolerance and feel a chance of cross contamination is worth the risk, these ingredient cards are a great help! I can’t risk a potluck, but my MIL whose allergy results in mild itching and my BIL with lactose intolerance LOVE a good potluck–they just need to know what’s in the food.

        1. CaliUKExpat*

          This! I have an issue with onion that walks the line between severe intolerance and mild allergy, it won’t make me stop breathing and I can handle in tiiiiny amounts in some things- but I need to know if it’s included, if I get any chunk of it I start badly dry heaving and some day will inevitably hurl al over the floor. And onion? That’s never included in any allergy charts! Ingredients lists would be incredibly helpful for me, I can’t even remember how many times I’ve had to suddenly spit out a bite of sandwich that looked safe.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I also have an intolerance to the entire onion family (garlic, ginger, onion) which means even the tiniest bit of garlic salt and the next day is not going to be fun.

            I have a severe and rare allergy to decaff (actually it’s to a solvent used in some of the removal process) and I’m always thankful that most places label their decaff really clearly.

            (Not fond of the person who tried to sneak me decaff tea on the grounds that I ‘drink too much caffeine’ at a team dinner. Thankfully the rest of the guys had seen it and stopped me drinking it)

            1. fluffy*

              Interesting, I hadn’t heard of a decaf allergy before, and I struggle to figure out what could cause one.

              There’s four common decaffeination processes (supercritical CO2, methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, and Swiss Water Process). Supercritical CO2 and Swiss Water process could not result in an allergy unless you’re allergic to your own breath or to water, so those two should be completely safe (and most small-scale roasters use Swiss Water).

              Methylene chloride is mostly used in mass-market coffee, and could possibly cause a reaction in someone, but the roasting and brewing process involve temperatures which should cause it to break down immediately. The jury is still out on that one.

              Ethyl acetate (sometimes called the “sugarcane method,” since it’s derived from sugar) is the current darling of third-wave roasters, and it’s a chemical which occurs naturally in a lot of foods, especially in wine (it’s the flavor compound responsible for a wine’s “fruitiness”), and while it causes irritation in massive doses, that requires incredible concentrations, far beyond than what could possibly be left over in a cup of coffee.

              It would be worth trying to figure out which part of the decaffeination process is causing you problems, because there’s an amazing world of decaf out there which doesn’t involve methylene chloride.

              (But that said, if you have no reason to cut down on caffeine, there’s no real reason to, either! And it sucks when people try to tamper with your food.)

          2. EllenD*

            Absolutely, I’ve an intolerance for onions which results initially in bad indigestion for 4-6 hours after eating and then other effects for 24-48 hours. With potlucks, I always bring something I know I can eat and usually there are tubs of houmous, or cheese to supplement. It’s amazing to me how many dishes people think are enhanced by onion, and yet I think onion becomes the dominant flavour. People are always disbelieving when I say I can’t eat onions and yet I’ve come across quite a few people with the same problem.

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              I just think onions are gross (after a childhood incident of throwing up and now they have a bad mental reaction for me, triggering nausea at its worst), and I sympathize – onions seem to be cooked into everything and/or used as a topping/decoration. It took me years of careful and gradual work to get to the point where only raw, or very chunky but cooked, onions still have that same effect.

              When we were still working in the office we’d have catered lunches twice a week for board meetings and one of the common caterers had big trays of delicious salads – topped with sliced raw red onion. One of the board members was not a big fan of raw onions and we’d both cough when popping off the aluminum deli tray top only to get hit with a wave of sulfurous gas. Ugh!

            2. Quinalla*

              I love onions, but they do not love my digestive track. I think onions are a very common ingredient that folks have a food intolerance for. It isn’t a common allergen, but for sure people can be allergic to anything.

              I am pro-ingredient lists and also having some store bought and/or freshly ordered take-out supplements to homemade potluck stuff. All of these help people with allergies, intolerances, dietary restrictions, etc. This is how I ran the potluck at our office before we all went WFH and how I operate when bringing food to a family/friend potluck. I have a daughter and brother with food allergies though so I’m hyper aware for sure.

              1. Anonynonybooboo*

                Or for things like onions, the sensitivity/intolerance is attributed to something else without extensive medical testing to find the real culprit (which some people cannot afford).

                It took us about 18 months to identify what we thought was a nightshade sensitivity was actually a *pork allergy* for my husband, because the overlap in ingredients was extensive and we had to fight the insurance for each and every test. It also hadn’t caused full blown reactions, so we were dealing with vague symptoms a good portion of that time.

                We just bring/eat our own food to gatherings, because there is pork product in a LOT of “ingredients”.

                1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  Yeah, the only good thing about a pork allergy is that there are two different religious groups that have some members who don’t eat it, plus vegetarians and vegans. As a person with an allergy to a specific vegetable, I am always envious of my pork-allergic friend and her ability to pre-order and get kosher, halal, or vegetarian meals on airplanes and other such “institutional limited menu dining” situations.

                  (Fun side story! When you tell institutional dining that you are allergic to [specific vegetable] and need to pre-order a custom meal, they usually will tell you all about their gluten-free and vegan options. [specific vegetable], of course, is both gluten-free and vegan, being a vegetable. In fact, it is often used in vegan dishes to add crunch/color/whatever.)

              2. Joielle*

                Yeah, my husband has some mysterious digestive issues and we’re experimenting with a low FODMAP diet (on advice of his doctor) – turns out that onions and garlic are two ingredients that can cause intestinal distress. Something to do with the way certain sugars can ferment in the gut. It is really hard to find prepared foods (or recipes) without onions or garlic in them! And forget about going to a restaurant.

                1. Cookie*

                  Joielle, I’ve been eating low FODMAP for a long time, though fortunately I’m not on the strict elimination phase now. The onion/garlic thing is the worst when you’re trying to eat in a restaurant! Especially in the last 10 years, all the fancy sandwiches are smothered in either aioli or harissa. I’ve had reasonably good luck ordering very plain things without sauce, like a steak, a burger with no condiments (I’ll add mustard when they bring it to the table), baked or french fried potato, etc. Sushi is also usually just fine for me. But forget about going out for Thai or Italian, sigh.

              3. RunShaker*

                @EllenD & @Quinalla wondering if have same: I’m supposed to follow FODMAP diet. I need to exclude foods that cause excessive bloat. Onions, garlic & various veggies & fruit, gluten, & artificial sweeteners hit me hard. If I eat something with onions and/or garlic, oh boy, I bloat up & am miserable for hours & sometimes next couple of days. But will these foods kill me? No, but there are days I don’t/can’t eat due to gastro stress I’m already in so an ingredient list is awesome.
                Also, my prior company started doing the ingredient list in late 2017 which I thought was great. I’ve been at my current company for about 5 months but no potlucks yet for my team. If we do, I’ll be suggesting if not brought up.

                1. JSPA*

                  I’m doing well on broad spectrum multi-enzyme pills–can add back about 2/3 of the fodmap stuff that used to shoot through.

                  Needs to include invertase, cellulase, ideally hemicellulase and amylase etc etc. Lipase and lactase are good if you’re also limited with lactose and fats. There are now 3 brands that work for me. Life-changing.

            3. Lizcase*

              I won’t eat anything savory without talking to the person who prepared it, and an ingredient list. As soon as any serving utensils are shared, all bets are off as to what is in the dish. I’ve got an onion intolerance as well bad enough to knock me out for a day with very small amounts (as well as many other food intolerances). I can’t risk eating unknown food. You never know when someone is going to pu avocado in their brownies.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                I don’t have any food allergies (plenty of respiratory ones, but nothing food-related), but when people start playing “musical utensils” at a potluck, it absolutely grosses me out!

                I am a picky eater, which I freely admit to. That means that I am selective about which items I am willing to eat AND greatly resent having anything I want to eat adulterated with bits of other dishes just because someone couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to which spoon they used to dish something up with. If I wanted to eat your three bean salad (which I don’t) , I would help myself to some. Even if I DID want to eat it, I would not want to find any of it in my serving of mac and cheese or pulled pork, nor would I want to find bits of either of those items in each other.

                A lot of people find my eating habits weird, but at least the way I eat doesn’t ruin anyone else’s food for them. I will understand why anyone thinks it’s ever okay to sick the same spoon into multiple, unrelated dishes. Gag, retch, blecchh!

                1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                  In case it’s not obvious, the second sentence in the last paragraph was supposed to say “I will NEVER understand…” LOL!

            4. Petty Betty*

              I can’t eat onions either. It’s like an Exorcist re-enactment, plus a rash and the accompanying hind end explosion later. As I’ve aged, I now branch into some wheezing (but not much). My mom was insistent that I was “just a picky eater” when I was a child and kept sneaking onion into my food to prove me wrong. Of course, she loves onions, as do the rest of the older family members. If men like something, it doesn’t get changed. If a female child can’t eat it, too bad, it’s fake/pickiness, suck it up. As an adult I did get allergy tested and boy did I throw that in her face. She still “forgets”, just as she forgets my son’s shrimp and shellfish allergy (because everyone loves eating shrimp at holiday meals).

        2. Phryne*

          Yes. I have a co-worker whose price for a cookie with gluten is a stomach ache. (a price she occasionally even is willing to pay for an especially good one) who just needs to know what is in what to make an educated choice.
          And then there is the distant family member who literally has two separate kitchens in the house because trace elements of gluten may put them in hospital. He will simply not eat food not prepared by him or his wife in their home.

        3. CL*

          Exactly. My mild allergy to an uncommon ingredient that doesn’t get triggered by cross contamination (i.e., my husband eats it all the time) means I eat potlucks at my own risk. My kid with a life thr

            1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

              25 years ago… My daughter was going into second grade.

              Back To School Night comes, and we all introduce ourselves. At some point, I stand up and tell everyone that my daugher is “drop dead allergic” (I used those exact words) to tree nuts, and said that I’m not asking them to restrict what they send in their kids’ lunch (it’s not that kind of an allergy), but to please PLEASE be careful what they send for shared goodies. TWO DAYS LATER, some parent sends the kid with walnut brownies for the class.

              Some people…

        4. Observer*

          Not every allergy is life threatening, and for people who have a mild allergy or intolerance and feel a chance of cross contamination is worth the risk, these ingredient cards are a great help!


          I think we do people a real dis-service when we act as though all allergies and intolerance are the same. There are wide differences in both severity of symptoms and sensitivity to triggers. Recognizing and accepting this is really important.

      2. JSPA*

        None of my allergies go past, “itchy mouth, sped-up digestive process, diarrhea, itchy other end” if I eat modest amounts, and “moderate asthma trigger, hives” if I eat a whole lot. Most never go past itching and lip rash and drippy nose. Both levels are adequately handled with benadryl and my inhaler.

        I’d still prefer not to have those reactions.

        If it’s a sizable exposure (delicious many-spices blended sauce of preserved lemons, looking at you!) I have to monitor–potentially take more benadryl, knowing that the toxicity level isn’t much above the effective level, and it makes me unsafe to drive–for the full 6 to 8 hour transit time. I’m rooted near the bathroom from hour 5 onwards. (All more problematic in a work setting, where you need to get home at some point.)

        For me, cards are great.

        If I went full anaphylaxis over anything, or had “cross contamination is all it takes” level responses, I wouldn’t eat other people’s food.

        Even scrupulous people have families.

        Nobody knows that their kid wiped the peanut butter spoon (or didn’t) and then dipped it into the jelly. Or that spouse used the same fork on the pickles that have mustard seed, and those without.

        I’ve seen bakeries will display “gluten free” products sitting only half shielded by a bag, on the shelf next to regular bread that’s slowly shedding its lovely light dusting of flour. That’s fine if you can tolerate half a tsp of flour (many can!) but not for the more sensitive.

        I myself keep a few peppercorns in the salt shaker, to help prevent clumping. If I added salt from that shaker, I’d list it as “salt,” not “salt with probable black pepper cross contamination.”

        Spice companies generally don’t promise purity.

        If you have found what works for you, and other options are deadly, then that’s not a boundary to push, in the name of appearing collegial.

        When someone who is usually nice says, “you should try X,” I try to hear it as, ” I appreciate you so much! I want nice things for you! X is really nice! I’m therefore being emphatic about X, but it’s not about X, it’s about me wanting to bring you happiness!”.

        I use, “aww, thanks, it makes me happy that you want me to be happy! I can’t actually eat X, but your smile is making me just as happy as X would!”

        If it’s someone who’s usually a douche, or they are being pushy, I go into the expected digestive outcome in increasingly extreme detail, until they nope out.

        1. Bagpuss*

          It’s worth bearing in mind that they can switch from one to the other with little if any warning.

          My anaphylaxis-inducing allergy isn’t food related, but it went from ‘mild hives in the relvant area’ to full anaphylaxis between one exposure and the next.
          I was very lucky that I was able to call an ambulance and that it reached me quickly (And, not being food related, my throat didnt swell immediately so I had more time for them to start treatment) but it was still terrifying, and I hadnt realisied before it happened to me that iyt could develop so quickly from only having had a mild reaction previously.

          1. JSPA*

            True! But the context is that I have over 20 allergies (about half food, half environmental); they test out as mild-to-moderate; none have ever gotten dramatically worse, though some were worse after I had no exposure for several months; and they all seem to be slightly improved with menopause.

            Total avoidance would be prohibitive to living life as I know and value it.

            The hives have more often been from farm animals or dogs licking me, than even extreme food exposure. In the further context of, “can’t morally, emotionally or socially beat off friendly dogs with a stick”… the food stuff just isn’t my biggest worry.

            I’ll even occasionally pet (non slobbery) dogs if I’m within a block of home, because again, the low level exposure seems to tamp down the response (and I like dogs).

          2. Hannah Lee*

            A friend of mine had a similar thing happen. For her it was, for years, itchy nose and mouth upon exposure. Then a couple of times it was “oh shoot, my eyes swell up” but the latest time was full fledged “get me to the hospital, I can’t breathe!” said through gasps and slugs of children’s benadryl.

            And the whole time, she was actively trying to avoid the allergen (raspberries), disclosing the allergy if she was eating out. But it’s amazing how many times it was an undisclosed ingredient in something non-raspberry related.

              1. NutellaNutterson*

                I only half-jokingly wish we could promote the “all artificial flavors and colors!” options. Because “natural spices” or “fruit juices” is not worth the risk. Is it green because of kiwi or Food Green S and Blue No 1?

                1. Cheshire Cat*

                  And then some people are allergic to Yellow 5! I susp3ct that beta carotene and turmeric could cause issues, too, but usingbthose for color instead has made my life easier.

    3. What to Eat*

      I’m LW 5, AND I’m also one of the first aid responders so I really don’t want to play with allerigic reactions. I’m trying to get the organizer to pass out recipe cards for what’s supposed to be in their dishes. (Example: mine has lima beans, an onion, brown sugar, molasses, ketchup, salt and pepper, with optional bacon for the top that I put on the side.)
      We have at least 2 separate allergies, several dieters, and multiple people with religious food requirements. For every other food event, the company asks for food requirements to be disclosed to the organizer and then she orders food that fits those requirements. The potluck is just once a year.
      I’m super thankful I’m not the organizer for this.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        As a vegetarian, I love ingredient cards. (I make my own if they aren’t provided.)

        Just yesterday, I had to explain to someone that just because something didn’t have dairy, it wasn’t vegetarian because it did have chicken broth.

        1. Jack Russell Terrier*

          That’s too funny – especially as dairy is vegetarian (not vegan of course). Understanding animal byproducts 101!

      2. This Old House*

        Don’t forget to add the ingredients in the ingredients – it’s not always helpful to just say “chicken broth.” If it was homemade, what was in that pot? If it was store bought, what’s on the label on the box? When I bring things places where I know there are people with allergies, I usually take a picture of the ingredients label of anything I used, so they don’t have to just take my word for it.

        1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          In the above example, “ketchup” is the part that needs a better description. There are several brands of ketchup that don’t all have the same ingredients. If there isn’t room for the full list, put the brand name there. Usually people who have this kind of issues, know that they can eat Brand A ketchup but not Brand B ketchup (if the brands are common in local shops and the allergic person isn’t visiting from some other country with different brands).

    4. higher ed*

      Also as mentioned about cross contamination. My department went to asking for comprehensive ingredient lists, using very large tables to segregate food, and requiring separate dedicated serving utensils (grad students so we brought our own). These requirements were clearly communicated beforehand with nice language about being inclusive and respectful of everyone’s needs so everyone could participate. The stuff where people were clearly labeling and careful with utensils went first. The unmentioned and unlabeled food did not get eaten. Grad school does weird things to digestion! But everybody got to eat something.

      I’m not epipen level allergic. I still carry benadryl with me at all times. But if I eat something I’m sensitive to (the list changes every year, which is also loads of fun). it triggers a lot of body pain and migraines in addition to the super fun digestive and itchy stuff. I’m done for the day, and likely several more I’m at limited capacity, if I’m not careful. So I don’t eat much at potlucks,, which makes me very sad. I’ve gotten a lot of great recipes over the years (friend made GF tres leches cake once for a potluck. I make it all the time. My very southern step grandfather thought it was the best coconut cake he’d ever had). This labeling and monitoring stuff is extra work but it was really great for making us feel included and valued, which too often grad students are not.

    5. Wiscokate*

      You could even make it fun, like a recipe exchange, and have a little stack of recipe cards. People could take one with them.

      1. JSPA*

        If people don’t want to give out their recipes because they’re secret (it’s a thing) or because they are purchasing a grocery or bakery cake and passing it off as their own product (also a thing), it’s important that they not list only a subset of ingredients, unless that’s explicitly written on the card. Better to have “and 5 secret ingredients” or “mama’s mystery cake, eat at your own risk” than a recipe where they leave out the cinnamon, so nobody can copy it.

    6. mairona*

      I’ve seen this done before and it works really well, not just for those with food allergies but also for picky people and when there are things like stews or dips that someone might want to try but are unsure what’s in it. Really, it just works out better for EVERYONE while making sure you don’t have to call an ambulance to workplace for anaphylaxis!

      Unfortunately I’ve found the “benefit for everyone” argument tends to work better than “let’s make this small accommodation” when trying to get stuff like this implemented, so that might be the route to go. I had to fight for captions on videos at my last job and basically had to resort to case law (it was a public university) to spell out how we were putting ourselves at risk of lawsuits and fines before I got any real traction on it, even though I felt saying “People who are hard of hearing or have auditory processing issues can’t watch our video materials” should have been enough.

    7. Madame Arcati*

      As a friend to several with coeliac, lactose intolerance [and not just – i feel a bit bloated, more – I am clinging on to consciousness you will pry this toilet bowl from my cold dead arms] I would also suggest asking people to snip and stick to the card the ingredients list from any prepared things in the dish. For example, you might use a seasoning blend or stock cube/powder (broth/bouillon I think?) and if that has malt in that’s not good for coeliacs, or whey protein is not good for lactose issues. Even mayonnaise – here at least normal mayo is dairy free but some low fat versions have cream in. There’s all sorts of little things like this that those with the allergy don’t expect others to know and would just like the opportunity to check for themselves.

    8. Important Moi*

      Please note, that there are those who have an odd proprietorship over their recipes, i.e. “secret” ingredients that they NEVER share.

      So an Ingredient card still has a level of risk.

      This has been my personal experience – before folks come for me and say that’s not true.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        In my family, we call those “shared” recipes “Millie Helper” recipes, after the episode of the Dick Van Dyke show where Millie ‘shared’ a recipe with Laura Petrie, but purposely left out one of the ingredients.

      2. Momma Bear*

        IMO, those kinds of recipes are then not great options for the office pot luck. Bring something you can share fully so people know what they are eating.

        1. Eater of Hotdish*

          Yeah, it’s an awful lot of fun to have a “top-secret recipe that nobody else will ever know how to make until I bequeath it to my favorite grand-nibling”…but making it for a potluck? That’s more of a cook flex than an actual attempt to feed people.

    9. sometimeswhy*

      Years ago, when my kid was young, I made food for a pot luck at their school. I made three dishes that, between them, covered a pretty broad spectrum of dietary restrictions (two veggie/one vegan, all three gluten free, two dairy free/one not, two nut free/one with tree nuts, all three prepared in a peanut free kitchen).

      I set up little ingredient cards and hung around to answer any questions about the preparation/cross contamination precautions/ingredient sourcing. Our household has pretty severe allergy concerns (and the teachers knew that) so I did what I wished someone would do for us. Many/most of the other parents brought either meat dishes or desserts and *a lot* of the teachers were vegetarian or vegan. I didn’t have any leftovers to take home, got asked for recipes, and got thanked more than once for “bringing something [they] could eat.”

    10. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. I have family members allergic to weird things. Ingredient cards (including spices) would be a quick way to mitigate concerns. We are always very appreciative. And bring utensils for that dish so they don’t have to share.

  4. jlick*

    For #1 I’m surprised this didn’t come up, but as the letter writer works at a university, if it is a public university in the US or a private university in the US receiving federal funds, that behavior could be a first amendment violation (of the establishment of religion clause).

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Yes, I was thinking this is especially egregious because it’s at a publicly funded university. #1, this is seriously illegal behavior here harassing someone based on religion, even beyond the incredibly repugnant behavior. Actually ambushing you and touching you, ick! Please go straight to HR right away. At a university, they will know the importance of shutting this down pronto. And if you’re comfortable doing so, I hope you’ll share an update.

      1. JSPA*

        The unexpectedly touching of one’s head without consent–firmly, intentionally, not in passing–is intrinsically problematic on a bunch of levels too: bodily autonomy, hair-is-cultural, head is sacred in some religions, overly personal etc.

        Imagine the action without the religious invocation–still creepy AF. I’d list that as a separate line in the complaint.

          1. Phryne*

            So much! OP even mentions the co-worker uttering a lengthy prayer. I admire them their patience or restraint, if anyone cornered and touched me unasked and started praying they would not have time to finish even a short one before they get pushed away forcefully.

              1. Covered in Bees*

                I tried that once but the wall was curved (we were on an airplane) so I fell down. It was a packed airplane, so I couldn’t really move. Also, at least half the people on the flight had been at the same evangelical teachers conference. It might not have helped.

              2. LW #1*

                I honestly felt like that. And I regret not saying anything, but at the time I was so shocked and horrified. I was rendered speechless.

                That shows how much it bothered me. Usually I am infamous for having a witty comeback, but this was so out there and absolutely uncomfortable that I physically couldn’t respond. Afterwards, I felt violated to my core.

                1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  I am so sorry your coworker did this to you. You’re right, it’s intensely violating. I hope your HR team can take care of this quickly.

                2. Jessica*

                  I’m so sorry that your physical space and your, I dunno, *being* were violated like that.

                  If your university is 40% Jewish, hopefully that includes HR, but having dealt with something kind of similar in the past with non-Jewish HR people, I found it helpful to print out some stats about antisemitism in the US. It gave HR the context that these things don’t take place in a vacuum and that coercive proselytizing isn’t just annoying, but can be actively threatening. (Even if you didn’t experience it as such, if she’s doing this to other Jews, some of them may.)

                  Most importantly: I’m so glad you found your way home to us. <3

                3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                  It was a case of being frozen in shock, partly wondering if it could even be real, I am sure. I would like to think I would react and get away, but I strongly suspect I would have reacted just like you did!

                4. Zennish*

                  I’m so sorry you had to experience this. FWIW, I’m a Buddhist, and usually pretty chill about most things, but I would have been at HR before the end of the day.

                  In addition to your own situation, it doesn’t do the coworker or the rest of the staff any favors to allow her to think this sort of behavior is okay, or doesn’t have consequences. In my opinion, going to HR would be actually be the compassionate thing to do, for everyone.

                5. Summer*

                  I’m so sorry this happened to you LW. I am absolutely outraged on your behalf and freaking hate your coworker. I hate all bullies but religious ones really get my back up. While I may be an atheist, I was also born Jewish (to a Jewish mother of Jewish parents, etc.) This woman offends me to my core.

                  I hope HR brings the hammer down on her.

            1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              It might have been a freeze reaction rather than patience; I wouldn’t advise patience for being spiritually and physically assaulted (yes, it’s assault because it’s unwanted touching).

              Having dealt with people who have not behaved in accordance with basic social norms, I can say it is difficult to know how to respond. The tendency is to respond as if such people just slipped up and are going to act reasonably the next time. I have learned how to respond to people like that but even so, it takes time to go there (and it’s easier for me because I’m ND, sometimes my NT colleagues get completely floundered about acting in a way that is not consistent with the social accord).

              1. Observer*

                It might have been a freeze reaction rather than patience; I wouldn’t advise patience for being spiritually and physically assaulted (yes, it’s assault because it’s unwanted touching).

                Yes, on the frozen reaction and not advising patience. This is not just about unwanted touching, which is egregious on its own. It’s about trying to PHYSICALLY FORCE someone into a religious box.

            2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              I imagine OP was frozen. People tend to respond with fight, flight, or freeze, and the frozen person is usually thinking “wait, this cannot really be happening, can it? This cannot be real!”

              1. Mangled Metaphor*

                The fact that OP went with frozen just means the coworker was incredibly lucky not to have encountered a fight response instead.
                Forcefully shoving away would have been the *best* case scenario had they tried that with me (not that I’ve encountered this exact scenario, but when cornered and unexpectedly touched, I have used laying on of hands of my own – I’m not proud, but I was scared.)

                1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                  I think OP didn’t really have a choice in the response. People tend to automatically default to fight, flight, or freeze. I honestly wish I was more like you a lot of the time, but I think I freeze a lot!

              2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

                An additional F-response is Fawn (be extra nice to the aggressor in the hopes that placating them will make the attack/future attacks stop).

                Not relevant to this situation, but good to be aware of.

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              I am a lawyer (IAAL, I guess), and yes it is assault, or battery, depending on your jurisdiction.

        1. Observer*

          The unexpectedly touching of one’s head without consent–firmly, intentionally, not in passing–is intrinsically problematic on a bunch of levels too: bodily autonomy, hair-is-cultural, head is sacred in some religions, overly personal etc.

          Yeah, this is a really important point. The CW was clearly going the “extra mile” religiously. She did not “fail to realize” the religious aspect of what she was doing. The religious aspect WAS THE POINT.

          1. Hannah Lee*


            It was a purposeful violation of someone else.
            It was, at it’s core, a collection of actions which installed HER viewpoint, beliefs, wishes as dominant over someone else’s and that person’s autonomy.

            It was gross, bullying AND illegal.

            (And added ugly bonus, in my view, co-worker apparently completely missed THE basic teachings of the NT, which were not, IIRC,to forcibly place your hands on others in an attempt drag them t h to Jesus)

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              I remember learning something interesting on an episode of Poirot, and I studied Ancient Greek and was able to confirm this. There is a parable, the Great Banquet, where all the invited guests refused to come to a banquet, so the master tells his servant to go out and bring in the poor and sick and crippled to the banquet instead. And when there is still room, he orders the servant to “compel” people in the lanes and roads to come in so that the banquet will be full. The word in the original Greek can be translated, depending on context, into “compel or force by means of violence.” It clearly did not mean that in the context of the parable, but during the Spanish Inquisition, the church officials relied on that possible translation of that word to justify their actions, that those who do not come to the church (or live according to its rules) should be forced to do so, even by means of physical compulsion or pain.

              It is horrible the way some people will willfully misinterpret the Bible.

              And yes, though I was studying classical Greek, I did read the new testament in Greek during my graduate studies and with an apparatus criticus. The manuscript traditions and the choices of how official translations have chosen to translate certain words and phrases … they are fascinating!

              1. mmmmmmary*

                Did they miss the end of the parable where the people compelled to attend got kicked out for not wearing appropriate clothes?

                1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                  LOL, probably! They just found a word in the story and hyper-emphasized it! Nothing about the argument made any sense, but how does one justify the Spanish Inquisition?

                  Or expect it?

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          yep, it is technically assault and battery (which term works is different for different jurisdictions).

          I would not try to file charges or anything for this incident, but I would make it clear to the coworker that touching me again, especially in a similar context, is in fact a crime and I am putting her on notice that if she does it again, she knows I am not consenting and I will report her to the police for it.

        3. blood orange*

          Yes, OP be sure to mention that she touched you without your permission. That would be important to me as an HR person. This is all Not OK, but I wouldn’t want to miss addressing the physical touch piece of this when addressing with your coworker.

          I’m so sorry you’ve been subjected to this! I hope your management and HR teams are as supportive as you need them to be, and address this swiftly.

        4. Fruitbird*

          I’m on the autism spectrum and react strongly and instinctively to being touched. As in I will collapse in on myself like a neutron star if you put a hand on my back. Being touched, especially gentle stroking for some weird reason, is so overstimulating it hurts. I also work in an environment with middle aged women of a generation who thought nothing of laying a hand on your arm when they talk, touching shoulders etc. They’ve learned not to touch me, thankfully, but being trapped with someone touching me for that long would cause me severe, bone-deep distress.

        5. Nina*

          That icked me out – I’m from New Zealand, the indigenous Maori culture has some really strong taboos about touching other people’s heads/hair (and food, heads, and butts, and things intended to contact them, never contact each other, so putting fruit you’re picking in a hat or putting a hat on an eating table is not on) and to a lesser degree that’s spread over to the non-Maori people as well. Everywhere I’ve worked/lived in this country, touching other people’s hair or head (or hat if it is on their head at the time) is something you just do not do under any circumstances.

        6. yala*

          FOR REAL.

          Like, it’s ALL bad. But you put your hands on someone’s HEAD and like…kept them there? On purpose? wtf

      2. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        Does it not also fulfil the legal definition of assault? That could push things in a much different direction…

          1. Bagpuss*

            Possibly both assault and battery. I am not sure whether the offences are defined in the same way in the USA, I am in the UK and IIRC from the criminal law I took many years ago, assault is defined as causing someone to fear that you will use unlawful forceagainst them, battery is if they actually use unlwful force.

            So toucjhing or pushing someone could be battery (because there is a use of force, albeit not very much force and ot causing any injury)but might also be an assault if them touching you made you fear that they might become more violent. (Then, confusinly , you have things like assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which probably ought, more accurately, to be battery occasioning actual bodily harm…)

            1. Madame Arcati*

              I’m in the U.K. and work in a different legal area but pretty sure this would be common assault on our side of the pond. The lowest level of assault but still get your hands off me.
              I’m not sure battery comes into things much as a term but I could be wrong.

          2. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

            What’s the difference? IANAL obviously (and I’m going on the assumption you are), but I thought assault was simply physically impeding someone from moving freely, and battery was causing physical injury.

            1. The Lexus Lawyer*

              Similar to what Bagpuss said.

              Assault is causing someone apprehension of harm (fear)

              Battery is the actual harmful contact.

              So if this was done by surprise, then it was battery without assault. But now that OP is afraid of this coworker, then assault comes into play.

            2. ACM*

              Legal definitions vary state by state. Sometimes, just using words/shouting is assault and battery is when physical contact happens. Other states defined assault as contact and battery as minor injury.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                In which case, the long prayer might be the assault, accompanied by the battery of the hand on the head.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I don’t think it came up because this behavior is illegal at nearly all workplaces, including private companies that get no federal funding. This behavior is outrageous for sure, but there’s no need to invoke the first ammendment when it’s already illegal for being standard religious harassment.

    3. higher ed*

      Depending on the school and admin, they may not care. I worked at a public university and if anyone ever elevated similar issues, nothing was done and were dismissed as being too sensitive. It was very lonely and when my department got reorged, I was the only person who left rather than take the position. A lot of unis are nowhere near as liberal or lefty as some media makes them out to be. And no, people wouldn’t band together to fight back.

      1. Observer*

        Even when it escalates to physical force? At this point we’re not just talking about someone being theoretically obnoxious. I would think that at this point any school is going to have an issue with that aspect of it.

      2. LW #1*

        This is a bit of a worry. I don’t feel my job it at risk, but our HR isn’t known for being overly proactive. But I know this is something I can’t let slide because I fear her actions will continue. (I will be posting a separate reply with additional information in a bit.)

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I think they will be proactive here. If this doesn’t get their attention though, then they are hopeless and you might need to escalate it up through management too, not just HR.

        2. Nesprin*

          If you can’t trust your HR to do the right thing, get a lawyer involved. There’s a couple different ways that your institution isn’t obeying the law here, and a lawyer on your side can really help make sure that HR straightens up and flies right.

        3. yala*

          She put her HANDS on you. For an extended period of time. For the purpose of insulting your religion.

          At this point, anything HR does would be REactive, because they’ve long since missed the boat to be proactive. And tbh, not a lawyer, but it seems like if they don’t do SOMEthing about this, you could have a case of some kind because, just. wtf.

      3. LabTechNoMore*

        I had the proselytization happen to me at the public institution I worked at (Muslim here). HR in that department had a reputation for making matters worse, so they weren’t an option. Thankfully, it stopped after the pamphlet phase/inviting me to Bible study.

        After that I had prepared a whole “proselytization is wildly inappropriate conduct for a manager” spiel prepared, complete with dramatic intonations, but apparently my glare and flat no at the pamphlet was enough for him to take the hint. Still awkwardly avoided the guy, despite our offices being adjacent, for the remaining year or so I worked there. I’d still consider that a win – I get the sense he realized what he was doing was inappropriate, based on his mutual avoidance (but maybe I’m just being too optimistic).

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      It can invoke the 1st amendment, but only if it is behavior of the university. If they don’t know about it, it’s not their behavior. Once they know and don’t address it, maybe.

    5. SometimesCharlotte*

      I’m at a state university. They are so worried about protecting free speech as a government institution, they allow a fundamentalist preacher to stand in the center of campus and tell the students and anyone listening they’re going to hell for various reasons, particularly being gay, but also for not accepting Jesus. But it’s “public” space and his “free speech.” Private schools and employers, in my experience, handle these things better because they don’t have to worry about infringing on free speech as they aren’t “government entities.”

      I predict the Christian employee running to the papers about how they’re being persecuted for being Christian. We had this happen here with a student harassing her non-Christian classmates and was told to stop and to stay away from them, so now she’s claiming religious discrimination.

      1. Observer*

        This is a very, very different scenario, though. The guy is standing in a relatively public space and students can easy ignore or pass him by. The minute he starts chasing someone that would have to change.

        The OP is in a relatively private space, and the CW has been targeting her and essentially chasing her. That’s bad enough, and definitely something that even a government agency has the standing to stop, because they are not stopping her from worshiping as she pleases nor even talking in general about her faith, but rather harassing another person.

        And when you go past that to cornering people and actually touching them, none of that matters any more. The school can’t stop her from practicing her religion but they HAVE to stop her from forcing her religion on others, and they HAVE to stop her from physically harassing people regardless of the motivation.

      2. AccountingIsFun*

        A student came up to me yesterday and asked if she could pray for me. I’m not her faculty member and had no idea who she was. I kindly said, “no thanks,” but it was odd. If I had told her what I thought, why are you asking to pray for a faculty member, you are just super rude for trying to pry into what is going on in my life (nothing out of the ordinary). I chose not to speak those thoughts because I didn’t want her to run to the administration, saying how the faculty persecuted her. I wish evangelicals would stop this behavior. It’s rude and isn’t helping them convert folks to their faith. What if, instead of forcing their beliefs on others, they chose to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and live in such a way that others wanted to know more about them? Others can then ask to go to church with them rather than forcing their beliefs on others.

        1. coffee*

          I assume that kind of behaviour is less about converting new people and more about trying to keep the existing people in the religion.

          1. Enai*

            Yeah, I read somewhere that the negative reactions of outsiders to this behaviour serve to reinforce to believers that only members of their specific church can be trusted / are safe. Then, returned from “the world” the missionaries are welcomed back into the familiar warmth of their congregation, all the more convinced of the fallen-ness of the outside, now with evidence for their “persecution” (being told off for being rude).

      3. Jaydee*

        My alma mater had a free speech zone like that. Many of us thought that it should actually be expanded to encompass more of the campus. Not because we liked the angry fundie preacher who yelled at us that we were all going to hell. But because we liked the 1st Amendment. (Most of us ignored him, but some students actually considered heckling the angry fundie preacher or debating with him to be quite fun.)

        I’m troubled by your use of quotes around the words public, free speech, and government entities. Public universities ARE government entities. Spaces on their campuses open to the public ARE public spaces. The 1st Amendment (and the 14th Amendment extends it to the states) DOES limit the government’s ability to interfere with and restrict speech based on its content. Private schools and employers don’t “handle these things better;” they operate in a legally separate arena where they are largely allowed to restrict speech they disagree with in ways the government is constitutionally prohibited from doing.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          It’s the intolerance paradox. Tolerating the intolerant allows intolerance to grow. So ideally the only thing that should not be tolerated is intolerance. I’ll post a link.
          In practice, of course, this is a very delicate thing to address.

      4. yala*

        Oh hey, ours did that too. A bunch of evangelical homophobes came from out of state to stand near the union and say homophobic things. The students responded by basically having an impromptu pride party right in front of them. Flags of all kinds, loud music, some yelling at them, but mostly just drowning them out.

        The kids are alright.

        But I hate that they were put into that situation.

    6. LW #1*

      It’s a private university in the US, so I will have to look into if they receive US federal funds. Thank you for the suggestion!

      1. Lydia*

        It won’t matter. Even in private companies or universities, this is religious harassment and is illegal per the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I think that’s why Alison advised using the legally weighty words “religious harassment.” The HR department might suck out loud, but they should understand legally actionable harassment when they hear it.

      2. c_c*

        Is it a religious university? Some private colleges are and my understanding is they’re exempt from some of the regulations that apply elsewhere (though I definitely could be wrong).

          1. JSPA*

            There are a some Jewish religious universities. (Few enough to make it inappropriate to name them, though.)

              1. That's True*

                Also then the proportion of Jews would be much higher than 40%, lol. (Unless it was a YU grad school, I suppose.)

      3. jojo*

        If students receive students loans then the university accepts public funds. It is also irrelevant. She is practicing antisemitism as she knows you are Jewish. She is religiously discriminating against you. Forcing your religion on others is illegal.

    7. Becca*

      Along the same lines, I was wondering if she had contact with students. It’s bad either way, and I assume OP would have mentioned it if it were the case, but if she does then double yikes.

  5. Pennyworth*

    The co-worker who went through the laptop bag was totally out of line. Can you get those small combination padlocks to fit a laptop bag? I’d have to do something like that or every time I left the office I would be imagining him going through my stuff.

    1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

      LW #4 , I agree with Pennyworth here. Your coworker is either trying to annoy you or considers your belongings fair game for him to rummage and appropriate or both. I don’t think a talking-to will be sufficient (necessary but not the whole answer). and I think knowing your bag is locked will set your mind at ease.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I thought the most obvious explanation (if he’s a reasonable person normally – even if there is some history between them) is he didn’t realise it was personally owned and assumed it was company property. In that case it gets a bit more muddy whether it’s out of line, because the OPs office and its contents (if company property) are really the company’s office and contents, and he did have a legit reason he needed the “widget”.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, maybe. I carry my work laptop in a backpack provided by my employer, but it also contains personal stuff, like hygiene products and hand cream, snacks that don’t require refrigeration, etc. There’s absolutely no reason for anyone to rummage in my backpack at the office if I go to the bathroom or lunch without it, as I always do. Sure, our work equipment is leased by our employer, but it’s individually assigned to us, and we’re expected to handle it with as much care as we’d take with our personal property. Some equipment is specifically assigned to a particular desk, like the docking station and associated peripherals (monitor(s), external keyboard, external mouse), and you aren’t supposed to remove it even if nobody’s sitting there that day.

        1. Mockingjay*

          You bring up a very good point about assigned equipment. I’m responsible for the assets I had to personally sign for, as are my coworkers. This means you ASK before you borrow, not rummage through my backpack. Better still, go to IT and request what you need before the work event.

      2. MK*

        Just because something is company property doesn’t mean it’s ok for any coworker to search bags that the company gave to another. This isn’t like opening drawers to borrow a stapler.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          And really, opening someone’s drawers for the stapler is a slippery slope too. At 1 point I worked near the photocopier and had 3 staplers stolen in quick succession. My work at the time required a stapler. I was “careless”? OK locked drawer and no more loans, bring your paper here to use it yes even you the VP of sourcing…because $YOURDirectReport told me I’d get no more replacements.

          Huh. I guess that’s still a sore point for me. LOL

          1. UDR*

            And on the flip side of the equation I have a co-worker who will use our Teams chat to message the whole office asking if people took “her” pen or post it notes from a shared counter, used for customer service, when the pens and post its are in an unlocked supply cabinet, and not tracked because it’s assumed that the general public is walking off with them most of the time…

          2. Ashloo*

            Our university library had a bunch of those essentials prone to wandering off – staplers, scissors, tape – chained to the reception desk. Otherwise they do just walk away. ;)

      3. Phryne*

        Meh. Recently on another thread I argued that getting a key to a cupboard out of a desk drawer or getting a reference sheet from another desk are pretty excusable as far as I’m concerned, but a bag is pushing it even if it is supplied by the employer.

        1. Mockingjay*

          While the company has the right to go through belongings on premises, that responsibility is usually assigned to managers only in specific circumstances. Coworkers don’t have a free pass to pillage.

          To reiterate, if you need supplies, get them from the supply cabinet or request per the company process. If you need to borrow a stapler in a hurry, ASK.

          Common courtesy, people.

          1. doreen*

            Where I worked , each office had a specific person who had the key to the supply cabinet and usually kept it in their desk. I’m not saying it was OK for someone to go through the desk when the person was on a lunch break – but when the person is unexpectedly out for a day or a week , I don’t see an alternative.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              We had the same setup (one key to the supply closet kept in one person’s desk) and the people who were allowed to go in the desk drawer to retrieve the key were two specific other staff members or the department head. If the key-holder and all three alternates were out of pocket, whoever needed anything would just have to wait.

          2. aebhel*

            Yeah, this.

            I mean, I work in a place where office supplies are just sort of scattered on shelves across three different offices wherever they fit, so it’s understood that people will go into my office and open cabinets looking for staples or colored paper or whatever, but even in that case it would be weird to go through my desk. And a BAG? No.

            Especially, like–even if it was company property, what if he borrowed it and broke it, or lost it? If it’s signed out to her, then it’s her responsibility, and that’s opening up an entirely new can of worms.

        2. Bagpuss*

          I think it’s one of those things which probably varies a good deal between different organisations ( and even within the same organisation!) I also think that there is a diffrence between taking soemthing off someone else’s desk and opening their desk drawers, and going through their bag.
          I wouldn’t see taking someothing off someone’s desk (assuming the item itself wasn’t personal, and that it he item was returned or replaced promptly) as being unreasonable in most offices, goinginto someone’s drawer strikes me as far less likely to be appropriate but may be OK depending on the company culture and the personal relationships invoved, and opening someonbe else’s bag, even if the bag and/or some of the contents , were provided by or owned by the company would be a major overstep expect in truly exceptional circumstances (I wouldn’t consider it inappropriate if someone went through my bag to find my epipen, if I were suffering an allergic reaction, for instance, but I’d be annoyed if theyopened my laptop bag othout asking even though it’s very rare for me to have anything except the lapop, and occasionally a few work-related papers, in it!

          1. kitryan*

            Yeah- I’ve been in a few very different workplaces and the ‘vibe’ for this sort of thing varied a lot depending on the workplace and the relationships. In the theater I worked at, it was fine to have a key in someone’s desk and for the small dept to know this and take it as needed, everyone was very responsible about usage, returning it, etc., ditto for borrowing a tool. Everyone was on the same page and there were only about 6 of us.
            In my current workplace, there have been a couple people I was close enough with for ‘desk rummaging’ permission to be explicitly granted, but generally, I wouldn’t touch anyone’s desk except *possibly* to take a project/paper that was in plain sight on my teammate’s desk if they were unexpectedly out and the application needed to be sent out or something like that- and I’d always message them to let them know this had been done.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            I’ve mentioned before working in a cube near a large conference room and having any writing implement or post-it walk off on a regular basis. I then started putting stuff in my drawers. Yet stuff still walked off, out of my drawers! I had to actually lock my desk drawers when I left my desk, or the vultures would pick it clean of any writing utensil, even obviously personal ones.

          3. jojo*

            The top left han drawer holds most office supplies like staples and staple puller in our office. Any other drawer is considered personal. You do not open them. They may hold purses or hearing aid batteries.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’ve had coworkers *invite* me to open their desk drawers to find something I was looking for if they weren’t there, and even then didn’t feel good about it. I’d absolutely never go into someone’s desk or cupboard without permission.

      4. Snow Globe*

        That was my thought. If he was off to do a presentation to a big client and needed a laptop power cord, he probably thought the cord belonged to the company. I *don’t* think it’s ok to go through someone’s laptop bag, but I find that a little less egregious than if he was hunting for something he knew personally belonged to the OP.

        1. The Lexus Lawyer*

          Facepalming at how people are trying to defend this sort of behavior.

          If you read the post, the coworker went into OP’s office and OP’s stuff when OP wasn’t there.

          With no thought at all given to asking OP?

          Surely there were other people actually in the office, perhaps someone in charge of supplies, that this person could have asked?

          1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*


            It’s boundary crossing, whether the boundary is personal property or company property provided to OP. If someone were to open up my employer-supplied computer case to look for something, without asking, I’d be pissed as hell.

            This coworker needs a properly indignant lecture.

        2. Observer*

          If he was off to do a presentation to a big client and needed a laptop power cord, he probably thought the cord belonged to the company.

          Even without the update, it’s clear that this is not what happened. The OP specifically states that the item cost $300. So, not a laptop cord or any other routine small piece of equipment that gets shared around without thought.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’m an Apple user. I wouldn’t be surprised if their next laptop cord cost $300 and wasn’t compatible with any other generation of laptop.

      5. Observer*

        I thought the most obvious explanation (if he’s a reasonable person normally – even if there is some history between them) is he didn’t realise it was personally owned and assumed it was company property.

        He may have thought that about the particular piece of equipment. But the minute he opened the bag, it should have become clear to him that the stuff in there was not company issued.

        And even so, going through someone’s bag is out of line.

      6. jojo*

        Going through your laptop bag or backpack is no different than going through your purse or lunch bag. You do not do it.

    3. Letter Writer*

      LW here!

      For clarity, my personal laptop bag is a multi-colored, incredibly feminine presenting Brahmin bag. It’s very obviously not owned by the company, which are solid black except for our our logo. He knew the equipment inside the bag was mine and also not the company’s. Without question, no misunderstandings, impossible for him to have thought otherwise. Take my word for it; he 100% knew. In this case, there is no room for other speculation. It was not a laptop cord; it was a brand spankin’ new expensive piece of equipment he knew I’d just personally purchased for my own personal use. We had discussed it. He has admired said equipment and we’ve talked about how much it cost me and joked that our boss would never spend that much on equipment. He knew.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        Thanks for clarifying, some posters seem to be going out of their way to explain away borderline bad behavior. All this additional info means it was not borderline, this was a real violation on his part.

      2. Free Meerkats*

        With that clarification, leave off the ‘Please’ and deliver a simple, unsoftened declarative order to never rifle through your bag again.

      3. MurpMaureep*

        Ugh I’m so sorry. I got upset years ago when my manager went into my cube and took my phone recharger when I was at lunch! I can’t imagine someone going through a personal bag and taking expensive things they knew belonged to me.

        Given all that, I’d strengthen Alison’s script to say something along the lines of “I’m not sure why you thought it was ok to go through my belongings and take my property, but this is me telling you it’s absolutely not and I expect it never to happen again, is that clear?”.

      4. e271828*

        What an awful person! I would feel so creeped out and violated.

        If you can add a locking cabinet to your work area as well as a lock on the bag itself, he might not do it again.

      5. iiii*

        Ask for a locking cabinet in which to keep your things, on the grounds that Mr Coworker has tried to steal your personal property. Name his name, and cc HR and everyone’s direct supervisor in the request.

        You know him, you know your company, and I don’t, so your judgment of the situation is necessarily better than mine. You may not want to go that far. But he confessed an actual criminal act. Keeping quiet about his light fingers serves him, not you. Reading him the riot act may be your actual best option – but know that that’s a middle path, not the most severe reaction you could have.

    4. HotSauce*

      I started locking all of my cabinet drawers after a similar incident. Luckily my bags are small enough to fit in one of the drawers. Sad that we can’t trust our coworkers to not cross these very obvious boundaries.

  6. E*

    LW3: I can’t speak to your office or the norms of, but I had an incredibly embarrassing experience at my current job where I basically did the same (unintentionally!!) as your coworker. My current employer distributes identical laptops (save for a tag with serial number) and identical laptop bags, and almost everyone uses the bags. A coworker had stopped at my cube and left his bag next to mine and without thinking, I grabbed his and started rummaging through it for something I needed. I immediately stopped when I realized it wasn’t my bag.

    That was a very long-winded way of my saying that when that happened, I realized how likely it was for it to happen again, so I bought an inexpensive new bag that fits my current work laptop and decorated it with patches in a way that it couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than my own. I 100% realize the fault of this incident lies with your coworker, but if you want an added layer of security, I’d encourage you to maybe look for other bags. I know this might sounds like I’m putting some of that on you and I promise that’s not my intention, but having a bag that is just *yours* and could not be mistaken for anyone else’s might help if you think someone could dig through it again and then claim they were looking for ‘shared’ equipment that was really just equipment you purchased on your own/equipment that belongs solely to you.

    1. Liz*

      LW says the coworker opened their office — I don’t think it was a case of mistaking a laptop bag for one’s own.

      1. E*

        Ohhh, yes, you’re correct. I misread that as them sharing an office (not that those circumstances would excuse the behavior) but oof, yeah, that’s something else entirely and a huge boundary being crossed.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Agreed. Co-Worker thought, “I need a connection dongle. LW is out, but I’ll just peek in here to see whether she left hers.” Then Co-worker went digging through whatever bags LW left lying around. This wasn’t a case of mistaken bag identity.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I don’t think you even need to buy a new bag for this idea! Just put the patches on the one you have. Or, the entirely low-cost, low-effort, reversible version I do with all of my luggage and laptop bags: just tie a colorful ribbon to the handle. Takes all of 10 seconds and works like a charm.

      Though I don’t think it would help in this case, as the coworker did know whose bag it was. It is a good idea in general, however.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I have one of those reflectors that you can wrap around your sleeve on the handle of mine, and another reflector on one of the zippers. The backpack is otherwise identical to my office mate’s backpack, but he’s personalized his a bit differently.

      2. Phryne*

        This is why I have a whimsical colourful lock screen background on my work phone. Everyone has the same one and everyone leaves them lying around on our shared desks…

    3. Covered in Bees*

      The huge difference is that your incident was accidental and you stopped when you realized it wasn’t yours. Honest mistake handled well. LWs colleague sought out her bag and only stopped rifling through it when he decided it didn’t have the item he wanted to take.

    4. TypityTypeType*

      I use a distinctive laptop bag for exactly that reason — it’s quilted and made of bright upcycled fabrics. It’s sturdy enough for my purposes, and nobody is going to mistake it for their own. (It’s also not likely to be a thief’s first choice!)

    5. Letter Writer*

      LW here!

      For clarity, my personal laptop bag is a multi-colored, incredibly feminine presenting Brahmin bag. It’s very obviously not owned by the company, which are solid black except for our our logo. He knew the equipment inside the bag was mine and also not the company’s. Without question, no misunderstandings, impossible for him to have thought otherwise. Take my word for it; he 100% knew. In this case, there is no room for other speculation. It was not a laptop cord; it was a brand spankin’ new expensive piece of equipment he knew I’d just personally purchased for my own personal use. We had discussed it. He has admired said equipment and we’ve talked about how much it cost me and joked that our boss would never spend that much on equipment. He knew.

  7. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

    #1 — in addition to going to HR (which you absolutely should) does your university have a Hillel or other organization for Jewish members of the university community? If this woman is like the fundamentalist Christians who raised me she will fight as hard as she can “in the name of Jesus,” etc etc etc, try to portray herself as religiously persecuted, and probably become even more obnoxious. She already thinks Jesus gave her the right to put her hands on your head (!) and it’s amazing what people will do when they think their deity is on their side. As well as HR’s formal employee management you’re going to need support from other people who know both your religion and your institution. You may even be able to get advice tailored to the institution there (such as “try to make sure X in HR handles your case — Y is also a fundamentalist Christian and will try his best to block you” and so on).

    All good luck with this and I hope HR is responsive and can get her to back down and that she gives up and doesn’t resort to all the “micro”aggressions she can muster. I would apologize on behalf of fundamentalist Christianity but I’m not a member anymore — being taught to treat people like this is one of the reasons I left the religion.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      Agree and #1 is one of the reasons I am so glad we’re mostly a remote team. No more awkward side conversations at work having to hide the fact I am agnostic. (Was raised conservative Lutheran and completely agree, the intolerance organized religion has for those who don’t believe is rather high in general.).

      1. Jessica*

        The intolerance CHRISTIANITY has for those who don’t believe.

        Please stop trying to twist a letter from a member of a minority culture that *doesn’t proselytize* and has no interest in changing the minds of anyone who’s not Jewish about any religious matters, AND is regularly subjected to threats and violence for existing, to be about former Christians vs. “organized religion.”

        Jewish organizations haven’t tried to force religion on you, it’s a Jew that was harmed here *for being Jewish* and the sheer chutzpah (and not in the good way) of the conceptual judo you just pulled off here to somehow lump the victim in with the oppressors and make this about you is representative of how former Christians often continue to uphold Christian hegemony and supremacy at the expense of marginalized non-Christian cultures.

        1. Enough*

          People who practice CHRISTIANITY (dig the caps!) are a vast and diverse group with greatly varying beliefs and approaches. And they have different temperaments and personalities. They’re remarkably like human beings that way.

          Stereotypes serve no one.

          1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

            Do you also shout “Not All Men!” over someone who’s trying to discuss what to do about being harassed? Not to mention the complete ahistoricity of this take.

          2. Jessica*

            Christianity is a universalist religion. There are very few forms of it that don’t view it as the only acceptable belief system, and that don’t have as an end goal the conversion of the entire world.

            That’s not stereotyping, that’s literally reading what’s on the label.

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              That’s true of most non-pagan religions. The Romans, on the other hand, were all “the more, the merrier” about different gods and cults, as long as those they subdued worshipped their gods too (which is why they had issues with Judaism and originally with Christianity – monotheism was something they objected to. Worship whatever gods you want, but you need to accept that the emperor is a god and worship him too, and that is where they went universalist!).

              The point is that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, even scientology, they all hold that their version is the true or right version. That is on the label with all those religions.

              1. That's True*

                That’s not the point, though. Of course any religion is going to hold itself as the one true belief system; the crucial difference is that Judaism isn’t trying to convince non-Jews of its truth.

              2. Working Hypothesis*

                The difference for practical purposes isn’t between religions which think they’re right and everyone else is wrong. The difference is between religions which think everyone else has to be MADE right, and those which don’t care and don’t try. Judaism doesn’t proselytize, because we have no interest in converts; we’re even technically required to discourage those who come to us with an interest in joining. This is a very different approach from Christianity, Islam or Scientology; it’s more like most forms of Buddhism or Wicca. What other people do or do not believe is simply not our business.

        2. WillowSunstar*

          I was forced to attend a Christian school as a child for elementary, had parents who basically prohibited me from having a normal child hood as it wasn’t “church accepted,” and to this day have relatives I don’t care to interact with because they literally believe in Hell as an actual, physical location like from the Jack Chick tracts and I would have to lie through my teeth to interact with them. My own experiences growing up were that I had to keep my mouth shut of any dissenting opinions or I would have gotten spanked. Maybe my family is more nuts than others, I’m not sure as it was my own personal experience for years.

          Most people know that when one says “organized religion” one is generally talking about Christianity, at least in the upper Midwest where I am from.

          1. Jessica*

            Christianity *wants* to be seen as the default for religion and to erase the existence of all other cultures. It wants that association to be normalized and inarguable.

            Please stop helping them by arguing that it’s totally fine to use “religion” to mean Christianity because most people know that’s what’s meant.

            When you’re talking about Christianity, *say Christianity.*

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              Christianity does not “want” anything. You can say that is what Christians want, but Christianity is not something that wants or emotes or anything like that. And the idea that Christianity “wants” to erase the existence of all other cultures is bizarre, as there are Christians from all kinds of different cultures all over the world. If an Indian person living in India practices Christianity, they do not suddenly morph into a white person who only eats bland and unseasoned food and only listens to Christian rock!

              You might more reasonably say that many Christians (not all) want for it to be the default religion and erase the existence of all other religions … which I do not think is the case of many or even most Christians, and there are also a wide variety of churches, denominations, and beliefs within Christianity. But the same can be said about Islam, or even scientology.

              1. Nesprin*

                This is a weird take- Christianity may not want anything, but the strictures of many flavors of Christianity do say that proselytizing is a good thing that right minded adherents of the faith should do.

                (please don’t proselytize at work)

                1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                  I don’t see how it is a weird take. Christianity is not a person or animal and does not have wants, but the individuals do, and those wants vary within the group. Many Christians do not proselytize period, and certainly not at work. And yes, many Christians and denominations of Christianity promote, encourage, and even require proselytizing, but I would not even say that most do that (just the ones who do it are really overt because the ones who don’t do it are not bothering the rest of us).

                  And scientology also includes recruitment requirements (and some pretty intense responses towards people who leave). Islam is less focused on conversion, but it does include teachings that Islam is the only acceptable religion and some groups within Islam support the idea of erasing the other religions too. Most religions operate on the idea that they are the only true and legitimate religion.

                2. MCMonkeyBean*

                  @commonsensesometimesmakessense: what do you think the “organized” part of “organized religion” refers to exactly? Of course it has specific wants and goals.

                  Also tbh it is kind of hilarious that you are using “there are Christians from all kinds of different cultures all over the world” as argument against the idea of Christianity as a whole pushing for erasure. How do you think that came to be? Crusaders and colonizers.

              2. Ellis Bell*

                Oh come on. Christianity has a very well documented history of appropriating cultures and forcing conversions and going to war because they think resistance is futile. That doesn’t mean there aren’t perfectly wonderful modern christians around! Or worthy churches! But there are also a lot of Christians who are still a tad medieval; especially about Jews. Pretending this history just doesn’t exist is… bold. Talking about the anti semitic shit that people invoke *while using the actual name of Jesus* is totally a Christian thing (fringe, nutty, extremist yes, but definitely Christian) and it isn’t a personal comment on your faith. It isn’t about you at all.

          2. Laura1234*

            Yes, but that’s part of the problem! In the US religions=Christianity, which leads people to ignore or whitewash the experiences that people of other religions have with Christians. It’s all part of Christian normativity.

          3. Little Mouse with Clogs On*

            “Organized religion” does not equal “Christianity,” just like “men” does not equal “humans.” This kind of Christianity-washing can make a lot of people around you feel erased, and I urge you to keep an eye out for that.

        3. Little Red Riding Hood*

          I was a little taken aback by Jessica’s comment. As a Jew I wasn’t terrible fussed with the notion of “organized religion” being intolerant. It certainly can be. But, then Jessica is not wrong that bashing all organized religion essentially negates the experience of the letter writer, who is from a minority group and that kind of sucks, to be perfectly honest.

          And then there were the follow-up comments stating that stereotyping Christians is bad (fair) and that most in the Midwest assume organized religion means Christianity (maybe, less fair?) The thing is yes, stereotyping is wrong. And if the Midwest is still stuck in line that Christianity is THE organized religion, that’s not good either…

          I think that may be what I’m having a reaction to. It’s not that any one religion is good or bad. It’s that we live in a society where Christianity has been the moral standard for centuries and there is a sense of entitlement that exists within that. I’ll need to check myself, but I don’t think you’ll find many Jews or Muslims or Hindus, etc. praying for Christians to find their way to what they believe is their one true god(s).

          But that’s not a castigation of any and all Christians. It’s a call for them to acknowledge that some of those that practice their faith can be narrow-minded and offensive. To disavow those who are narrow-minded and offensive. It’s less about defending the faith and more about highlighting the best aspects of your religion that support humanity.

          It’s complicated to be sure and I’m not sure I’ve represented myself well here. But, I think we would all be a lot more courteous with each other if we stop thinking in terms of absolutes (all, always, none). whether assumed or stated.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            I agree with this. And I think the declining power and influence of Christianity has led some of the more zealous ones to ramp up their intensity, which is never good.

          2. WillowSunstar*

            It may be a regional thing, I do not know and U’m not saying it is correct. But how and where I was raised, if you said the words “religious” or “organized religion”, Christianity is general was assumed.

            Please note, I have nothing against people who want to follow a religion. Just don’t proselytize at work, and if you do that outside of work, be aware that many people (myself included) are going to actively avoid you.

            1. Little Red Riding Hood*

              I’m sorry, I wasn’t passing judgment on your experience! It’s what you experienced. The fact that you experienced it isn’t great. The fact that you haven’t continued that mindset is great.

        4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Most religions have a group that are really intolerant honestly. Christianity has just had so much power here over the generations and that power is fading, so some are digging in really hard.

          I do agree that you do not see this mindset as much with Judaism, especially trying to convert others. And we seem to be getting inundated with it on the Christianity side lately (again, I attribute that in part to the declining power of the group).

          1. yno*

            You keep making this argument up and down the thread, but you’re ignoring that proselytizing is an *inherent* part of Christianity – sharing salvation is the goal, it’s a core mission. To say that “not all Christians” do it, as you have repeated several times, or that “other religions think they have it right, too,” totally misses that point, and since many people have pointed it out, maybe it’s deliberate obfuscation in your argument.

            Try as you might, you will not find proselytizing to be a tenet of Judaism. That’s the point you keep missing.

          2. anonymousity*

            Jewish people do not proselytize to non-Jewish people. That is true across the board. It is explicitly antithetical to our belief system regardless of what denomination of Judaism a person takes part in. The reason you don’t see Jewish people trying to convert others is because that’s not a thing. There are some very observant groups who will do outreach to less observant Jewish people but that is as far as it goes.There is no benefit, for lack of a better term, in the Jewish belief system for getting non-Jews to convert. If someone wants to convert, there is a process for that, but those individuals are not sought out.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I lost count of the number of co-workers who insisted on witnessing to me AT WORK and believed that intoning ‘In the name of Jesus’ gave them blanket indemnification. I’d tell those folks I wasn’t interested in hearing their message – already heard it, raised in a fundamentalist home myself, thanks anyway – and especially not at work. They complained that I was repressing their religious freedom, persecuting them, and generally pouted until the next time they decided I needed to be saved.

      Complaining to my boss, their boss, and/or HR had varied results. For the truly persistent, I loudly said, ‘I already told you NO! Please stop bringing this up at work!’ and let them deal with the odd looks from our co-workers. That seemed to work.

      I get it. Matthew, Mark, Acts, Ephesians, one of the Timothys, and other books in the NT command believers to bear witness and save souls. But Christians were commanded to abide by civil law – rendering unto Caeser, Matthew 22 – so there’s that to consider.

      1. Samwise*

        They are commanded to bear witness, but they are not assured that witnessing will be consequence free. (See: history of christian martyrs)

        If they insist on witnessing in places that Caesar says not to, well, then, they can face Caesar’s consequences.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          They may *believe* they are commanded to bear witness.

          But *their beliefs* do not negate *other people’s rights* to a workplace free of harassment. And yeah, there may be consequences, as you said.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I’m Quaker, and our early history was pretty much saying “*#$ you” to the English monarchy, Church and taxes. Immediately afterwards, they became really concerned about the poor conditions in jails. *facepalm*

          But yeah, if you do blatantly illegal things because you truly believe they are right (e.g. conscientious objection), you shouldn’t whine about the consequences.

      2. SadieMae*

        As an agnostic who was raised in a conservative Christian church, I’m always amused (and sometimes frustrated) by how many evangelicals think that I’m only agnostic because either (a) I don’t know about God and Jesus or (b) I have anger/hatred toward God. So they really want to explain to me about God/Jesus and to try to heal me of whatever pain I’m in that has caused me to “reject” Christianity.

        I’ve occasionally tried to explain that (a) after an entire childhood of Sunday services, Sunday school, youth groups, and discussions with my minister grandfather, I do in fact know in detail about Christian beliefs; and (b) I cannot be angry with, hate, or reject God, because I don’t believe he exists in the first place.

        I’m not anti-religion or anti-Christian; I just don’t believe in it myself. Seems straightforward to me, but it’s amazing how many people’s minds are completely blown by that.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Agree! OP, I would feel exactly the same way if it happened to me. This was assault on your body, mind, and soul. Your co-worker is far out of line morally, ethically, legally, and professionally. You have every right to bring in help. I hope the resolution is healing for you.

    4. LW #1*

      Thank your for this suggestion (and great name, Amorphous Eldritch Horror). I am going to reach out to someone in Hillel about this. Her church is a fundamentalist church that is very preachy, pushy, and big on trying to get as many people saved as possible. I am almost positive she’ll use the “persecuted” route and do have worries as she’s somehow well loved and has been there for years. I know fully I need to tread carefully with this.

      I also mentioned to a friend that this all scares me because I personally don’t think she’d do anything herself to hurt me, but with the rise in antisemitism lately, I don’t know WHO she knows and I don’t trust her church. She very well could be “Oh, this Jew who got me in trouble is trying to do x against Jesus.” and she gives out my information and I don’t want to think about what could happen. It’s a far jump, but it’s scary being Jewish with all the insanity going around in the US right now.

      I was raised evangelical Lutheran and this situation has broke open so many past religious traumas when it comes to Christianity.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I don’t want to scare you, but what she’s already done is legally assault in a lot of places and I think your reasoning for having a heightened awareness about your safety is very legitimate. I would consider the idea of a restraining order or at least demand a strong reproach from whoever is above her on her behavior. I am glad you have a community to turn to. Please do what you need to in order to stay safe, physically and emotionally.

      2. Somebody Call a Lawyer*

        Ugh, LW1, this is all so awful and I hope you can feel the commenters who are standing with you in spirit.

        1. kitryan*

          Also commenting in solidarity – Years ago I had my own variant on this – I’m from the east coast and went to grad school in the midwest. I was back in the workspace for my program after attending my grandmother’s funeral, and one of the staff members said (paraphrased) ‘I know you’re Jewish, but I wanted to say that I always find comfort in Jesus’. I was pretty much speechless.
          This person was generally very vocal about her born again-ness and was always talking about church activities but (thankfully) this was the worst of it as far as proselytizing went, and that was upsetting enough, in the wake of losing my grandma and all, I can only imagine if it had been at these levels of aggression.
          For a palate cleanser of sorts, my grandparents were Catholic, and when I’d found out she’d died and I’d be going to a religious funeral and giving a eulogy I went to the Catholic student center and spoke to someone (who I think was actually the bishop? like, more high up in the church than I’d expected) about what the funeral would be like and what would be expected of me and all that and he was absolutely the nicest and most understanding about the whole thing and explained what to expect and what I didn’t need to participate in as a non-Catholic. And not a word about anything that was potentially uncomfortable, like why they were Catholic and I wasn’t or anything like that. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to note his name and send him a thank you card or something, because I still think about *both* of these encounters to this day and the first still makes me angry and the second is *really* how to be an ambassador for one’s faith.

      3. Julia*

        Something that may be helpful is making a plan for what if she spread around your personal information. A basic plan could be.

        -In advance ask HR if there are existing plans to deal with employees experiencing harassment. Ask HR what are the ways they handle with employees who harass each other.
        -If you are harassed change the passwords on email and social media. Lock social media accounts. Turn your cell phone off and let your landline go to voicemail.
        -Pick a friend who will help you inform friends & family you’re being harassed or attacked.

        1. Observer*

          -If you are harassed change the passwords on email and social media. Lock social media accounts. Turn your cell phone off and let your landline go to voicemail.

          You don’t need to turn off the cell phone, but the rest of the advice may be a good idea even without any overt harassment, for a while at least.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          If things get really extreme, I’d also have an escape plan if you don’t feel safe at home. If it’s looking like members of your coworker’s church are threatening your safety, where will you go? Have a bag packed with some essentials that you can grab quickly if you have to move fast. Can you make sure that any important documents are secure somewhere else? I sincerely hope that none of this is necessary.

      4. Jessica*

        I’m sure you know this, but I’m going to write it out anyway:

        *Every time* you have an interaction with her in which she brings up Christianity or Jesus, immediately go back to your computer and document it, time and date, how long it took, (if you haven’t written up accounts of her previous attempts, write down as much as you can remember).

        HR isn’t there to protect you, but they don’t want to get sued, and having documentation that this is a *pattern* of harassment tends to get them moving in a way that solely verbal accounts don’t.

        And I don’t think you’re being paranoid–when I very loudly told my evangelical coworker to stop harassing me about Jesus in the lunch room in front of most of our team, she leaked my home address to a white supremacist group on 4chan.

        That type of Christian wants you to cease existing as a Jew, one way or another. It’s probably not a bad idea to shore up your online security as well as talking to Hillel about how to shore up your physical security just in case she escalates.

      5. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yikes! All very valid worries, OP. I do wonder how many other people she is “praying” for and pushing her religious beliefs on. I wonder if she’s doing more praying than working.

      6. OyHiOh*

        I too was raised evangelical Lutheran (sort of, long story!) and converted to Judaism as an adult.

        I just wanted to throw out my sympathy for what you’re dealing with right now and also encourage you to use the resources you have at your disposal. Campus Hillel will be tremendously beneficial because if their leadership has been around for any length of time, they should be able to help you navigate to people who will be sympathetic, empathetic, and in positions to help you.

        Also, your synagogue/temple community, and your rabbi may be able to help, if only with moral support. Try to make more of a point to spend time with members of your community – coffee break on campus, linger a bit longer than you normally would after a service – just to strengthen relationships with people you want to know and spend time with.

      7. Hey now*

        LW: There is a lot of power in the word, no. Don’t be afraid to use it. And she has no right to put her hands on you. I recognize others’ beliefs but I also believe in respecting boundaries.

      8. Coffee Bean*

        I am very sorry, LW. This situation is horrible, and I really hope it works out for you. I hope you get some solace and encouragement out of the many commenters here who support you.

      9. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        LW, this all sucks. Your coworker is 100% wrong in this. It extra sucks that your concerns about blow-back within your organization and about hate-motivated violence are sensible. I hope with all my heart that things go smoothly for you and your coworker and her awful church leave you TF alone. It makes total sense for you to tread carefully and to take precautions to protect your safety. If it turns out that you didn’t need those precautions, that is an excellent outcome. It is absolutely not an indication that the precautions were unnecessary.

    5. CocoB*

      As an evangelical Christian, I am so sad and embarrassed to hear stories like these. LW#1 obviously your boundaries should be respected and if your zealous coworker can’t do that HR is the way to go.

      1. SadieMae*

        Honest question: the Evangelicals I know (and grew up among) feel that proselytizing is part of their mission from God – that God wants them to save as many souls as possible. Is that something your branch of Evangelicalism doesn’t believe? And if they do believe it, how do you reconcile that with not pushing other people’s boundaries? Is the idea to reach out to people with the message, but not in situations where they might feel pressured (like a school or workplace)?

        For instance, I don’t really mind when someone tries to hand me a tract when I’m walking down the street (in fact, while I think it’s annoying, I also think it’s kind of nice that they are trying to do something they think will be helpful for me, a stranger), but it’s very different in a workplace or similar, where you can’t just walk away and where there are power dynamic issues, etc.

        I’m not trying to challenge you – I’m genuinely curious, if you feel like sharing.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Pushing my beliefs on someone else is a remarkably poor strategy for making them interested at all, so I’ve never understood other evangelicals who are pushy. Jesus wasn’t pushy, and the only people he constantly condemned were the religious leaders. We are supposed to love others, and be prepared to give an answer when others ask. If someone is not curious, then I’ll just show love when I encounter them. No need to push boundaries, just be open when asked. And pray quietly, without them knowing. God is the one who saves, not me anyway.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            One thing I’ve heard is that at least some of the super pushy churches do it deliberately as a way to keep people inside the church and isolated. In a nutshell, they train people to behave in a way that makes the people they’re trying to convert extremely uncomfortable. A certain proportion of those people will be mean to the church member and many will be rude. Very few will be receptive. This serves to convince the church member that people outside their specific church are generally awful, mean people, who are rejecting them and the only great people are within the church. So the approach fails as a way to recruit new members, but is very successful at keeping existing members reliant on the church to meet their social needs and give a sense of belonging.

          2. Don't Pray For Me, Argentina (Or Anyone Anywhere Else)*

            If you’re praying for someone else without their knowledge or consent, then you already ARE violating their boundaries. That’s disrespectful and disgusting, and you need to stop it.

            1. Don't Pray For Me, Argentina (Or Anyone Anywhere Else)*

              And before someone tries to argue, you absolutely CAN step over someone else’s boundaries without them ever knowing or agreeing. If you kiss someone while they’re passed out drunk and they never agreed to be kissed by you under that (or any) circumstance, you have ABSOLUTELY violated them and their boundaries.

  8. StellaBella*

    For LW1, I worked at a software company that had a non solicitation policy. A quick google shows most universities in the USA have these too. Most include something that this would fall under, like “For purposes of the Non-solicitation Policy, “Solicitation” (or “Soliciting”) shall include, canvassing, soliciting or seeking to obtain membership in or support for any organization, requesting contributions, and posting or distributing handbills, pamphlets, petitions, and the like of any kind (“Materials”) …The Non-solicitation Policy applies to University students, faculty, and non-faculty employees and volunteers as well as vendors and other non-University individuals and entities and their representatives.” Where I worked I was heavily for about a month solicited by a Mormon man on my team. HR had to deal with it after I was repeatedly in their office after every attempt of his, explaining to them why this was against policy. He was not fired but was documented, and email went to the whole group.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Assuming LW is in the US, a workplace allowing religious harassment to continue would be illegal on the federal level, whether or not they have a non-solicitation policy.

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

        I think that StellaBella does point out a good pathway however to shut it down, because the argument from the perpetrators (and sometimes HR) is always going to be about what constitutes “harassment”…a lot of perpetrators will argue that they aren’t saying anything derogatory, threatening or hurting the victim, they aren’t antisemitic or anti-anyone, they aren’t harassing them by inviting the victim to a party or event, they’re being friendly and caring. They’re going to argue it’s the same as inviting someone to a Tupperware party because you sincerely believed they would find it useful…so make it a policy that even persistent, unwanted Tupperware party solicitations are punishable.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          I think trying to “save” someone who is Jewish is pretty antisemitic. They are saying in other words that your religion is not the correct religion.

          1. Enai*

            And also, if they succeed in their effort to convert the jewish coworker, one less Jew exists in the world. That is actually the goal of the proselytizing, no two ways about it.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Maybe it is in some cases. The fundamentalists I grew up with would do this to anyone who wasn’t one of them. They did the same thing to me and I did not belong to any religion.

        2. Observer*

          because the argument from the perpetrators (and sometimes HR) is always going to be about what constitutes “harassment

          No. That is SOMETIMES possible. But the minute you get to *cornering someone* and LAYING A HAND ON THEM, there is nothing to “argue” about.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      But then they would just be antisemitic without the invitations? She didn’t invite OP to her prayers. It was still vile anti semitism.

  9. Potlucks are stressful*

    #5 In addition to the ingredient cards, let individuals with food allergies or restrictions serve themselves first. This reduces the risk of cross-contamination and makes sure we get a serving of the dishes we can eat. Also consider having a non-food holiday tradition. Potlucks can be miserable and alienating for those with severe food allergies, even when co-workers have good intentions.

    1. Balto*

      Wow, what an extreme overreaction! Food is a big part of human culture, pretty much in every society I can ever think of. I am all for accommodating allergies when ordering corporate lunches, picking restaurants, etc., but to ban ALL food celebrations? That is ridiculous! If you have severe allergies you have to accept there may be some things you can’t do.

      1. Catherine*

        “Consider having a non-food tradition” doesn’t have to mean banning all food -based celebration. One could just add a couple non-food-centered events for balance.

      2. PollyQ*

        Where are you getting a universal ban (or any other kind) from the previous comment? All I see is a suggestion to add a non-food tradition.

      3. Ada*

        I didn’t read Potluck’s comment as suggesting banning all food celebrations. I read it as asking them to ALSO consider doing non-food celebrations so people who do have restrictions can occasionally attend an event enjoy it fully. I think it’s a valid suggestion.

        1. MEH Squared*

          This is how I read it as well, and I also see it as valid. Or, as noted above, add non-food festivities on top of the potluck. There are many possibilities that will allow people with food restrictions to have a good time. If the point is to make employees feel appreciated, then it’s worth getting a little creative (within time limits and budget, of course).

        1. Summer Day*

          As someone with food allergies I love it that LW#5 is aware it’s an issue. At our Christmas
          Pot luck last year it was a potluck, or BYO lunch picnic which was honestly the most inclusive I’ve ever felt, because I could just bring my own food and eat it and not feel conspicuous. About half did pot luck, and half just bought their own lunch. An ingredients card is a nice idea but I just wouldn’t trust it for my allergies.

          1. WillowSunstar*

            This is why I usually bring a veggie or fruit tray to potlucks. At least then the dieters, vegans, etc will have at least one thing they can eat.

            1. Hannah Lee*


              I have a relative who did that once, she’d signed up to bring a fresh fruit tray … but went the extra step of glazing most of the the fruits with a syrup made from store bought jam. That effectively made the tray off limits for at least a few people who would have happily and safely eaten plain fresh fruit.

              Sauces on the side! is a great guideline when bringing stuff to potlucks, group meals. Sure, there are some dishes where it’s not a possibility. But many times, it’s easy to do.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I was going to suggest people serving themselves first too. Another thing I really like to see are obviously “this is what is is” plain dishes like a sandwich or salad bar where you put your own ingredients together; platters of meats and cheeses or undressed salad veggies with dressings, or mayonnaise on the side. If you give people a heads up they can bring their favorite brand of gf bread, cubed tofu or salad dressing to add to this easily. Meringue nests, cream (there are good non dairy creams too) and fruit work pretty well as self serve too. Asking if anyone who has a dietary requirement has up front suggestions is a good move, and they may even run point on particular requirements.

      1. ursula*

        Yes, PLEASE let people with dietary restrictions serve themselves first. I have a relatively simple one (vegetarian) and I still routinely end up at conferences where all the vegetarian sandwiches are gone by the time I reach the food station, and I’m left cobbling together a bunch of side dishes and snacks into a meal. I don’t know when people will figure out that even lots of non-vegetarians still like a nice veggie sandwich or a slice of cheese pizza.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          This! In a large group setting, the vegetarian food often ends up looking the most appetizing. And I have had the same experience.

          1. pugsnbourbon*

            Yeah, in a previous role one of my tasks was literally guarding the vegetarian boxed lunches. I had to ask anyone who approached if they’d specifically requested one.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Corollary: if you cater something, please provide more vegetarian food. I’m an omnivore, but I try to only eat meat a few times a week. If I can see there’s not much vegetarian food to go around, I’ll leave it for those with restrictions, but I’d really appreciate it if there was enough for me to have some, too. Also, meat in conference-buffet type food often isn’t great quality, has been overcooked, and doesn’t taste that good. Veggie often is better.

        3. Laura1234*

          omg, this. I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t like pepperoni or sausage and I don’t like other types of meat on my pizza. Give me a veggie or cheese pizza please.

        4. MigraineMonth*

          I originally became vegetarian at summer camp because vegetarians (and campers who were trying vegetarianism) were allowed to get their food first. After those two weeks, I had to call home and tell my parents that the habit had stuck.

    3. ceiswyn*

      Speaking as someone with an eating disorder, yes, please consider having non-food traditions.

      There are more people than you might think who struggle with issues around food, and it is unutterably miserable to be surrounded by the thing I am obsessed by and disgusted by and can’t control myself with, plus lots of smiling faces innocently and generously and with the best possible motives urging me to have a bit more.

      And eating disorders do not respond well to therapy, assuming you can find a therapist with that level of expertise.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I get the warning that ceiswin is trying to put out there though, and the counter argument she’s anticipating. I once had a very frustrating meeting trying to convince colleagues it was dangerous to ignore parental objections to having calories on test papers (this was a national reaction from anorexics’ parents to a national test. As English teachers we were well versed in being sensitive about trigger warnings in texts but our maths colleagues were all ‘calories are just numbers’). They were completely uninformed about eating disorder recovery and honestly thought that anyone who was ill would be hospitalized, get some therapy, and then after a fortnight, go home and never think about it again.

        2. Ceiswyn*

          Eaing disorders, in general, are difficult to treat. That’s not ‘a harsh blanket statement’, it is just a fact. So many people say ‘well, go to therapy’ as though that will fix the problem; but most of the people I know who have had eating disorders are, at any given time, in remission at best. One has been in intensive therapy for years, overseen by multiple specialists, and is nowhere near recovery.

          Sometimes, there just isn’t a good solution.

          1. Dahlia*

            There is a difference between “many eating disorders are resistent to treatment” and “no eating disorders are helped by therapy”, which is deeply not true.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Yes, ‘no eating disorders are helped by therapy’ is not true. And that is why I didn’t say it.
              I said ‘eating disorders do not respond well to therapy’, which IS true.

    4. What to Eat*

      Usually my company (when they do food) get things from a couple different restaurants based on We also have games and fun gatherings during the rest of the year! The Thanksgiving “potluck” is currently still a fun tradition, and this is after the company ordered a few dishes (like the turkey and mashed potatoes)

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      When we still worked in person, the coordinators for our food events would often find those with food restrictions (vegetarians, religious-based food restrictions, gluten-free) and let them know first when the food was ready, to try to send them through the line first. Omnivores frequently want to try everything and that can leave those with limited choices short on food, so it can be difficult to be late to one of these setups if you have few options.

      In other cases, if they knew someone would be arriving late they would try to set something aside or order a small, separate packaged lunch to bring out when the person arrived.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think a lot of these strategies work when the food is being purchased. With a potluck, you have to trust the people who have brought the food to have clearly and accurately labelled everything, and not have made any mistakes, and usually people are milling around setting up their dishes right before things start. It’d be difficult to categorize and separate the various restriction-safe foods, then clear everyone away from the food tables and pull out the people who have restrictions to get their food first.

        Also, with a true potluck, you don’t actually know if there are even going to be vegan/kosher/gluten free/nut free options until people show up with the food. And assigning random people to bring an allergy safe food to a group meal is not a particularly practical or safe option.

        For a potluck – you can ask people to label food clearly, and let the people with the restrictions decide if they’re willing to risk people getting it wrong. Anyone with serious restrictions, or complicated or subtle restrictions, will probably be bringing their own safe food and not eating the shared stuff anyways.

    6. Sylvan*

      Never thought of reducing cross-contamination this way. Great idea.

      I try to remember to bring store-bought allergy-safe cookies or something to potlucks. I can’t guarantee that there’s no cross-contamination in cookies made in my kitchen. I can find a box of cookies made in a gluten- and nut-free facility for like $5, though.

  10. Cranky in Ohio.*

    I have someone near me that I don’t even know who somehow got my name and address and has been sending me letters occasionally with referencing bible verses, or whatever they are called. The first two times I just threw them away, this last time I seriously considered signing her up for magazines like Loving Satan, or Atheists monthly, but instead I just sent her letter back to her. I wrote on it that this was offensive and not to do it again. So far so good.

    Religious people, leave the rest of us alone!

    1. Gnome*

      On LinkedIn, there’s a recruiter who keeps InMail messaging me. The message is obnoxious on its own (reply within 48 hours, etc) but their signature block includes a Bible verse that, when I looked it up, I can’t fathom what it’s trying to say in that signature block (like it if was “be kind to the orphans” or something I’d be fine with it).

      I wont engage with that recruiter because I don’t want to deal with these exact sorts of things… And if it’s in their LinkedIn (and they aren’t a recruiter for a specific institution where it would make sense) it is not worth it to me to risk!

          1. Belle of the Midwest*

            That’s a verse that the Mormon/Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints church uses in their literature.

            1. Gnome*

              It’s meaningless to me – other than as an indicator that I don’t want to work with that recruiter.

      1. mlem*

        I keep getting emails to masculine-nickname-version-of-my-feminine-name from a recruiter who has, in a grey font at the very bottom of his emails, “There is no downtime in God’s economy!” It’s SO bizarre.

    2. A*

      I have gotten those too, and I believe it was started as an alternative to the door-to-door proselytizing during the pandemic.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          We stopped getting the doorstep visits years ago when my dad started answering the door while getting ready for work. He worked nights & was often home alone while we were in school. Which meant he didn’t always wear a robe before & after bathing. For some reason, despite a belief that humans are made in God’s image, evangelicals don’t care to be confronted with that unadorned image at a stranger’s front door.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            My husband once answered the door in his wet-suit that he uses for his whitewater kayaking hobby. It is a form-fitting black spandex (?) thing that, upon seeing the looks on the proselytizers’ faces, he realized looked like a gimp suit. The gentleman proselytizer stepped in front of the lady and pushed her protectively behind him. My husband and I later joked that we should keep a ball gag on the end table next to the door so the next time he could open the door with that in his mouth, as well.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I had kind of an odd duck of a friend who, back when he got his first solo apartment in grad school, decided that home time is naked time. He also discovered that you can just buy swords online that look pretty cool, like that’s just a thing that you can do now that you’re an adult with a credit card and your mom doesn’t have veto power.

              Anyway, if you answer the door wearing only a towel and holding a broadsword “just in case”, proselytizers take you off their list.

          2. Purple planner*

            Our visits stopped when my dear husband saw them coming down the path & answered the door holding a 6ft sword & asked them “are you here for the sacrifice?”

          3. Trillian*

            I think it was Erma Bombeck who had the story about having proselytizers ring her doorbell on a day of household chaos: Toddler meltdown, baby tipping its cereal onto the floor, overflowing washing machine, cat horking up a hairball onto the rug. She opened the door; the woman carolled, “How would you like to live forever?” “Not bloody likely!” said she.

          4. DesertRose*

            Similar story from an old friend. Friend is 6’8″ and built like a linebacker and tends to sleep nude. At the time of the story, he was working a night shift, got off work around 7 am on Saturday morning, came home, said hi to his wife and kids (who were on their way out the door for the kids’ soccer game or something), and went to bed.

            He’d barely fallen asleep when the proselytizing visitors knocked, to see a large, groggy-grouchy, naked man (with swords on the wall behind him, because of course) open the door.

            They never visited again.

      1. Phony Genius*

        Yes, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have stopped coming to my door and instead send me lengthy hand-written letters (in nice handwriting). The return address is the local Kingdom Hall (their name for a church). I just put the letters straight into my recycling bin.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Mark them as Refused – Return to Sender, and give them back to your letter carrier. Most orgs that do bulk mailings receive a list of addresses that refuse service/are invalid and will use that to update their mailing lists automatically, rather than waste money on postage.

          May not work if they’re stamped individually, though.

          1. Bromaa*

            I get these too and they make me so, so angry. Writing return to sender doesn’t work, because they don’t appear to share their information — I just get another one, from someone else, in different handwriting. I wrote a nasty note on a recent one and that seemed to stop it for a while… but the next one was in Portuguese. We live in a town with a large Portuguese-speaking community (it’s very sweet, it was originally Portuguese immigrants and then became a hub for Brazilian ones because the original generation was so pleased to have new native speakers) so it was a solid guess, but come ON.

        2. Adds*

          We get these too, only in Spanish, we assume due to our traditionally Hispanic last name. The joke’s on them though, neither my husband nor I speak any Spanish worth mentioning. Sometimes it appears that they’ve been written by children as well, which, IMO, has a very high “ick” factor.

        3. Selina Luna*

          Hah! I won a bet with my husband just before opening one of those letters. He said that I had hand-written mail with a regular address on it. I didn’t recognize the name, so I said it was probably religious propaganda. He took the bet and opened it. I love a good “HOW DID YOU KNOW?”

        4. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          I got one of those letters. Just the one so far, and it’s been quite a while, but that’s definitely what it was.

          At that time, I remember thinking it was a lot less obnoxious than having them show up on my doorstep (having experienced that years ago), but I’m sure I’d get tired of it fast if they started making a habit of it.

      2. Anon4This*

        Yep. My mother, much to our chagrin, became a Jehovah’s Witness about a decade ago, and the pandemic has really put a dent in their door-to-door proselytizing and made them get creative. Pretty sure she’s sent me a letter like that to meet her “service” quota.

        She also used to leave Watchtower tracts at my house when she visited, despite the fact that I’ve been very clear how I feel about the JWs and religion in general. And she wonders why my children do not visit her unattended.

        1. kitryan*

          My mom got one of those from a cousin she hadn’t spoken to in years. It was cloaked as a ‘hope you’re well’ letter, getting back in touch, but it was really a conversion attempt.

    3. Anon Y Mouse*

      I work for a church organisation, and we would consider this behaviour to be beyond unacceptable.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I teach in a Catholic school (though in Ireland, Catholic schools are not quite the same as in the US) and telling somebody you are praying they’ll convert to Catholicism would be yeah, beyond unacceptable.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          In my experience in the States, Catholics aren’t likely to do that but could be on the receiving end of it.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Ok. I should amend this to say that lapsed Catholics sometimes get this from currently practicing Catholics.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Overall, yes. I grew up in an area where it would be weird, but I know of places where it would not.

              There’s a surprising amount of DIY in how people practice Catholicism.

              1. Hannah Lee*

                Yeah I was raised Catholic and there was a whole range of how people practiced it, how they related to others both in and outside their faith.

                The Charismatic movement I was around had its own range of typical approaches including some people who would take it to obnoxious extremes as did the more mainstream communities. What I learned from those experiences is that whatever religions human beings say they belong to, whatever faiths they claim to embrace, and whatever the ‘stated’ moral teachings of those faiths, there are always going to be people who use whatever reasons they want to bully, shun, judge, pester or otherwise ‘other’ the people they come across.

                Are their some religious organizations which embrace and encourage the boundary crossing and judgement and discrimination more than others? Absolutely. But there are obnoxious (and nasty) people in pretty much every large group, no matter how they identify themselves.

    4. HannahS*

      How did you read a letter from a Jewish woman who is being targeted for being Jewish, which was then responded to by a Jewish woman whose mother is being targeted for being Jewish, and come up with the line “Religious people, leave the rest of us alone?” Like, in what universe is that a statement of support to religious minorities who are actively being persecuted?

      If you mean Christians, say Christians! If you’re against the burgeoning evangelical theocracy that’s trying to take over the country, say that!

      1. honoria*

        Yeah. This is not “religious people” doing this–it is specifically Christians.
        And please don’t start up with the whataboutism referencing that time a non-Christian totally did this (we know damn well that’s an anomaly, at least in the USA), or start going on about how you are not that type of Christian because No True Scotsman . . .

        1. Phony Genius*

          In my large U.S. city, I frequently get this from non-Christians. Not only one time. Frequently. Multiple different groups. (In a downtown area.)

        2. Rain's Small Hands*

          No, its more than Christians. I’ve gotten it from Pagans! Muslims can also be evangelical – although its only been Muslims I’ve known really well who have invited me to Mosque. And new atheists can be horrible….(Atheism isn’t a religion, but someone who has recently lost faith and found freedom can be as bad as someone who just found Jesus).

          Christians are the vast majority of offenders – many versions are very evangelical, Christians make up a bigger portion than any other faith, and because they’ve had a cultural majority for years, they claim some freedoms that the rest of us don’t have.

          (The Pagans were the worst, actually. But they were just obnoxious people who I’m glad I left behind with my first marriage. Both of them were recovering Catholics, so the anger they felt at the Catholic church was channeled into “everyone should solve their residual Catholicism the way we have and happiness will be the unavoidable outcome.)

          1. Rain's Small Hands*

            Oh, the Pagans had a big white wedding in a Catholic church. “For the family” – but in reality because the bride wanted the wedding she wanted.

          2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            I think this is whataboutism. Individual pagans or atheists being overly enthusiastic about their beliefs is akin to someone who won’t shut up about their hobby or favorite cause, not to someone who is in the religious majority who is instructed to specifically go out and convert people away from eternal damnation, repeatedly and without regard for boundaries. Inviting someone to the mosque is not the same as accosting them in the hallway.

            1. Rain's Small Hands*

              As someone who is neither Christian, Jewish, Pagan, Atheist or Muslim, its all the same to me. It isn’t whataboutism….they all affect me the same. Its all the same level of offensiveness, its all the same imposition of your beliefs on mine and the implication that I need your brand of spiritualism in my life. And its all the same hypocrisy, since no one is ever actually interested in what I believe, just in sharing their own beliefs with me.

              1. HannahS*

                Choosing “you’re all the same to me” and “ugh religious ppl amirite” as a response to a the situation described in the letter is ignorant of history and power dynamics, and also utterly unhelpful to the OP.

                1. yno*

                  HannahS is exactly right here, Rain. Your comment is the definition of whataboutism, since it totally ignores centuries of history in which Christianity has been the dominant and hegemonic religious tradition even as other religions have been actively persecuted (and still are).

                  It’s coming across as incredibly tone-deaf to try and generalize your very specific experience into a universal truth.

              2. alexa k*

                Judaism can’t possibly have the same impact on you because Judaism forbids proselytizing and doesn’t have the belief that people of other religions or people with no religion are going to be punished for not believing in/following Jewish law. Christianity isn’t just the majority its so hegemonic that the religion western atheists don’t believe in is christianity – and so insidious that you have no idea there are other gods you could be rejecting and completely different ways to go about being a non believer. You still have a christian mindset about what religion is and isn’t.

              3. Jessica*

                We (Jews) literally *do not proselytize* and, in fact, rabbis are supposed to *discourage* potential converts.

                We’re a closed tradition. Our practices *aren’t for you*.

                The only reason most of us share our beliefs is when we’re asked about them or when someone is spreading misinformation about us, which has tended, historically, to get us killed.

                So no, we’re not all the same, and please stop proudly flaunting your ignorance.

                1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                  Yeah, Judaism is also a cultural and ethnic institution, not merely religious, and while conversions do happen, they are not solicited. Usually conversions are initiated by the individual who is choosing to convert.

              4. Odd Take*

                So someone cornering you at your place of work, putting their hands on your head, and aggressively bullying you to change deeply held faith is the same as someone being a little too strident about their non-belief? I fail to see how these are the same level of “sharing their beliefs”.

            1. Phony Genius*

              They don’t seek out non-Jews to convert, however there are orthodox groups that seek out non-religious Jews to make them more religious.

              1. Laura1234*

                Yes I’m well aware (I am Jewish), but the letter isn’t about internal evangelism, so that’s but relevant here.

              2. Jessica*

                How is that relevant to (or the business of) non-Jews?

                I don’t like Chabad either, but that’s an *intracommunity* issue.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          This is a good point. Everyone who has ever tried to convert me or told me I am going to Hell has been Christian, despite the fact that I’m (a different flavor of) Christian myself.

          Weirdly, “do what I say or suffer” has never been a convincing line for me.

      2. Now crankier in Ohio.*

        Because I was tired and cranky and am just tired of religion. Next time I will list all the religions that have never offended me to eliminate them.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      During the pandemic the local JWs started writing letters instead of knocking on doors. The one who kept writing to my address has terrible handwriting and wrote her letters in a spiral notebook and didn’t even trim off the fringes before mailing them out.

    6. Not Your Godless Heathen*

      We’ve been getting these letters regularly at home (mostly from whatever the Latter-Day cultists are calling themselves now, but *always* from some stripe of Christianity), and what “amuses” me most is how dishonest they are in trying to convert me.

      We’ve had a few from people claiming to know us personally and appealing to our souls as “friends.” Apparently my partner and I have kids, and the letter-writers’ kids just love playing with ours in the neighborhood after school! Someone better report me to CPS as an unfit parent, because I don’t even remember ever having a child.

      Or thanking us for having them over to dinner years ago. Who the f*ck has been breaking into our house and throwing dinner parties when our antisocial tails aren’t home?! At least they’re neat and clean–not a crumb left behind or a single dining chair out of place when we get home!

      Then there are the number of letters that make it clear they think my partner and I are white (he’s Asian, I’m Indigenous American). Because the sender “totally” knows me and my partner personally.

      The ones I actively hate and can’t even be amused by are the ones that claim (always in a manner that is either veiled racist/anti-Semitic or outwardly racist/anti-Semitic) that the world governments have been taken over by “Satan’s children” and they will use their power to starve “God’s children” to death by making Christianity illegal and it a felony crime to aid Christians.* These letters usually come with printouts of made-up “facts” that an elementary school kid would recognize as bullsh*t, and often contain graphically violent photos of “furrin gubmints executing good Christians” that are obvious poorly done photomanips, but no less disturbing.

      Yep, lying to save someone’s soul; how very Christian of you! I’m sure your god vastly approves of just making up some easily disproved, abusive crap in his name. /s

      *Okay, if them “dirty furrinurs and Jews” are killing Christians, why would you think I’d WANT to “turn to Jesus?!” Wouldn’t it be to my advantage to continue being a godless heathen? So many people think they can close the deal while being the worst salespeople to ever walk the planet.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        The dishonesty is a real tell; the people who script propaganda of this type don’t even respect the commandments they claim to follow, and it’s just a very crude fishing net looking deliberately for low intelligence, a tendency towards outrage, a hint of desperation and malleability for their cult.

  11. ChrisZ*

    #4 Your company sounds lovely! Even if you can’t pay as high as some others, many people consider working somewhere that’s nice to work at with great benefits to totally be worth just as much as more money if the money is good although not great. Just ask… after being with you for so long, your employee might be hoping for that very thing :)

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Eh. This is the other side of the letter a few days ago asking whether great culture often covers up low pay (and, frankly, vice versa). LW certainly can make an offer to this person, but needs to accept that money really matters. Most of us aren’t working for sodas in the break room.

      (This is also the sort of letter where I fully expect to get an update in a couple of years where the intern recruited the LW to her new company, and LW is thrilled to discover that there are decent cultures at some places where there are also bigger paychecks.)

      1. Varthema*

        Kinda, but a good quality low-deductible plan and generous time off aren’t just “culture.” The former in particular can easily result in massive savings for some people.

        1. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

          When my company shut down in June, we all discussed openly our new jobs or prospects. Although I don’t make the rate as some of my former co workers, I was struck by the amount they had to pay for insurance! I think that more than made up for my lesser salary. I have decent insurance and pay only $25 per check for health and the higher dental option. Also, my new company provides an essential service, and will not be going under. At all.

        2. Me (I think)*

          We recently lost a candidate over this. Even with a significant pay raise, our health plan was so expensive compared to what they had, they couldn’t accept our offer.

        3. Anon4This*

          Yes! My smaller organization used to be part of a healthcare collective where we banded together with a few other similar organizations for purposes of creating a larger pool of insureds to bring rates down. For myriad reasons, the collective dispersed a few years ago, and rates skyrocketed.

          We were fortunate to be able to move to my spouse’s (a government employee) plan, but not everyone had that option. (I always tell him it’s a good thing HE can put up with the bureaucracy and low pay that comes with working for the government because we really benefit from the flexibility and enormous healthcare pool/options.)

        4. I'm just here for the cats!*

          This yes! My take home pay at my current job is more (by almost $100) even though I make less per hour. The reason is because my insurance cost is only a fraction of what I paid before.

      2. doreen*

        I don’t know how good the benefits at LW4 company are – but benefits absolutely can make up for smaller paychecks. Not to mention that some benefits really can be converted directly to money – sure, nobody is working for soda in the breakroom, but my son pays nothing for any of his health coverage and he wouldn’t even if he had family coverage. The COBRA rate for family coverage is about $24K per year.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          ^100% this. I once moved to a corporate job from a non-profit for a pretty hefty salary bump. Only to realize I VERY FOOLISHLY did not consider the cost of benefits at your “average” corporate place versus the EXTRAORDINARY “employee pays zero for health insurance” that I had at the No -profit. My take-home pay ended up being, I kid you not, almost exactly the same.

      3. Happy meal with extra happy*

        And, yeah, if OP had only mentioned snacks as a perk, maybe your comment would have been valid.

      4. Snow Globe*

        It’s possible that the update would be that the employee leaves for more money, then returns later when they realize more money doesn’t really compensate for extra stress, long hours and a jerk boss.

      5. Pugetkayak*

        Yeah, but this definitely sounds like a place that isn’t just “sodas in the breakroom.” Its an organization that also really cares about their staff. Now, its perfectly fine to not think that is enough, but also, the person at the org is basically saying “we CANT pay” not just that they are putting other things as more important. Also, a lot of times people say culture when they mean things like free soda, but they still treat people really poorly, its not a safe place to put forth opinions, etc. That to me is real culture and what makes people stay where they are.

    2. MK*

      The company sounds as if it has a lot to offer to the right candidate, and I am sure the OP means well. But frankly, it’s not her place to speculate where the employee will want to live or whether they are “motivated by money”. And it’s not for the company to “keep” them or, what, nobly let them go to find a better salary? This is a business relationship; make them the best offer you can and they will decide what’s best for them. But remember that the requirements a worker has from a part-time job while still in school might be different from what this employee will look for in a full-time post-degree role.

      1. Anon Y Mouse*

        I kind of thought that too. I have taken jobs that didn’t pay brilliantly but had compensations (my current one has flexible working and a ten-minute commute). It’s up to me to decide which weighting to give to the various aspects.

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I read the letter as the OP wanting to know if they should even make an offer to the employee, knowing that it would be low compared to other places, not if they could literally keep them or formally allow them to interview at other places.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That’s how I read it – the LW was wondering if it was ethical to try to hire them when they could get a much higher salary elsewhere.

          The best bet is probably to be honest. They’d love to hire him, but they know they can’t match the pay he could get elsewhere, and would be happy to give a good recommendation for other positions. Then let him decide.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Yes, that was how I read it, and I thought Alison’s advice was spot on. Being up front about the fact that the employee could likely earn more elsewhere and also about the other benefits is going to mean that even if the employee does chose to go elsewhere, they will have a positive relationship which may pay dividends in other ways – for instance if as a recent graduate they have links with their university and others doing the same degree, it could be that the employee can recommend them to other good quality people looking for part time work while they complete*their* degrees – networking and word of mouth recommendations go both ways.

          And of course the employee can weigh for themself which things are most import to them.

          I don’t know whether it applies here but it may be that staying in a smaller organisation may have the advantage that they get more breadth of experience and greater ownership of projects / involvement at a higher level than if they were a smaller cog in a bigger machine, for instance.

          I know on a personal level I have made conscious choices to work in places where I had better quality of life and lower salary – of course it is something which depend on the numbers and the individual’s personal situation and needs, and I recognise that being able to make those choices is a privilege not eveyone has, but people do make choices that are not just about the money!

      3. Pugetkayak*

        I got a totally different impression. The OP is actually wondering if the should even offer anything to the employee because they know they can get paid more elsewhere. The tone of this letter is really what would make a difference to me and they are saying they have these other positive things that “could” help make the difference.

      4. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, there is a little whiff of old school paternalistic “company knows best” coming from that letter – though it doesn’t seem intentional and may be primarily because the employer in question is younger / earlier in their career.

        To me, it seems the best thing to do is for the company to be straightforward and offer the best overall package they can, and to communicate how much they value the employee and look forward to continuing to work with them, and then trust the employee is going to make the best decision based on their needs, preferences, values.

        It’s fine to informally acknowledge that there are likely other companies which may offer a higher pay rate, etc. give the employee’s new credentials, but that you recognize that the decision of what job to take is based on a range of factors. But don’t presume to decide *for* the employee, either by not bothering to make any offer or discouraging them from staying because you think you know best.

    3. Ariaflame*

      Something to consider also is they might move somewhere else and get higher wages, but also higher cost of living.

    4. hbc*

      Yeah, my small company was only okay with wages, but the time off benefits were nearly European in their generosity, and it was a huge selling point. Lots of people stayed (despite there being some toxicity problems) because they didn’t want to go from 5 to 2 weeks vacation. Heck, half the people who left for better money tried to come back within two years because the flexibility and time off was more important than they realized.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, we’ve had people leave us for better money and then come back when they have spent time elsewhere (We are in a slightly unusual position in that we have locations in several small, rural towns not far from a couple of larger cities. Wages tend to be significnatly higher in the cities, so while we are competative for our locations, you can get more if you ar willing to commute. We’ve had several people take jobs and find that once you factor in the extra commuting costs, parking costs and the additional time, they are no better off and may be worse off, and are spending much more time commuting ( and that’s before you factor in that we are, generally quite a nice place to work)

      2. Hannah Lee*

        “Heck, half the people who left for better money tried to come back within two years because the flexibility and time off was more important than they realized.”

        That I think is a good point for LW to keep in mind.
        They can make the best offer they can, understand this employee may choose to leave. But if that happens, manage the transition, how you treat the employee, keeping in touch with the employee in such a way that they know your door is open if they want to come back at some point down the road. (not that they’d be an auto-hire, but that if there’s a slot for that fits their skills, and they are interested, you’re not going to be carrying any baggage, resentment because they left at some point) That’s also a useful attitude to take for what it says to other current employees, too and what it means to your future candidate pools, especially in smaller industries.

        Heck, some of my best hires have been “boomerang employees” who wanted a change and came back after several years. And some of my best “new” jobs have been when I left a company and then came back to a new role down the line.

    5. Sloanicota*

      I was confused by #4. If your company is growing, you should tell this employee you’re committed to finding a way to pay him fairly assuming X contract and Y product launched are complete, or whatever. Don’t just be satisfied knowingly underpaying your employee because you assume he’s not ambitious and you’re hoping culture and location will outweigh salary. (I think I’m salty because I’m not sure a US company that says they have “great leave” has ever actually offered what I, as a Eurpean expat, consider great leave – being sometimes sent home when the workload is light ain’t it).

      1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        Oh heck yeah, preach it about the great leave over here! All my jobs in the US acted like two weeks a year was doing us a huge favor. If we only knew…

        My current job gives me six weeks a year (30 days) and I can roll over up to ten days a year for up to five years, meaning at the five-year mark I’d have a grand total of 80 days (16 weeks) of leave accrued. More than enough to take a summer off! My plan is to take 12 weeks off and take a payout for the remaining 4. Full summer vacation *and* a bonus paycheck? Yes please, and please can we have a world where everybody else gets that?

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        We’re supposed to believe the LWs. And while I fully agree that US leave is paltry, the fact is that this candidate is likely looking for work in the US. So, it doesn’t likely advance that person’s decision to tell them they’d get great leave in Europe.

      3. doreen*

        I’m not sure what you would consider great leave – but US employers don’t always give only two weeks. I got 22 days of vacation each year, 5 separate days of personal leave ( which did not accrue – five days were credited on my very first day of work and every year on my anniversary) and an additional 12 paid holidays so a total of 37 paid days off a year

    6. Manders*

      Yeah, good benefits and culture are sometimes worth it. I work at a state research university. The pay is not what I could get at a big pharma or biotech company, but the environment and benefits are great. For instance, I get 53 paid days off per year, minimum, and our 403b gives you 7.5% for just enrolling, then matches up to 2.5%. We aren’t in a competitive market so this is really the only good place for me to work locally. Could I move somewhere else to make more money? Yes. But I would be trading off a good place to live and great culture for that. I think the key here is that the LW needs to be upfront about it. It might be great for a new grad to get that kind of experience before venturing out to other options, too.

    7. EPLawyer*

      Especially if it is in a lower cost of living area. The smaller salary might not maatter as much. But ultimately it is up to the employee to decide what trade offs they want. Give them all the information so they can make an informed decision. I would appreciate that so much from an employer.

    8. Anonymous Educator*

      I think OP#4 should focus on maintaining a good relationship with this employee. The employee may very likely leave, and I honestly think he should. He should see what’s out there. He should try to earn (and maybe save) some money if he can. But if the company really does grow, and they maintain a good relationship, maybe he might come back.

    9. mairona*

      The job I’m in now is kind of this way – great coworkers and managers, engaging work that benefits our community, (comparatively) great benefits because it’s state-funded, but the pay was only ok when I started. Raises, especially the couple of “sorry we’re not paying you enough” raises that everyone has received in the past year, have brought “ok” to “decent”, but it’s still nowhere near the private sector.

      I recently accepted another position (still under the state umbrella but closer to the top of it) that’s better pay, closer to home, guaranteed WFH days, and a manager I’ve known and networked with for years, but while I’m excited about it, I’m still sad about leaving! My team has been super supportive of me taking this opportunity despite the fact that it’ll leave them short-handed, but it also makes me feel as though I can always come back some day if I want to. In fact, several people here have left before and come back, including my own manager!

      It sounds like LW4’s workplace is that kind of place. I’d recommend being honest about their potential prospects while spelling out what you CAN do for them if they stay. They might decide to stick around for the experience and learning opportunities (which I recommend providing and encouraging). Even if they decide to leave, being supportive of their personal success leaves the door open for them to want to come back later if circumstances allow. After all, despite the fantastic opportunity I’m taking in a couple weeks, I haven’t completely shut the door on the place I’m currently leaving. It might not be my best option right now, but who knows what the future holds and the people here make me feel like I’d be welcomed back with open arms.

    10. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      It also sounds like location is a factor. There are plenty of people who like where they live and don’t want to move, so will take a job with a lower salary to live where they are now rather than move to a different place that would pay more.

      This is one of the big reasons I keep my job, actually. It pays well enough that I can live comfortably, I like the house that I bought before interest rates went high (or housing prices, for that matter), and I don’t want to move. So, I’d be open to a better-paying job here, given decent working conditions and benefits, but I would not move to, say, the SF Bay Area just because I could theoretically make more money if I worked there.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        (This is also a big reason that I didn’t go to grad school for computational finance even though it sounded cool at the time. No interest in living in NYC or similar location.)

  12. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: People suck. So much.

    My Very Catholic gran keeps trying to convince me (raised catholic atheist, religious trauma, *that* kind) to go back to the church. And keeps wondering why I’m no contact with her.

    This kind of shit hurts so very damn much. No matter who does it.

    Hopefully HR is competent.

    1. Yes people suck*

      I’m so sorry!

      I was a cradle Catholic too, have parted ways due to scandals, women’s health, and LGBTQ+ issues (I am cis white male, but cannot support the US church treating people so badly where the bible is full of examples of where those were the people Jesus was closest to…WWJD? Not what they are doing now! Anyway……)

      My mother and her friends started a campaign to myself and their children because some priest told them grandparents needed to be strong and involved in their grandchildren’s faith development and keeping them in the church. It took us a couple years to find out this was going on because they swore all of the grandkids to secrecy. So much damage was done. It baffles me that a religion supposedly built on loving thy neighbor is weaponized like this.

      My parents have not seen my kids in well over a year now, and will not again until they agree religion is not to be discussed or involved. It is not fair to my father who has not been part of this, but we tried including working around my mother but it did not work.

      Love and be loved. Live and let live. Appreciate the beauty of the world. Why is that so hard.

      1. tinybutfierce*

        As someone who’s grandmother did a similar thing (followed by my mom letting her know she’d never see me again if it continued), thank you & I’m so glad your kids have you. My mom is agnostic in a family of very staunch Southern Baptists, and she raised me to know I could believe whatever I wanted and that was a-okay; as a result, I was agnostic-at-most as a kid, and I was ALWAYS aware that my grandma was NOT okay with that. After I was out with grandma one day, and we happened to witness a minor car accident, she started witnessing to me for the umpteenth time and tried to get me to convert and pray with her right there in the backseat, because she “would hate for something like a car accident to happen to [me] and [me] die and not go to heaven”. I was eleven and had no idea what to do, other than be silent and very uncomfortable. Being able to tell my mom, and having her protect my boundaries for me when I was too young to know how, is something I’m thankful for to this day. That kind of manipulation being done to kids, especially when it’s supposedly done in the name of “love”, is so gross and damaging.

      2. Gracely*

        It’s also just really dangerous for kids–to have any family member/close family friend telling them to keep a secret from their parents! That’s a really unsafe precedent to set, especially with small children.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Ugh, I’m christian myself and I can say the WORST part of the religion is the emphasis on proselytization. Most mainline protestant churches have settled down on this but it was definitely a stated value of the religion itself – you are *supposed* to go out and recruit new souls as a good thing, and in the religious context they believe you’re literally “saving” them (allowing their souls to go to heaven), which is very offensive and hurtful obviously to people who believe otherwise. It’s also extremely upsetting for true believers to be told if they don’t convince their loved ones, they won’t “save” their “souls” – which is why family members fret and can’t leave it alone. If it makes you feel better, my quite-religious family has also been told we won’t be going to heaven because we don’t go to the *right* denomination. Imagine believing in such a small minded God who would only save the 200 people at a certain church and punish all the rest :( :(

    3. LW #1*

      I’ve dealt with a bit from family. My parents are 100% awesome. My Dad’s sister on the other hand. I am forever thankful to be across country from my aunt and I avoid her calls. I do hear about her shenanigans trying to get my parents to convert me back to Christianity (to my non-religious anymore parents) and try to get them to bug me to have babies. Sorry, auntie dearest, that ship has saaaaaailed. Those parts have hung up a “retired” sign.

      1. Lulu*

        Ugh. As a new mom who is absolutely head over heels in love with her little baby…. Absolutely no one should be encouraged to have kids if it’s not what they *actively* want. How dare someone try to make anyone do something so life altering with repercussions for generations. Sheesh.

    4. kitryan*

      I’ve always been so grateful that my Catholic grandparents loved and accepted my Jewish dad and didn’t (to my knowledge) say anything negative about him, my mom’s conversion, or their choice to raise us as Jewish.
      I know it could easily have been different.

  13. MPerera*

    Some time ago, I moved back home with my parents. They had a super-religious cousin (in the cousin’s house, there were framed Bible verses everywhere, including on the bathroom wall), and the cousin found out I was an atheist.

    One day my parents told me the cousin had invited us all to lunch, so I went with them. As we got out of the car, the cousin was in her driveway, holding open the door of her car, and my parents told me to get inside.

    Other than to start walking back home, I didn’t have any choice, so I got in. The cousin then drove us all to some unfamiliar house and asked us to come inside with her. When we did, it turned out to be the home of her pastor, and that’s when I realized this was a ludicrous attempt at a religious intervention. The intervention was so hush-hush that even the pastor hadn’t been informed about it, and he just looked bewildered. He also made it clear that he wasn’t up for forcing his beliefs on someone who was clearly not interested, so the cousin had no choice except to take us all back.

    I later made it clear to my parents that I would never meet the cousin again. My mother got upset and said this was her relative. I asked what I was supposed to be. That was the last time the cousin was ever mentioned in conversation between us.

    I hope HR deals with the can’t-take-no-for-an-answer proselytizer.

    1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Oh. My. God.
      Kudos to the pastor for not wanting to force his beliefs on anyone! It’s also interesting to see that the cousin was way more fundamentalist than her pastor. I wonder if she stayed in that church after his clear setting of boundaries.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yes, I am impressed with the pastor (which I shouldn’t be really, as his reaction should be the norm).

      2. Emmy Noether*

        The pastor was probably also being realistic. Short of actual brainwashing techniques, “religious intervention” is unlikely to work, and more likely to turn the person off religion permanently. Of course fundamentalists don’t think strategically like that. They think there’s some kind of epiphany to be had, and that it can be induced by them.

        1. MPerera*

          Another of my parents’ friends tried a more subtle sort of conversion. She had a chauffeur, and one day I asked if her chauffeur would be able to drive me somewhere I needed to go. She agreed, and I was grateful until she asked me to come to church with her. After getting a favor from her I didn’t feel I could refuse, so I told myself it was just one church service.

          Before the service started, though, she told me she had arranged for me to do one of the readings from the Bible. What she hoped she would accomplish by this was anyone’s guess. When my turn came around, I got up on the podium and read the chapter, wondering what the congregation would say if they knew the person mouthing the words of their holy book didn’t believe any of it. Then I went back to my seat, and I never asked her for a favor again.

          I also migrated to Canada, partly so I could get away from this sort of thing. It was relentless.

          1. Beth*

            In your case, I might not actually have screwed up the Bible reading, but I would have been soooo tempted to do so.

          2. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

            I would have gone off-book and done one of the really weird acid-trip passages from Revelations.

            “In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings.”

            That is some serious bad-trip nightmare stuff right there.

        2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

          They think there’s some kind of epiphany to be had, and that it can be induced by them.

          Bingo. It’s never about saving someone’s soul. It’s literally always about the proselytizing person’s ego self-stroking. “Oh, look at me, I’m soooo special! I brought someone (back) to God!” The proselytizer often isn’t consciously aware of it, but that’s what it boils down to. If you weren’t doing it for ego (and to calm your own fears about the other person’s religious status, which ties into your own ego), you’d respect boundaries and wouldn’t be pushing your faith at all.

          I’m spiritual, but totally against all forms of organized religion or worship of anybody or anything. I view “gods” as “if any exist, they’re really just regular people (Earthling or not) with what we’d generally consider superpowers.” And yet, despite the fact that I’m not atheist, I have no problems NOT trying to convince people what they “should believe.” Most people think I’m atheist because they don’t know my beliefs, since I’m not pushing them on anyone. I’m just out here living my life, and letting others do the same with theirs.

          1. Bryce*

            The moment someone tells me they’re praying for me, it’s not me they’re doing it for.

            My religion is very personal and private, people forcing themselves into it is one of the most invasive things I can imagine short of actually invading.

        3. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I was brought up evangelical, and yeah. All the media aimed at that group is written and produced by members, so if we watched a movie in youth group or checked out a “romance” novel from the church library, there was always one character who only needed to hear the one right Bible verse and the lightbulb came on in their head and like magic! Conversion!

          We were never exposed to any information from non-Christians about what it felt like to be in the receiving end of it, we were just made to believe that if we hadn’t been successful in our witnessing attempt, we just hand hit on the one magic Bible verse for that person yet. And there was a lot of guilt laid out on people who weren’t being successful in their conversion efforts

          It’s one of the top five reasons I don’t belong to that denomination anymore. When you find out you’ve been trained to do harm to people, the only ethical thing to do is stop doing the harm.

          1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

            When you find out you’ve been trained to do harm to people, the only ethical thing to do is stop doing the harm.

            This , so much this.

          2. DJ Abbott*

            I saw things growing up in a fundamentalist city that were kind of like that. I knew one the man who was OK, then someone took him to a fundamentalist church and it was like a switch had been flipped in his head, making him a fundamentalist.
            I don’t know what the psychological mechanism is, but I saw it at least a couple of times.

          3. whingedrinking*

            My most charitable interpretation of this behavior is that it’s a way of resolving cognitive dissonance. “Everyone who doesn’t go to my church is evil” is hard to square with the pretty obvious fact that tons of people around you love their families, are polite to strangers, and don’t kick puppies. It’s a lot easier to believe that these people are simply ignorant and just need it explained to them correctly than that they’re actually monsters.

          4. Curmudgeon in California*

            That’s a big part of why I left Christianity – the conversion thing was so over-the-top boundary violating and insulting to the target. Between that and the fact that I could not believe in original sin and separation from deity, my faith evaporated in face of lived experiences.

        4. Jeebs*

          I think fundamentalist is being used here to mean evangelical or evangalist. (Not saying Christian fundies are great to be around either, but usually when fundies make noise about people being non-religious, they are not intending to convert them. They are often quite content in the idea that they are the few who will be saved in a sea of damned sinners.)

          Anyways, the reason evangelists don’t appear to think strategically is because, to do so, they would have to give up a basic tenet of their beliefs. They do not see themselves as convincing another person to join religion. It’s a basic part of their belief that the reality of their religion is a spiritual truth that everyone ‘knows’ in their soul, and that they are simply offering opportunities for you to uncover that truth.

          Basically – they don’t need to be strategic because Jesus is magic.

          For many of them, this really does closely follow their own internal experience of devotion to their faith, so they don’t question the truth of it. If you fail to be convinced by their tactics, it must be (in their mind) because you are actively turning your back on God.

      3. MPerera*

        The cousin seemed at a real loss when the pastor refused to play along with what she wanted. Maybe her vision of religious conversion was that of the average Jack Chick tract : the pastor would say, “Have you ever heard of Jesus?” and I would reply, “No, who’s that?” and within minutes I would be on my knees weeping in penitence. Reality must have come as a shock.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Omg I’m sorry this happened and I’m sure it was extremely upsetting, but I’m getting such a kick out of imagining your cousin’s face. “What do you MEAN you won’t help me force Christianity on someone who doesn’t want to be Christian?! Isn’t that your job? What do you MEAN Jesus wants us to respect people’s autonomy?!”

        2. Phony Genius*

          I would love to have heard the follow-up conversation between your cousin and the pastor. I’m sure he said something to her later. Or maybe she sought out a new pastor.

    2. Not A Manager Crochets A Beanie*

      “I later made it clear to my parents that I would never meet the cousin again.” I’m curious why your response centered so exclusively on the cousin. Didn’t your *parents* tell you to get inside her brainwash car? Where did they think she was planning to take you?

      1. MPerera*

        My parents idolized anyone who was devoutly religious. When my mother was in palliative care with terminal cancer, a doctor refused to give her pain medication because he claimed that if she suffered on earth she would be rewarded in heaven. I had to leave her room because hearing this made me furious. When I came back in, I found my mother confused by my reaction and upset with me for being disrespectful. After all, the doctor was clearly a God-fearing man concerned for her immortal soul, whereas I was just an evil atheist.

        So there would have been no point in addressing my parents’ role in the attempted intervention, because as far as they were concerned, anything done in the name of religion was correct. On top of that, I was essentially living on their charity until I could migrate to Canada, so I didn’t want to rock the boat too much there.

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          Suffering brings you closer to God — this is what Mother Teresa said/believed, and she would save money by not giving pain medication to the sick and dying, and would spend time with them, in order to get closer to God through their pain. It infuriates me when she is lauded.

          1. MPerera*

            This all happened in the United Arab Emirates, so the doctor was a Muslim. But the same principle applies. As a friend of mine said, “this guy has got to decide what he is, doctor or imam. He doesn’t get to be both.”

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Since your parents told you to get in the car, does that mean they knew what was going on and were on board with it?

      1. MPerera*

        Oh yes, they knew and they were absolutely in agreement with the intervention. I think they were just as disconcerted as the cousin when it didn’t work out. There was complete silence in the car trip home.

        They’d tried converting me themselves a few times, but it always failed, because I was as familiar with their religion as they were (I’m an ex-fundamentalist Christian). I can see them thinking that if they could only get me in a controlled environment with a man of God, maybe that would be the breakthrough! Lost lamb found!

      2. MPerera*

        Oh yes, they knew and they were absolutely in agreement with the intervention. I think they were just as disconcerted as the cousin when it didn’t work out. There was complete silence in the car on the way home.

        My parents tried to convert me themselves a few times, but it always failed, because I was as familiar with their religion as they were (I’m an ex-fundamentalist Christian). So I can see them thinking that if they could just get me into a controlled environment with a man of God, maybe that would bring me back into the fold.

  14. Allonge*

    LW5 – also consider if you can food that is less ‘mixed’, for a lack of a better word. A dish/cake with 20+ ingredients, half of which consists of dozens more is going to be an issue for a lot of people. Something like a charcuterie board or veggie tray has options (not everyone, but a lot more than if it’s all baked together).

    Still – there is no way to serve something that will be ok for everyone, and that is ok. List the ingredients, cook with a bit of extra awareness, be ok with people saying no.

    1. What to Eat*

      I’m LW 5, I know I scrubbed out my kitchen for my dish because I like to personally eat some common allergens… but that sure didn’t make my kitchen fully sanitized from those, or kosher, and I can’t guarantee anyone else did that.

      1. Allonge*

        To be honest, as someone with a food intolerance – everyone I know who has that level of allergy will simply not believe random others on having scrubbed their kitchen of [allergen] – they cannot afford to.

        So again, it’s kind of you to think of this but there is no way for you to provide a solution that fits everyone. List ingredients, be kind to people who say no to what you offer.

      2. Jeebs*

        On some level you need to simply trust that people know their own medical needs.

        People who are too severely allergic to risk cross-contamination, or who require their food to be cooked in a kosher kitchen, are aware that they’re going to have limited ability to participate in a potluck. It’s not like with school kids where you’re risking kids not understanding their own allergies. Adults generally know what they need to do to keep themselves safe. It does suck that they can’t partake the same way as everyone else, but that’s the nature of reality.

        For everyone in between – mild allergies and intolerances, simple dietary preferences, etc. – comprehensive ingredient lists will be hugely helpful. But you can’t set your goal at 100% participation by everyone; that’s simply not realistic.

        If you are aware of anyone with a very severe allergy, it may be worth asking them if there are any store-bought foods they like and can safely enjoy, and provide a list of such for people who are looking for something to contribute.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Good idea. I know godairyfree and Trader Joe’s have lists of safe packaged foods. I can’t say I’ve checked for other places, but you can probably find lists somewhere of what’s vetted.

      1. Allonge*

        Of course not, but in my experience allergies have a spectrum from ‘shaking hands with someone who had allergen for lunch the day before will result in a reaction’ to ‘I will happily pick out the ok bits from the non-ok bits without any issues’ and this is a solution for the latter group.

        So not everyone, but more people.

      2. Observer*

        That’s true. But not everyone needs to worry about that.

        And that’s why the last line is “be ok with people saying no.” Some people will STILL say no, because they DO have to worry about cross contamination. In the meantime, every one else will be fine.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Or, and here’s a shocker, people might say no because they don’t actually like the thing being offered. (And some of those people have been “trained” to claim allergies by people who don’t respect their no, which is enraging to people who actually have the allergies in question. I think there just needs to be a whole more respect in this world, generally.)

          1. Observer*

            Either way, just be ok with people saying no!

            People don’t need to prove that they have a “good enough” reason to say no. And they are not obliged to like your food, either.

  15. nnn*

    For #2, you might also be able to be matter-of-fact about it without leading with the fact that your size has changed.

    A few examples that can be adapted as needed:
    – “How do I go about getting replacement shirts?”
    – “I need more of the branded shirts – how do I order them?”
    – “It’s getting cold out, so I’d like to get some of those long-sleeved shirts like Jane has.” (If you’d like a new shirt in a different style)

    If there’s a follow-up question, you could say “I have a medium but I need a large,” without specifically mentioning that your body has changed.

    As Alison said, bodies do change and it’s nothing shameful, but, at the same time, we live in a culture with a lot of baggage surrounding weight and body size, so some people prefer not to talk about it, and some audiences are less receptive to it. If this is the case for OP, they can still be matter of fact about ordering more shirts without centring their changing size.

    1. JSPA*

      If you don’t specify up front, they may reorder same. “What’s the process for picking new shirts” should work.

    1. Lilo*

      I’d also use say “repeated harassment” and “harassment based on religion” and say those phrases to HR.

    2. Buni*

      My first thought – I’m a practicing Christian who is actively employed by the church and I *still* would’ve slapped her hand away and shouted “What the $!£@ lady!” at the very least…

      1. Anon Y Mouse*

        Me too! I am a Christian working for a church organisation and this appalling behaviour would thankfully never fly here. (The company does not require that all staff be Christians, although in this country that would be permitted.)

    3. Snow Globe*

      Unless the OP plans to file criminal charges, the words “religious harassment” should be sufficient when communicating with HR. Harassment is within HR’s bailiwick, assault would mean bringing in the police.

  16. Sean*

    LW1: If someone kept doing that to me I’d be sorely tempted to reply that Jesus himself was Jewish. Indeed, the King of the Jews, no less.

    I’d then walk away and let them stew on that one.

    1. JSPA*

      1. “Jesus was King of the Jews” is new testament only, not Jewish teachings.

      2. LW1 does not need to excuse, justify or explain their religion to a bigot (or anyone else).

      3. LW1 needs to leave their coworker’s religion alone (and leave coworker alone about religion), just as much as coworker needs to leave OP and OP’s religion alone. There is no world where further religious dialogue between the two is helpful.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Lapsed Episcopalian here, so it’s been forever since I’ve thought about any of this stuff, but wasn’t “King of the Jews” basically an insult anyway? Like, “Hah, hah, check out Jesus, ‘King of the Jews?’”

          1. Sean*

            Now you mention it, I think you’re right. The last time we learned any of this was at primary school, and I’d not touched it since then. Over the years I’d forgotten that it was in fact a mocking insult rather than an accolade.

            My apologies to all for my original post.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Not to mention, “Jesus was king of the Jews” would just be taken as more reason Jews should follow him.

        Even without the ‘king’ part, I’ve never seen “Jesus was Jewish” faze a proselytizer. They know he was Jewish. They specifically want to convert modern Jews because of that connection.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I genuinely don’t know what this is supposed to prove to them! Do you think that hundreds of years of forced conversion and persecution of Jews by Christians happened because Christians were somehow unaware that Jesus was Jewish?

    3. Clobberin’ Time*

      Fantasies about how you, a non-Jew, would totally have put this co worker in her place are deeply unhelpful to the LW.

    4. Sylvan*

      Please don’t do this, they’re not going to just let it go lol. And I don’t think Jesus was ever called King of the Jews or that a Jew would see him that way.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        He was called that. By Pontius Pilate, at the crucifixion, by way of mocking him…
        But you are right, don’t do it!

    5. Laura1234*

      Ugh, no, so many Christians already claim that they can practice Jewish rituals because Jesus was Jewish, we don’t need to give them any more fodder for that.

      1. E*

        I have never heard of Christians practicing Jewish rituals bc Jesus was Jewish. Do tell! Also curious, what about this bothers you? I’m not sure what we’re talking about but don’t think I’d mind if a Christian person lit Shabbat candles or something (though I would think it was dumb if they celebrated Chanukah and not other more significant holidays) . I’m Jewish.

  17. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    #1 – I agree with everyone else that the proselytizing coworker is outrageous, her behavior is so far over the line that she probably can’t even SEE the line from where she is, and LW should definitely go to HR.

    I would also like to add that I really hope we eventually get an update on this. I’m dying to hear about HR’s reaction, how the coworker reacts to any intervention from them, etc.

    Good luck, LW, and please let us know what happens!

    1. Lilo*

      So you know how people wrongly bring up the phrase “hostile work environment”. This actually could qualify because the actions are based on a protected class. But LW needs to report it to either to a supervisor or HR. If they know and continue to allow the coworker to go around harassing employees based on religion, they could end up in trouble themselves.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yes! This is illegal harassment based on LW’s membership in a protected class. That’s absolutely how LW should frame it to HR.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      He was called that. By Pontius Pilate, at the crucifixion, by way of mocking him…
      But you are right, don’t do it!

    3. LW #1*

      Thank you! I’ve posted a few comments. And I plan on doing a short update with some extra info in a bit.

      And when I have finally dealt with HR, I will post an update to that. :)

  18. Irish Teacher.*

    LW2, even if your size hadn’t changed, there are all kinds of reasons you might need to replace clothing after two years. Especially, as you only have one or two of each item. You could have had a mishap with your washing machine where colours ran for instance or something could have been damaged or just ordinary wear and tear. If you don’t want to mention your size changing, you could probably just say that your branded items need to be replaced.

    LW1, that is awful. I don’t have any advice but just wanted to add to the chorus about it being incredibly disrespectful and unacceptable.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I agree – LW2, you’re probably overthinking this. Clothes wear out, they get torn or permanently stained or lost. Size changes are also very common. Most likely no one will blink an eye if you request something new after 2 years, even without giving any reasons.

      My company lets us order branded clothing twice yearly, and it’s not just new people that order, by far.

      1. Clobberin’ Time*

        It’s understandable why LW2 is overthinking this. There is a huge amount of shame and moral nonsense attached to body size, especially to people whose bodies change so they need a larger clothing size.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Oh, absolutely! I’m also a regular overthinker. Sometimes it helps to get an outside perspective to break out of that.

  19. Michelle*

    The very biggest thing that I have learned from AAM is that, after 6+ years of remote work, I truly, truly, never, ever want to have to work in an office again.

    Part of me kind of can’t believe that #1 didn’t end with “do I have to pay for new glasses for her to replace the ones that broke when I backhanded her.”

    1. Critical Rolls*

      Right? She basically threw hands, she better be prepared to catch hands in return. (Not actually advocating punching her, but you’d have been well withing your rights to physically remove her hands from your body.)

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, if that happened to me as a pagan I’m not sure whether I would freeze or forcibly remove her hand from my head. I’d probably freeze in shock, just like the LW.

  20. Allonge*

    LW1 – oh no.

    I know this is not about logic in any way, but a recently converted person is probably the least likely candidate for changing their religion (again) ever. Coworker is showing a serious lack of judgment on all possible levels.

    1. Liisa*

      It’s like the recruiters who email your new work email a month after you’ve started a new job “hey, i realize you’ve just changed jobs, but would you like to go through that whole process again for me, a random recruiter you’ve never spoken with?”

      But more seriously, agreed, it’s not about logic, and is a huge lack of judgement and empathy. Good luck, LW1!

      1. JSPA*

        I guess they’re hoping for, “they lied / its such a bad fit! If I leave now, the mini gap will be invisible on my resumé.” As a numbers game, even if that’s only 1 in 100, it’s a very motivated 1 in 100.

    2. My dear Wormwood*

      The thing that boggles me about the story (besides, well, all of it) is that there’s no indication the OP was a Christian to begin with! Why “come back” to Jesus?

      1. bamcheeks*

        This is a thought process that centres OP and their actual identity. The co-worker isn’t doing that. In their head, all souls belong to Jesus and all conversion is a “return”.

      2. metadata minion*

        Because everyone starts out Christian, didn’t you know that??

        I am also a convert to Judaism, and it was *deeply annoying* how many of the so-you’re-converting materials spent time contrasting it with Christianity. I’m interested in converting to Judaism; why are we talking about Jesus again? Sigh.

      3. JSPA*

        OP does say they converted. While not specified in the letter, it’s reasonably possible that OP was raised some flavor of Christian. And equally reasonably possible that the overstepping coworker knows this, based on what would normally have been entirely unremarkable low level personal chat.

        Stuff that’s tangential to Christianity comes up all the dang time, y’know? Maybe the topic is “someone’s chocolate melted, oops” or “getting stains out of a car” and the LW reminisced about an entire basket of melted chocolate easter eggs, that time they left the basket in the back of the station wagon.

        For people who are not on proselytization autopilot, that’s not “religion in the workplace” nor an invitation to talk about Jesus. But someone who’s single-minded about recruitment? That’s potentially filed away as, “someone who belongs to Jesus.”

        It’s still an assumption (and huge presumption) but it’s a different flavor of assumption than, “LW must have been Christian before converting, because what else is there.”

        1. LW #1*

          You’re right on that! I was raised evangelical Lutheran. There are many many many reasons why I ran screaming from Christianity as a teen. I spent the greater part of my 20’s, 30’s and part of my 40’s as avoiding religion until I started learning about Judaism and felt that was my path.

          I think she just assumes that most people are Christian or start out as such. Or she targeted me prior to conversion because I am sure to her I scream “hail Satan” with my choice of darker clothing, tattoos, and general alternativeness. I am sure my Jewishness confuses her because of being “alternative”.

      4. Sylvan*

        Right? OP could have had any belief system before converting.

        I know some people see other religions and particularly atheism as the failure state of Christianity. :/

    3. Emmy Noether*

      I dunno if that’s true. A convert has already shown that they can believe in a higher power, and that they aren’t moored to a childhood tradition. Most converts probably do it because they found a religion that they prefer over all others, but there are also people that jump belief systems, looking for the right one. They’re probably unlikely to change *back* right after converting, though.

      I’d think the most unlikely to convert to a religion is the type of lifelong agnostic/atheist that is constitutionally unable to believe at all.

      1. LW #1*

        Very true!

        Converting to Judaism isn’t like converting to Christianity. There’s no “I am saved!!!” type of moment or just going to Church and walking the walk makes you Christian.

        Even in the liberal Reform community I belong to, it’s a process done with a Rabbi that includes going to services, living a Jewish life, lots of studying, and classes. It’s very involved. And after that their is a Beth Din (where you talk with the Rabbi and other learned Jews) and then a dip in the mikveh (ritual bath) to complete the process. It’s a process that’s very much a thought out choice. It’s not one that someone goes into on a whim.

        1. Crcala*

          That is true, my brother-in-law converted to Judaism and it was such a process! Frankly he probably knows more about Judaism now than I ever did as someone who was raised Jewish and had a bat mitzvah! It was a lovely thing to witness–the synagogue and rabbi were so kind and welcoming.

  21. Cherry*

    OP4: you’re only a bad company if you try and trick them into staying. Like my old job…

    Then I hear multiple stories of the managers going around blaming Better Paid Company for “stealing all their people”. Believe me, the people are desperate to leave to anywhere and BPC just happens to be nearby and, well, much better paid.

    1. El+l*

      I think the best thing to do is have the following conversation:

      “Look, if you want a full time job here, it’s open to you. We have to be honest that you can earn more elsewhere with your degree – and we totally understand if or when you choose to pursue that. There are limits to what we can match, the side benefits we have may or may not be the right fit for you, and we understand that only you can know if what we can offer you is what’s best for you.

      “But all that said, we’re pleased with you and happy that you’re working with us.”

      1. NorthBayTeky*

        I truly believe having a conversation like that would be a huge plus in the current company column. It tells them they are wanted and appreciated. The benefits of the current employer are much better than some employers, and they may see that while they job search.

        Giving a day off, with pay, just because, that’s an awesome benefit that is not likely to be matched anywhere. It also makes the company sound like their culture truly values their employees, not just with a catchy slogan.

      2. All Het Up About It*

        Yep! But the truth of the matter is everyone values different things in their life. So yes, the OP can’t pay fair market value for OTHER markets, but it sounds like they are paying market value for their area. So if the employee doesn’t want to move… then the OP and their company isn’t doing anything wrong!

        I know plenty of people who work in places and companies where if they moved fields or organizations (think Non-profit to Private or Government to Corporate) they might make more money, but they choose not to because 1)They don’t like the idea of the new environment, 2) They don’t want to move to a new city 3) They feel like their government job is more secure 4)Their non-profit does offer better benefits and flexibility or 5) the smaller company means that they are able to work on more projects earlier in their career than they would at a bigger firm, therefore making them more profitable in the future when they might WANT to move/do something different.

        OP4 sounds like a great boss in the benefits they offer their people and that they actually care about their employees, but just because most of us work to eat, doesn’t mean that Salary is ALWAYS the number one consideration with jobs.

  22. Irish Teacher*

    LW3, while your coworker going through your bad wouldn’t be OK regardless, I think my reaction would be affected by how he told you about it. Like if he came to you and said, “I just thought I ought to tell you this. I came in to your office yesterday to ask if I could borrow your frog grooming kit, but you weren’t there so I took a look in your laptop case. I’m really sorry; I shouldn’t have done that,” well, it still wouldn’t be OK, but I think I’d take it as a thoughtless action that he was really embarrassed about and was unlikely to repeat. On the other hand, if it was more, “hey, LW3, where do you keep your frog grooming kit? I looked in your laptop case but I couldn’t find it,” I’d be more concerned, because that sounds like somebody who has no idea they’ve crossed a boundary.

  23. Taking the long way round*

    No. 1 horrified me so much. I gasped out loud when I read it. It feels like a violation because IT IS a violation. I’m so sorry you went through that OP. Please go to HR and, if you are able, let us know how you’re doing and what happened.

    1. Professional lurker*

      Seconding that. OP1, you have my deepest sympathies. I know firsthand how gross this feels. At my former job, one deeply religious coworker cornered me on the way home from work, right after I got the news that one of my best friends’ dad was dying, and proceeded to lecture me fervently about god, the need to save my soul and so on. I was so shocked I could not form a coherent response at the moment, but after I finally managed to escape her, I wound up shaking and crying on the bus home. “Violated to my very core” was exactly how I felt. Nobody should be allowed to do this to another person. If you have a functioning HR, go to them right now. This is the kind of thing they should be dealing with.

    2. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes. She could be doing this to other people. How insensitive.

      Also baffling — does this work? And Alison’s story — has anyone ever converted because a religious text was sent to them unsolicited?

      1. WS*

        It’s classic cult behaviour, reinforcing “us vs them”. When people don’t respond in the “correct” way to their religious solicitations, it helps build solidarity in their religious community: nobody understands them, Christianity is persecuted, the only safe and good people are their church etc. This is why the correct way to deal with this kind of harassment (in a personal capacity) is to be polite but cool and (in a work capacity) leave any consequences to HR. Don’t engage and don’t get personal, it only feeds the cult mentality. The point of encouraging church members to behave this way is not primarily to bring new converts, it’s to cement the loyalty of the ones they already have.

        1. Jessica*


          When the Mormon kids come to your door, be kind to them, offer them water, and ask them if they’d like to use your phone to call their moms.

          But don’t engage on religion. I usually tell them up front, “Look, the end goal of your mission is the elimination of my culture, traditions, and people, so we’re going to be at an impasse there. I hope my neighbors are kind to you, but I’m not interested in discussing religion with you.” And very few of them have ever tried to argue with that.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Honestly, I do not think that is necessary. Just say that you are not interested and let them go on their way. I doubt they are out there trying to eliminate your culture, traditions, and people. If they wanted to eliminate your people, they would be trying to kill you, not convert you.

            I do agree that conversions lead to breakdowns of cultures, especially different aspects of those cultures that may be rooted in another religion. But while proselytizing is a bad thing, I do not think these kids are out there with a goal to commit genocide.

            1. Lunar Caustic*

              The level of ignorance you are revealing with this comment is shocking. Please read up on the history of forced conversions before opening your mouth on this topic again. It is absolutely not necessary for proselytizers to “intend” elimination of another people group to be tapping into a history of genocide.

            2. Dahlia*

              I… I don’t want to be mean, but this quite possibly is one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever read.

            3. Someone Online*

              Don’t you see that converting people away from their religion is eliminating that culture, tradition and people?

            4. DJ Abbott*

              No, the kids are not intending to commit genocide. They’re doing what they’ve been taught and don’t know much beyond that.
              I think Jessica‘s response is excellent. It’s kind and respectful but also helps open their eyes to the history, the big picture, and the consequences of what they’re doing. The seed planted by this might grow into a person who is aware of the history and the manipulation and the bigotry and helps combat it.

            5. Observer*

              I doubt they are out there trying to eliminate your culture, traditions, and people.

              You can doubt it all you want. It doesn’t make it less true. It just means that you have NO IDEA of what you are talking about.

              If they wanted to eliminate your people, they would be trying to kill you, not convert you.

              I guess you missed the class. But, yes, in fact that has actually been tried.

            6. Jessica*

              I am not sure how to explain to you

              that having an end goal of a world in which everyone is Christian

              involves the elimination of Jews.

              And that that is not paranoia, misinterpretation, or misrepresentation. A world in which everyone worships Jesus Christ has been the literal, explicitly stated, right-there-in-the-open goal of almost every major form of Christianity that has existed, and is still a goal—even if less widely advertised—of most currently existing forms (even the “nice” ones).

              The average churchgoer may not be thinking of what it would *take* to get to that state, but that doesn’t mean they’re not supporting it tacitly.

              And in terms of churches like the one the OP describes, it is absolutely an explicit goal, *or they wouldn’t be actively proselytizing.*

              The supposedly warm and fuzzy end goal of a world that is united in worshipping Jesus is a world without Jews.

              Sorry not sorry if hearing that makes you uncomfortable.

              1. Enai*

                *Stares at an uncomfortably long list of events in european history, in literally every part of Europe*

                Sigh. Yeah. “Convert to (usually catholic) Christianity or burn at the stake” was a popular “offer” made to jewish communities.

            7. Curmudgeon in California*

              Ummm, conversion, especially coerced or forced, has been used to destroy cultures for ages. Because if part of that culture believes in animism or something like that, forcing Christianity destroys that connection.

      2. bamcheeks*

        It’s like hardcore sales tactics or pick-up guys or any other kind of objectification: if you don’t care how much of a nuisance you are and the negative impact you’re having on other people, you can just play the numbers and every so often you’ll hit someone vulnerable enough to say yes.

        1. Anony vas Normandy*

          That, plus some fundamentalist churches hammer into their congregation that they are separate from This World, that This World despises them. Having their congregants deliberately drum up situations where people really do start to despise them just reinforces the us-vs-them mentality, which is very useful to keep them separate and under the pastor’s control. Having grown up in a fundamentalist church I’ve seen this firsthand.

          1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

            It’s really horrible. Like cult programming.
            Seems like everything Jesus would’ve been very much against.

          2. Allonge*

            Yes, this is absolutely about controlling the ‘believer’. There is zero chance that anyone will convert based on actions like this, which is also painfully obvious to anyone in their right mind. The rejection that comes is the expected outcome!

          3. Sylvan*

            Having their congregants deliberately drum up situations where people really do start to despise them just reinforces the us-vs-them mentality, which is very useful to keep them separate and under the pastor’s control.


            You can also see this in some other groups like political groups.

          4. tinybutfierce*

            Exactly this. It’s not about actually bringing more folks into the fold, it’s about further isolating their followers from any dissenting beliefs and “proving” their church is the only safe place for them.

          5. Gracely*

            It’s not just that–it’s also that many evangelical churches hang the responsibility for other people’s supposed damnation on their congregants. Like, if you know someone who isn’t your flavor of Christian and you don’t convert them, it’s *YOUR* fault if they end up in Hell. This is how some churches get otherwise kind people to do horrifically mean/violating things to people they claim to care about, by pouring on the guilt. It’s really messed up in a number of ways.

        2. Clobberin’ Time*

          Except the hardcore sales pitch theory ignores how many more sales they would have gotten with a better approach.

      3. Phryne*

        I’ve understood that in those religions and cults where aggressive proselyting is encouraged, this is because of the effect on the followers. They know their people will run into aggression and dismissal, and that is the feature, as it will ‘prove’ that the outside world is hostile and beyond saving and the flock is so much better off inside the fold.

        1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Ah, that makes a lot of sense, sadly.

          Is your name a reference to Miss Fisher? Love!

      4. Jackalope*

        So the idea is that you don’t know how God has been working in their lives beforehand and maybe this will be the moment when it all comes together somehow. That’s not what usually happens, but I have heard from people who had that moment when everything clicked for them. This is not trying to justify this approach, but I have heard from people who’s final conversion finished with a moment like that. Which is part of why people keep trying; it works just enough to make it seem worthwhile, and if you don’t see results, well, the idea is that you might be pushing them towards that moment in the future. Which doesn’t help anyone else who is preached at in this manner, but if you want to know the motivation that’s it.

      5. Anon for this*

        A relative (distant) brought me political book as a gift to try and convert my political view point. These people are thinking “it’s obviously correct so we just have to explain it to them.”

  24. Emma*

    Oof. I want to preface this by saying that I know that religion is highly personal and the majority of Christians would never ever do what this woman did. I’m not trying to tell anyone off for their beliefs and I’m not looking to change anyone’s mind about anything. This kind of thing is a big reason why I stopped being Christian.

    The big problem for me is that according to Christian theology, anyone who isn’t Christian goes to hell. So if you care about someone in your life, and you’re Christian, then within the context of your Christian beliefs, doing everything you can to convert them is the loving thing to do. It’s worth destroying your relationship, crossing their boundaries etc because the alternative is literal eternal torture. Most Christians, of course, understand that doing this isn’t acceptable; instead, they try to be a positive example of the impact of faith on their own lives, in the hope that others will see what a difference it makes for them and want the same thing for themselves.

    My mum is someone who takes that approach. After her dad died, I came to realise that she had spent most of her life treating him, and his atheist beliefs, with respect and care; and that after his death, she believed that by doing so she had helped condemn him to hell. She feels the same way about her mum, who was also non-religious, and about me. It’s almost a kind of cognitive dissonance, and I’ve seen how much pain it causes my mum, and I fucking hate it.

    The woman in #1 is kind of protecting herself from this; in an awful and totally inappropriate way, but I get it. And I’ve never been able to see another way out of this dilemma, except to ditch the awful theology, which of course, is a pretty core bit of theology for most Christians.

    1. NorthBayTeky*

      Yeah, that whole “accept Jesus into your heart and you shall have eternal life” bee ess.

      Look, I’m a “cradle Catholic” who left because of the priest scandal. I understand their message. In order to free yourself from their dogma, you must ask the hard questions. Why does baptism get you into Heaven? What about all those babies that die before baptism? Yeah, they are pure and they go to heaven. So what is it? Baptism and eternal life, or no baptism and go straight to hell? These are the questions I asked my mother. Among others.

      In order to free your mind of the indoctrination that occurred when you were in your formative years, you have to approach it with logic. Why does one verse say one thing and yes the “church” is saying something that doesn’t seem to align with that verse?

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, plus if you are not separate from G*d, why do you need to be “saved”. So when I pulled the whole thing apart, the fundamental disconnect was between the idea of original sin and separation from deity, yet I saw and felt deity in and around myself as being part of nature and humanity.

        But this is getting a little off-topic with theology.

    2. Gracely*

      According to *some* Christian theology. There are flavors of Christianity that don’t believe everyone’s doomed to Hell for not being Christian, because of the idea that God’s grace is for everyone–Jesus died to save the world, not just the specific people in the world who claim to follow him.

      But yeah, a lot of Christians are of the “if I don’t convert them, they are damned to Hell” belief, and it’s really sad how guilt-inducing that is.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I was raised in a pretty relaxed “we are christians just cause he was a good guy” kind of church with no focus on converting anyone and very little serious discussion of actual beliefs (and we have had gay clergy members as long as I can remember). I was never taught that one had to be Christian or believe in Jesus or even God or that they would be condemned to hell. I was taught to believe in Christ and the new covenant, but greater emphasis was placed on the idea that Jesus was a good person who wanted us to be kind to one another, and that those people who are good and treat others with respect and compassion, as Jesus did in his lifetime, would be assured of God’s love and a place in heaven. And mostly everyone glossed over any real mention of hell, but when it was addressed, it was again emphasized that your actions and behavior and how you treat others would determine your fate, so being “Christian” was no more a “get out of hell free” card than being a non-Christian was a “no heaven for you” card.

        I am now agnostic, but I am just saying that there are Christians who do not believe non-Christians are kept out of heaven or are condemned to hell. In the religion I was raised in, we were told that it was your behavior, not your beliefs, that mattered to God.

    3. Jessica*

      Believe me, we know. We’re very aware of what Christian theology says about us.

      But at the end of the day, we’re human beings, not props in anyone’s religious journey or trophies to be won for Jesus or shields against the pain their own beliefs cause them.

      We’re human beings, many of whom have trauma (*generational* trauma, in many cases) around this.

      We don’t need yet another explanation of Christian theology, and we certainly don’t need Christians or ex-Christians to center *their* trauma in a discussion about a Jew literally being assaulted by an evangelizing Christian.

      Yes, systems like patriarchy and white supremacy and Christian hegemony harm the people who benefit from them as well as the people who they marginalize and oppress.

      The problem isn’t that Jews don’t understand Christians–the problem is how many Christians seem to have trouble seeing us as anything but props or stock characters, *even in the context of one of us asking for advice.*

    4. Observer*

      The woman in #1 is kind of protecting herself from this; in an awful and totally inappropriate way, but I get it.

      You know, I get it, too. But why is it relevant here? Why is this something that the OP – or any of us who have been subjected to this – need to take this on board in this moment?

      There is a time and place for trying to understand where this is coming from. THIS is absolutely *not* the time or place for it.

  25. Invisible fish*

    An acquaintance mailed Allison’s mother a bible in an attempt at conversion … what I see here is an opportunity to get more books. How do I work this system? Announce I want to know the gospel of thrillers? Confess my curiosity about the role of mysteries in my life? Share that there’s an emptiness in my life that can only be filled with fantasy and sci-fi?

    Oh, wait. I betcha this won’t work because most readers are busy minding their own bookish business and not looking for ways to harass other people. Darn.

    1. Verthandi*

      I stymied a doorknocking Jehovah’s Witness by telling them I already belonged to a book club and we read a wide variety of better written books.

  26. Gnome*


    You might also see if the company can get the vendor to send a few samples for people to have sizes to try on. These could be embroidered or even embroidered with something like “size sample” so they don’t walk off.

  27. Invisible fish*

    I thought I could just make one comment but ugh!! Drive 8 hours to proselytize??? What?? Putting hands on people at work?? What???

    I’m just so, so, sorry for the letter writer and Alison’s mother. If I was in the vicinity of either, I would ask if I could come over to make hot tea and snacks and actually talk to you like the individual human being you are in hopes that being around someone who treats you with the respect and consideration every person deserves would maybe … help you feel a little bit better after being treated this way? I’m just so sorry. (I’m from a conservative rural town – I wish someone had tried to restore my faith in humanity when I was disrespected for not being part of the Evangelical crowd.)

  28. Sharpie*

    I’m currently sitting in a café reading AAM… And so very nearly spit my coffee out at ‘frog-grooming kit’. Just the laugh I needed on a cold grey rainy day!!

    1. Madame Arcati*

      When Ask A Manager one day fulfils my hopes and offers merchandise for sale, sign me up for a frog grooming kit! It sounds so cute…

    2. KYParalegal*

      Right?? I don’t know what would be included in this kit, or what frog grooming would even entail, but now I desperately wish to borrow a kit!

  29. Gnome*


    I had a fellow student try to do a version of this to me when I was in university. In my own dorm room (they were visiting my roommate).

    I’m sorry you are going through this. It was well over the line before they touched you… But touching you is way over an entirely different line.

    Make it clear to HR that it’s not only words, but that they have escalated to cornering you physically and touching you, and that you need all three to stop (religious conversation/conversion attempts, cornering, and physical contact).

    You probably also want to use the phrase “religious harassment”

  30. DJ Abbott*

    #1, this sounds very much like what I dealt with growing up in a Midwestern town in the US that is dominated by fundamentalists.
    They would accost me in public and try to force me to go to their church. It was very difficult to stop them and get them to leave me alone. Usually the only thing that worked was threatening to call the police. It definitely contributed to the PTSD from my abusive family. I was threatened at home, and then I went out in the world and dealt with this.
    Your coworker and the person Allison mentioned are going to extremes. Don’t let anyone minimize this. Try to get across to your HR they need to do whatever is necessary to stop this. If your coworker was a reasonable person, she would have heard you rejecting her offer and not done this. She is trying to force her religion on you. I suspect what’s going on in our country has emboldened them and it might be their pastors are telling them to do this.

    This all ties into something I’ve been thinking about lately – the intolerance paradox. This is what’s playing out now in the US.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      And the minute anyone pushes back about them keeping their religion to themselves, they cry bloody murder about how they’re being oppressed and discriminated against when they themselves are the worst intimidators and oppressors.

      1. Sylvan*

        They like being martyrs. They also really like sending young people out to preach, get rejected, and reinforce their ingroup identity and outgroup hate.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          What’s the saying? “When you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Something like that.

  31. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt have to say it again: religious folks, please do not ever include someone in your prayers unless they’ve requested you do so. At best you’re projecting the idea that your beliefs and practices are ones they’d be happy to be included in; at worst you’re hoping that Something violates their agency and volition.

    Like hands, prayers are best kept to your own person without explicit and enthusiastic consent.

    As to the rest of the behavior in letter 1 – please report this person, LW1. They are fundamentally a bad (social and physical boundary violating and common sense violating) person who has learnt to hide it behind the trappings of their religion, and your HR/employer need to become aware of how bad their misbehavior is, so they can a) stop it from happening to you, and b) make sure it isn’t happening to anyone else (especially someone who they might have power/authority over).

    1. JSPA*

      Or just (FFS) don’t tell them about it.

      If they (privately) believe your deity is fake and your religion is hogwash, it’s really no philosophical or metaphysical harm to them, anymore than if you asked your toaster or nailclippers to intervene on their behalf.

      What’s objectionable is involving them by saying something.

      I have had friends ask if I’d be offended if they prayed over something troubling in my life.

      I normally say that I’m not offended, but there are so many others who’d be actively comforted… so it would make more sense to pray on those other folks’ problems rather than mine… and that I had already been lifted up just by talking to them.

      But I also recognize that a lot of people use prayer as their mechanism for finding inspiration, ideas and insight. If someone asked me if I minded if they thought about my problems, to see if any solution came to mind, then it’s between them and themselves, whether they include their conceptualization of a deity or deities in the process.

      Random people who say they will pray for a dead relative? Not into that. “She’d have hated that” has been known to escape my lips, as has very nonplussed, “oh?” or “that’s not our tradition, but if it makes you feel better about death, go for it.”
      (On a bad day, if the delivery is extra pushy, or the person not someone I care to remain in contact with: “Well, I hope you’re not saying he’d need it?” Or once, “She liked to say that she hoped to go to hell, with all the interesting people and endless challenges. So maybe hold off on that.”)

      But a lot of it is phatic expressions–a fair proportion of people say the phrase because it’s what one says, in their culture, to indicate an intent to be supportive. Not because they actually even engage in prayer (or if they do, they don’t include a laundry list of people to pray for, in any case).

      1. Not A Manager*

        Your reasoning might be sound when it comes to praying for atheists, but it isn’t sound when it comes to praying for people who have deeply-held religious beliefs that are contrary to those of the person praying. The harm isn’t solely from *telling* the person about the prayer, it’s also a harm to them to violate their religious beliefs ostensibly on their behalf.

        There are religious people who believe both in God and in evil spirits. It would be harmful to them if I made an occult sacrifice on their behalf, even if I didn’t tell them about it. If you don’t think so, then do you think it would be okay to sneak pork to a Muslim person so long as they never found out about it?

        1. Sylvan*

          Your reasoning might be sound when it comes to praying for atheists, but it isn’t sound when it comes to praying for people who have deeply-held religious beliefs that are contrary to those of the person praying.

          Hey, atheist here! I also have deeply-held religious beliefs that are contrary to those of the person praying! Atheism isn’t nothing.

          1. Not A Manager*

            I certainly didn’t mean to dismiss the deeply held beliefs of atheists, and I apologize if it sounded like I did.

            I was responding to this: “If they (privately) believe your deity is fake and your religion is hogwash, it’s really no philosophical or metaphysical harm to them, anymore than if you asked your toaster or nailclippers to intervene on their behalf.” I’ve heard this argument before and to an extent it makes sense. I still think it’s disrespectful to pray for people without their agreement, but I wanted to point out a difference between not respecting someone’s world-view, and actively doing something on their behalf that violates their own religion.

            1. Student*

              As an Atheist, the harm isn’t metaphysical. The harm isn’t philosophical. The harm is the other person’s contempt for my religion, manifest by their desire to override my religion with their own. This harms our interpersonal relationship, albeit probably gradually and over time. Contempt for somebody is generally corrosive to relationships, and tends to show up in everyday interactions even if the person feeling that contempt doesn’t express it in exact detail to my face. Insulting someone behind their back also rarely stays behind their back for long. That same harm would also be manifest if they asked their toaster to intervene on my behalf instead of their god, because, again, they’re expressing some serious contempt for me if they think I need a kitchen appliance’s grace in spite of my sincerely held beliefs.

              I expect that those of other religions would feel a similar harm had been done to them, possibly in addition to the metaphysical or philosophical harm you’ve raised concern about.

            2. Sylvan*

              No worries. The behavior just isn’t any different whether the recipient is a member of another religion or an atheist. It reads a little like praying for someone of another religion is disrespectful, while with an atheist, there’s nothing there to respect. There is. There’s still a whole human being with their own beliefs.

            3. JSPA*

              Of course it’s disrespectful, in the abstract.
              So’s thinking that your coworker is an idiot.

              People disrespect other people inside their own heads all the time.

              If it makes it easier to functionally show respect to their faces, that’s a fair tradeoff, from a work perspective. (This is a work blog. Not philosophy of religion.)

              In contrast, sneaking pork into someone’s meal is food tampering–which is to say, literally criminal, in the specific.

              Please don’t imply they’re the same level of damage or disrespect.

              1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

                Sneaking pork into someone’s food without their consent is food tampering, AND it’s a severe violation of someone else’s boundaries, AND it’s harmful to someone whose beliefs forbid eating pork. One of these being true doesn’t mean the others cease to exist. Stop trying to discredit valid discussion points just because you’re mad you’re wrong.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’d argue that goes for atheists too. You don’t know someone’s personally held beliefs – a lot of atheists have religious trauma and would absolutely not want to be involved in your religious practices.

          1. LW #1*

            I am even a former atheist who has religious trauma. My heart goes out to anyone who is dealing with past issues with the faiths they were raised in. We’re all in a special club together on that.

        3. JSPA*

          My right to dictate religious practice ends with me, yours ends with you. To go beyond that is to enter the zone of thought crimes.

          “If they knew what you were thinking they’d be appalled” isn’t a behavioral standard for… well, anything.

          And there’s nothing atheist-specific about my post.

        4. JSPA*

          Plus, it’s a bizarre (and disgusting) straw man to equate tricking someone into violating their own religious duties, with something that happens entirely outside of their lives / entirely inside of another person’s head.

          Other people get to have thoughts about you, without your approval. Full stop.

          That’s the absolute reality. Maybe it’s prayer, maybe it’s fantasies, maybe it’s that they picture you as a cartoon character. You don’t get to control who you are, inside someone else’s head.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            You have the right to have thoughts, people have the right to not want to be in your thoughts and part of your religious practice. That’s not a thought crime. No one is legislating anything. But I also get to be offended by being part of someone’s prayers – just like I’m offended whenever someone thinks I’m going to hell for whatever reason, whether or not they say it to my face.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Or if the word offended is touchy – hurt, angry, insulted, disgusted, whatever it may be.

          2. Dinwar*

            “Other people get to have thoughts about you, without your approval. Full stop.”

            They can have whatever thoughts they want. Prayer is something totally different. It’s communication WITH A GOD. Certain prayers (and I would include magic under this heading, but that’s just me) are asking A GOD to take certain actions. That’s not a minor thing. You can view it as fantasy or make-believe or just thinking about things all you want; the intent of the person taking the action is what matters, from an ethical point of view. I absolutely can demand they not ask such an entity to take action directed at me–for exactly the same reason I can demand that they not send carpenters to break into my house without my consent, or have a doctor perform a medical procedure on me without my consent.

            Religious people BELIEVE THEIR RELIGION. Folks who accept the existence of evil spirits (or gods, or the fay, or magic, or ancestors, or the rest) absolutely 100% believe this stuff exists. To dismiss this as “It’s just all in your head” is exactly on par with saying “If you don’t notice the pork it doesn’t exist”. It’s an attempt to invalidate their beliefs, and is frankly infantilizing and patronizing.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              I’m pagan. IMO praying for me to convert is like a magical spell invoking a deity to forcibly change me. It is, from my perspective, a quasi magical attack, in that it is an attempt to have something force me to change. Do. Not. Want.

              Essentially, if nothing else, it treats me like an NPC is someone else’s drama.

          3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            If you accept that there is a spiritual component to each individual, than each person has as much right to dictate how you interact with their own spiritual component of themselves as they do how you interact with their own body. So the only ethical course of action to keep your prayers focused on yourself and those you’ve asked permission to include.

            I am not a object you may use however you want in your faith, nor am I a participant in its practices. Prayer is an active, deliberate, and volitional act of faith, it is not at all analogous to my personal opinions or fantasies – it is an action, and no longer merely a thought, just as cursing someone has crossed from the realm of thought to action. It becomes inappropriate to involve someone nonconsenting in prayer, because of the very fact that they (prayers) are actions you are undertaking.

          4. Eyes Kiwami*

            I think most people would feel weird being fantasized about by their coworkers too… maybe we can just not dwell on others in weird ways like praying and fantasizing when we know they wouldn’t like that…

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Honestly, if someone says I am in their prayers (unless the reason for being in their prayers is offensive or they are forcing me into hearing their prayers or pressuring me to go to church and whatnot), I just take it as “oh, they are keeping me in their thoughts.” Most people who say that at times of misfortune are basically just saying that. Getting bent out of shape over it seems a bit much.

        That said, in OP1’s case, things went well past offensive before the incident in question even occurred.

    2. Tesuji*

      Sorry, but pick a lane.

      If someone talking to their imaginary friend in private bothers you, that says more about your uncertainty about the imaginariness than anything else.

      In your own belief framework, what they’re doing is a meaningless nothing. In their belief framework, what they’re doing is an unmitigated good. This isn’t even the “hurling impotent curses at you” situation, where even though their actions don’t have any effect, you can at least take umbrage at their intent.

      Touching someone, telling someone that you’re praying for them, actively proselytizing? These are all things you can legitimately be offended by.

      Someone doing their own religious rituals in private? If you’re offended by this, it’s because you want to be offended, and you should probably do some personal work on dealing with that.

      1. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

        Tend to agree with this as another atheist. If there are no gods or spirits or giant koalas out there, then said religious person doing their prayers/meditation/conjuring in private is the equivalent of them talking to themselves about you in private. How is that any different from getting in your car and saying “My boss is a f*****g moron” to yourself on the drive home?

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Wait, is there a giant koala religion, because I am an agnostic but might convert for a giant koala!!!!

          Or better yet, is there a religion of people who think the Noozles show is real, and that Blinky and Pinky were real and so is the realm of Koalawalla Land! Because sign me up!

          Sorry, I just really like koalas!

      2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        See, I feel like you illustrated my point really well, even if you were hugely disrespectful. I’m not failing to pick a lane – I’m advocating for a simple principle of asking before you do something for/to/on behalf of others, because they are individuals who might have preferences about how or if you do it.

        You assumed, because of the comment I made and other contexts in which similar sentiments are usually made, that my belief framework matches one you are familiar with (atheism), and as such, assigned a specific value for what someone else praying for me would mean to me.

        But what if you are wrong in your assessments of my beliefs? What if I were far closer to an agnostic misotheist than I am to an atheist? IE, if I believe gods might exist, and if they do, they are evils to be hated and shunned rather than worshipped? As such, bringing me to a deity’s attention is something I would consider directly harmful – it is an attempt to bring me to the attention of an entity I consider to lie somewhere between inimical to my own wellbeing and outright Evil.

        What if my beliefs hold that prayer is an act of vanity, ego, and sin? Believing you know well enough to beseech an all knowing entity to change their plans sure sounds like it could be (and more than a few religious sects have historically actually believed this).
        What if my beliefs hold that to having another commune with a god on my behalf places me in jeopardy when I am judged?

        In the absolute best case scenario, assuming our religious beliefs are compatible and the content of the prayer is something as genial as “please smile on _____”, when you pray for me without asking, you are assuming I want to be included in your prayer ritual. I may not; perhaps there is someone else in the world I would rather you pray for, for I feel I have been blessed enough already. In the worst case scenario, you are hoping your deity does a thing to or through me, and implicitly hoping to violate my own will and beliefs.

        I stand by my initial post and what I meant in it – Do not involve others in any of your religious practices (even something as de minimus as prayer) without their consent.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Do not involve others in any of your religious practices (even something as de minimus as prayer) without their consent.


          If I am hurt or suffering, I still would want a person to ask me before praying for me.

          If I say “I’m having problems with X, Y and Z. Please feel welcome to include me in your thoughts and prayers about this.” that is called permission, but not blanket permission. Without any permission, keep your deific invocations off my life.

    3. My Cabbages!*

      I enjoy responding to “I’ll pray for you” with a chipper “Thanks! I’ll cast a spell of protection over you as well!”

      For some reason they don’t like that.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Ooooh, I like it.

        Of course, I wouldn’t actually cast the spell unless they said okay. Something about ethics and boundaries.

    4. Trillian*

      To me (agnostic since my teens), it’s the distinction between doing something FOR me and doing something AT me.

      1. UKDancer*

        I think this is critical. I’m atheist generally but when my father was ill one of my friends asked if she could pray for him. I didnt think it would make any difference but I appreciated the gesture and knew it came from a deep belief in the power of prayer. So I said I’d appreciate it. There’s a big difference for me between someone who cares for me doing something they think will help and someone trying to use prayer as a stick to.beat people into doing what you want.

  32. Sean*

    LW1: You mentioned there is a sizeable Jewish population at your university. Is your co-worker doing this to other people too, or has she targeted you specifically because you had converted?

    I just can’t wrap my head around the sense of entitlement some people assume they have over others and their flagrant disregard of boundaries. No means no. Plain and simple.

    1. Sara without an H*

      This would concern me, too, and is another argument for alerting HR and the managers ASAP.

    2. Manders*

      I had a good friend/coworker who was a very religious Christian. He told me once that one of his relatives had converted to Judaism, and the reason it was difficult for him and his family was that it was not just a different belief system, but a rejection of Christ.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I understand how that could be difficult. Still, to be so wrapped up in a *coworkers* conversion that you *lay hands on them* is…a lot.

      2. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

        My parents said the same thing about people they knew who left Christianity for various destinations. This belief, though honestly held, is not a justification for actions such as this coworker’s (my parents tried some similar tactics on a couple of those now-ex friends of theirs).

      3. Observer*

        and the reason it was difficult for him and his family was that it was not just a different belief system, but a rejection of Christ.

        And? Jews still have the right in the US (thankfully!) to maintain their own boundaries around their religion.

        I actually sympathize with the family’s feelings. But how is that relevant to the point here? We recognize that someone can’t start yelling at people just because they have a migraine. The same thing is true here.

        Please don’t come tell us how we need to “understand” this stuff because someone is in pain. I’m sorry for them, but it’s not my burden, nor the burden of any other Jewish person.

    3. LW #1*

      I found out she’s given religious materials to a colleague who is atheist and part of a community that often faces discrimination.

      I think it has to do with not being her brand of Christianity and walking the walk she walks basically. I also think prior to my conversion, she targeted me because I am alternative and to her eyes– I need saving.

      1. Sara without an H*

        This is yet another argument for talking with HR about the situation. Don’t worry that you’re getting this woman in trouble. Personnel problems always start small, and are much easier to solve if dealt with quickly.

      2. Miss Muffet*

        I can def see this. I’m an evangelical Lutheran (and I’m sorry to hear you had such bad experiences with this!) and I’ve always been a super regular church-goer, youth leader, etc. I had a friend in college – when I was actively working at a church – try to convert me to his brand of evangelical Christianity. I was like dude, I’m good here. Your energy is better spent elsewhere (but now I think, don’t even spend it elsewhere, or at least on else-person).

      3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yes, if you just accept JC as your personal savior, all your clothes will magically convert into pastel colors!

      4. tangerineRose*

        If she’d cornered you, put her hand on your head and then decided to try to sell you Amway products, she’d also be very much in the wrong. Seems like she doesn’t worry about other people’s feelings.

    4. Gracely*

      This. I mean, it’s a horrific violation no matter where LW1 works, but I would *also* be worried for the students. Is she going to do this to student employees she meets? Is she going to do this in other scenarios where she interacts with students?

      HR should *already* be up in arms over her doing it to you, but if for some reason they’re not, they and the upper admin sure as fuck should be concerned about what it could mean for students who might have a chance interaction with her.

  33. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: I’m going to say about my utter failure once as a manager, to give background into why I absolutely WILL stop any religious or anti-religious harassment going on at work.

    A guy on our team started work and all seemed well for several months. Then he started complaining about the gay man sat next to him because his religion stated gay = wrong. So he kept trying to ‘witness’ to him and praying for the gay to go away and then finally demanded that I move him to an area of the office that didn’t have ‘sinful people’.

    I should have stopped it before even this point. I failed to protect my staff, because when I refused (hi! I’m Wiccan, bisexual, had a Jewish grandmother and I’m your BOSS) he showed up to work a while later drunk as a lord and punched the guy. (Yes he got fired instantly – but later claimed we hadn’t made accommodations for his religion or his alcoholism and sadly the company paid out).

    Extreme case I know. But at any ‘my beliefs are that your beliefs are wrong’ talk in the office I want to know about it so I can stop it. That lady at your place gives me the shivers.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Ouch. You’re right, though, it’s always easier to shut this kind of rubbish down if you intervene early, rather than after it’s become entrenched.

    2. DJ Abbott*

      I think you’re right. I’ve known fundamentalists who seemed capable of physically forcing a person to their church, and I think LW1’s coworker does have that capacity.

  34. Mishpochah*

    I am a Jew by choice, too, and it is not uncommon where I live (in the Deep South) for Christians to invite you to join their prayer groups and Bible study groups — and to assume it’s a big compliment to you that you’re being asked. This really bothers me, mainly because of the assumption that we’re all Christian (we aren’t) and we should be so pleased we’re being invited.

    For years I used to hem and haw, because I didn’t want to be offensive. Now, after reading the detective novels of Texas writer (and singer) Kinky Friedman, I just say, “I’m Jewish and you know what brother Kinky Friedman says: they don’t make Jews like Jesus anymore.” Then I laugh and they laugh and there endeth the encounter.

    1. Clobberin’ Time*

      If they’re laughing, I’m guessing that they haven’t listened to the lyrics of that song!

    2. Delta Delta*

      Remember when he ran for governor of Texas? I still proudly wear my Kinky for Governor t-shirt from time to time. (I don’t live in Texas; I’m just a fan of Kinky)

    3. Grey Panther*

      Another Kinky F. fan here. If I’m remembering correctly, done of his signoff lines during his gubernatorial campaign was, “Thanks for coming, and may the god of your choice bless you.”

      Always liked that line … I’ve used it a few times recently.

    4. Yep.*

      I lived in Florida for a bit in my elementary years and people use to stand outside my synagogue during the high holidays and pray for our conversion. complete with a bomb threat one time!

      I refuse to live down south largely for this reason.

      1. tangerineRose*

        A bomb threat. What is wrong with people?!

        That’s not the love that Jesus talked about. Plus, how ignorant are some people that they haven’t figured out that Jesus probably wouldn’t like people being mean to Jewish people – He was Jewish, and so was his mom.

    5. LW #1*

      That’s a great quote and I am adding that to my reading list now.

      A friend asked me what I thought of Jesus now and I replied, “Good guy. Great Jew. Not my messiah.” and that was that. My Rabbi thinks it would make a great bumper sticker.

      1. Modesty Poncho*

        That’s basically what my Rabbi used to say if anyone asked, lol. That he thought Jesus was a Nice Jewish Boy he’d love to set his daughter up with but not the messiah.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I am agnostic, but was raised a pretty low key kind of Christian. We were taught about the new covenant, but basically told that your behavior, not your beliefs, are what God cares about. We were also taught that good people who are not Christian had God’s love and a place in heaven, and people who were Christian but treated others badly hurt God and did not have any right to expect a place in heaven. Basically, good behavior mattered, and that was being kind, compassionate, respectful, and apologizing when we are wrong and/or hurt others. And we were not taught intolerant behaviors … like I do not remember there ever being time when we did not have gay members of the congregation and the clergy.

        We were taught that being Christian is about being a good person, like Jesus was. Someone who helped others, stood up for vulnerable people, showed love and compassion. That was more important than whether he was the son of God or the messiah.

        So, I am not a Jew, just an agnostic now, but I am totally borrowing that quote, because it sums up my feelings about Jesus perfectly!

  35. hamsterpants*

    LW#5: Other than forgotten ingredients, the word “vegetarian” means different things in different cultures and subcultures. Living in the USA, my white 60-year-old “vegetarian” neighbors eat chicken and fish but not eggs or dairy. Some of my “vegetarian” Hindu colleagues eat seafood but not eggs. My “vegetarian” Millennial peers eat no fish but do eat eggs and dairy.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      Lol! If you eat chicken and fish you’re not vegetarian.

      Lots of people will make vegetable dishes, but use chicken stock to make it. No big deal, unless you’re truly a no animal product person.

      1. rubble*

        I believe hamsterpants is saying that many people either come from a culture where “vegetarian” means something different to what it means in the west, or accidentally misuse the word, or learnt the word/converted to the lifestyle when it meant something different to what it means modern culture.

        chicken stock isn’t just an animal “product” like eggs or milk, it’s literally a chicken boiled in a pot. vegetarians (following the mainstream definition) don’t eat boiled chicken and they don’t drink the water it was boiled in. it is definitely a big deal.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          Or, alternatively, use “vegetarian” as shorthand to mean “meat under controlled circumstances” – its easier than explaining kosher or halal to your majority Christian coworkers – who you might not even want to get into your religion with for fear of LW1’s experience.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            Hah, that one came up in conversation the other day, I think I mentioned it in some other AAM thread though.

          2. JustaTech*

            Yes to this: a lot of people just don’t know.
            Today I was labeling my offerings for the bake sale and since one of them had marshmallows in it I included the note “not kosher/halal” on the ingredient label, because I couldn’t remember if these marshmallows had gelatin in them, but I figured that cheap store-brand marshmallows probably do.

      2. hamsterpants*

        The purpose of labeling dishes is to make the potluck more inclusive. Deciding that one definition of “vegetarian” is The One True Definition and that all other definitions are incorrect is the opposite of inclusiveness. (Psst: it also broadcasts the narrowness of your life experiences.)

      3. BrilliantBrunette*

        There’s plenty of cultures and religions that don’t consider fish (or all fish) to be meat. Jewish kosher customs distinguish between types of fish; Catholics don’t consider fish to be meat during Lenten fasting, etc.

  36. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    #1. I’m so outraged for you!
    What makes people so emboldened about evangelical Christianity that they’re always trying to force it onto others? IDK? The constant haranguing about church was bad enough, but this is to a level of accosting you now and needs to be reported. Personally, I feel this person has done a fireable offense. You cannot just grab people like that.

    #5: Ah the dreaded work potlucks are back!
    I’m a bit of a picky eater and never really liked work potlucks.

    1. Jj*

      My father is a member of a non-denominational organization and they have a non proselytization policy. A person looked into joining but when he found out about it noped out because apparently it’s required in gi church.

  37. ManyHats*

    LW1: I absolutely despise having my head touched (except by my hairstylist, of course) so that woman would have gotten royally cussed out, especially if she’d made repeated attempts to evangelize me. Go to HR stat. I’d be interested to know if she bothers atheist and agnostic colleagues as well – I’m betting yes.

  38. Joie de Vivre*

    #5 – ingredient cards would be nice.

    As someone voluntold to coordinate the last office potluck – getting cards will probably be an uphill and time consuming battle. I had problems getting people to tell me what they were bringing- so we wouldn’t end up with 20 mashed potatoes and no rolls.

    And keeping ingredient cards with the correct dish when the food table is crowded and people keep rearranging the food to fit more will be really hard.

    1. Generic Name*

      Just because something is hard or inconvenient doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done in order to be more inclusive.

      1. hamsterpants*

        If you think anything about an office potluck is not complicated, you should read last week’s post about office potluck mishaps!

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      I regularly do ingredient cards for one of my social orgs, because we have people allergic to mushrooms, black pepper, soy oil, etc. I include everything I put in it, but if it’s a common commercial product, like “Campbells Cream of Mushroom Soup” I will just list that, because its ingredient list is well known. (If I have a lot of time I’ll list it separately as well, but I seldom have time.

      I just tape the card to the aluminum steam table tray that I use so I don’t have to deal with dishes.

  39. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP3: Definitely tell them that going through your bag without permission isn’t acceptable. Because it’s not.

    I have a lock on my rucksack not because I’m afraid of my laptop getting nicked but because I carry my meds in there and I’m deeply afraid that someone might get them, look up what they are for and suddenly my job is in jeopardy because X found out I’m taking antipsychotics.

    Basically I’m paranoid.

    But also it’s been a recurring thing, since I work in IT, that people feel entitled to sort through your stuff for spare cables/parts/Allen keys/post it notes etc and while I’m trying to spread the word of my mother (who taught me never to go into her handbag – pretty sure she has a tame black hole in there) it’s hard.

    Definitely tell people that they’re way out of line for doing it, but also prepare yourself for them trying to justify their choice and keeping on doing it.

    1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      I really do hope your mother has “a tame black hole in there.” I hope somebody does.

    2. tangerineRose*

      Honestly, I’m not sure that you’re paranoid about this. I’d have the same fear in your position. But then again, people say I worry too much.

  40. HB*

    LW1: I was so outraged on your behalf I came straight to the comments without reading any of the other letters.

    I had an incident with a cousin years ago who is Catholic – I had shared a story about a local restaurant where the owner handed a lesbian couple a handwritten letter condemning them. My cousin tried to defend the restaurant owner because he was following his beliefs and I came down on him like a ton of bricks. We live in a society where people have basically been taught that *some* religious beliefs trump everyone else’s. This woman committed spiritual *assault* on you. I *really* don’t think if you had told her directly to stop that this incident would have been avoided, in fact she may have done something sneakier.

  41. LCH*

    For #1, I figure the LW would have mentioned, but does this dept work directly with students? If the coworker harassing students? Will she in the future?

    1. LW #1*

      Thank you everyone for your replies. I have responded to a few throughout.

      I haven’t gone to HR yet. I fully admit being anxious about doing so. But I know I need to. On the advice of someone in the comments. I will be contacting someone from Hillel today to see who exactly to go to in HR for this. I care very much for my job and my blossoming career so I want to do this right. I am anxious about retaliation as this person has been at the University for a long time and is well beloved. And her church is huge and infamously pushy. And as many of you know, it’s been an extra scary time being a Jew in the America with the rise in antisemitism. I mentioned, I don’t think she would do anything to me seriously harmful, but I don’t know who SHE knows. And I don’t trust her church. I also deal with a lot of anxiety in general. I am going to see if until this is resolved since her office suite is near mine, if I could work remotely until this is resolved. My position isn’t student facing and I do work about 50% remote anyway.

      I did find out she gave religious literature to a colleague who is part of a targeted group as well. But he’s not wanting to go to HR for reasons I completely respect. But, I feel as if she’s just going to get worse and more relentless. My director is supportive and offered to talk to her boss but she’s been doing stuff like this for a long time now and obviously he’s not put a stop to it. It’s been tolerated. Or she gets told to stop and does so for an amount or time and starts up again. So I feel HR is the best option after I discuss things with someone I know at Hillel.

      I think this also has thrown me into a bit of a bad mental health spiral of depression and anxiety. I hate the fact I’ve let this slide for a few weeks, but it’s scared me. And brought out a lot of past religious trauma. I am thankful for a supportive partner, great friends, a wonderful Rabbi, a caring therapist, and the Ask a Manager community for wonderful support. Seriously, I feel much better after reading all these comments and the always wonderful advice from Alison.

      I promise to send in an update once there’s some resolve to this situation.

      1. Sylvan*

        It’s pretty understandable that you’d be nervous, between this particular person and rising antisemitism in general. I hope HR can help you and get her to stop it.

        Just a thought, could you ask your coworker if he’s okay with you telling HR about his situation? He might not want to report it on his own, but he could be comfortable with you mentioning it, so HR understands that you’re not the only person she’s trying to convert.

      2. Emma2*

        Please don’t be hard on yourself for letting this slide for a few weeks – it is hard, and it is not fair that not only did this happen to you, but now you are facing the work and discomfort of dealing with it with HR, etc. Also, this is all on your coworker, not on you, she behaved incredibly inappropriately, she put you in a difficult situation and she is potentially putting the university at risk.

      3. Teapet*

        Good luck and I hope you get the support you need from Hillel. And if not from Hillel, I hope you have the resources to get the assistance of a lawyer, because your coworker’s behavior is absolutely abhorrent. Perhaps Hillel or a lawyer might have ideas about how to protect yourself from their church as well. Maybe when HR talks to her, they can make it clear that if she talks about this to her church and they retaliate, that she’ll be fired? (Though to be frank, I think her putting hands on you is grounds for dismissal already, but it sounds like that’ll guarantee retaliation from her church.)

        I can see why Alison suggested explicitly telling your coworker to stop (she’s much more diplomatic than I am!), but I have little hope that someone who believes that G-d commands them to harass people will respect your wishes.

        1. RunShaker*

          I would hope HR will take this serious since university’s staff is 40% Jewish and if crazy pants’s church goes after OP#1. There’s safety in numbers & I wonder if other persons have been harassed due to religious reason & that are ok with meeting with HR? I’m not Jewish but I no longer practicing Catholic or any religion. Am interested in Wiccan. I’ve seen the rise of antisemitism & minorities in general over the last several years. I turned down job offer due to area in Texas where the employer is located (evangelical christian area) . The recruiter also helped to turn me off on the job when he said the company (a bank) is know for their good christian values. My first thought was what if you’re not christian? Would they refuse to hire you if not christian? Then found out they demean themselves essential & remained in the office during the entire pandemic for the good of the community. I’m like nope.

  42. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Re: LW1 – I like to amuse myself by imagining what would go down if I pressed a copy of the tenets of satanism into the hand of a person like your harrasser, and earnestly invited them to join me on the path of joy and enlightenment. Because I know with absolute certainty that they would have a huge meltdown and try to get me fired. (I’m not saying you SHOULD have a huge meltdown and try to get them fired, mind you. Just that it would be justified if you did.)

    1. Dinwar*


      The coworker is getting away with it because it’s the default religion, and everyone just accepts that this sort of thing will happen. If you’re a member of a non-default religion, doing the same thing would cause tremendous problems. Going to HR would be the least of my worries, if I offered to perform a spell for a random coworker–there’s a not-insignificant chance some of the folks I work with would become physically violent. (It’s a construction-adjacent field, and “Has only spent a little time in federal prison” is the request for some positions…)

  43. NorthernTeacher*

    I worked at a school that had community potlucks. Similar problems as Joie de Vivre mentioned. So what we did was print out our own cards with common allergy/dietary needs (halal, eggs, nuts, flour ..etc) already written on the card. People just needed to write the name of the dish at the top and circle what was in the dish. Many choose to cross off things not in their dish as well. There was space at the bottom for those who wanted to add more information. Then tape ensured that it stayed close to the dish. Essentially, as the dish was dropped off, the person was given the card and a pen to fill in right away. It also reduced issues with difficulty reading hand writing or misspellings.

  44. Not Mindy*

    I have a kind of amusing anecdote about religious conversion conversations.

    My sister-in-law was in the hospital for many months, part of it in a medically induced coma. After coming out of the coma she was, understandably, pretty out of it a lot of the time, and her care time wanted to know about odd behaviors and her state of mind since obviously the nurses and doctors weren’t there all the time to witness them!

    One morning she was very distressed. She told me that the Pope had talked to her the previous evening and asked her to convert to Judaism. She told me that she didn’t want to convert but was concerned that she would offend Jewish people who were “perfectly nice people, she just didn’t want to be one.” I assured her that she was just fine and no one would be offended.

    When it came time for rounds she was no longer talking about needing to convert. But I had the fun time of talking to the care team about it, many of whom (I’m pretty sure) were Jewish. I was a bit uncomfortable (I was young and didn’t have the self confidence I do now) and it was probably obvious when I got to the “perfectly nice” part. A few doctors chuckled at me and made jokes about being happy to be called perfectly nice.

    1. UKDancer*

      I imagine most doctors are used to people making no sense after procedures involving sedation or anaesthesia. So they are probably fine with it.

  45. Sylvan*

    LW1: HR, now. Describe everything she did. Don’t tell her that you’ll go to HR if she does it again. Just rip the Band-Aid off and do it.

    Also, you didn’t mention whether you were ever Christian to begin with. Odd that she thinks you were.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yes. This is a go straight to HR, do not pass go moment.

      OP1, you might feel because you did not explicitly tell her to stop before that you cannot go to HR now. But you CAN. And SHOULD. Explain it all.

      If you had told her to stop, it probably would not have done any good anyway. She firmly believes that her religion COMPELS her to harass you. So nothing you can do to be “nice” or “avoid a scene” would have stopped that. So all you did was avoid even more excuse making by her.

      Good luck. Keep us informed.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. If I were the manager in this case, I’d want to know about this. Yesterday.

      Full disclosure: I’m a practicing Christian. But this woman’s behavior is so far over the line, she’s in another state by now. LW1 really needs to alert HR and her manager.

  46. honoria*

    Yeah. This is not “religious people” doing this–it is specifically Christians.
    And please don’t start up with the whataboutism referencing that time a non-Christian totally did this (we know damn well that’s an anomaly, at least in the USA), or start going on about how you are not that type of Christian because No True Scotsman . . .

  47. That One Person*

    1 – Please people also don’t do this to retail workers. I feel like I got the most people praying for me when I was basically tied to the fitting rooms. Couldn’t really run away, had plenty to do, but these people would insist so I’d just let them because it was faster and then I could brush off any offers to go to their church when the phone rang (probably the only time I was happy to hear that thing). Basically same reasoning behind trying to ask someone behind a cash register out: they’re paid to be nice, but likely not actually interested so just let them finish out their shift in peace.

    2 – Plenty of other shenanigans could happen to those shirts that would result in asking for new ones so don’t worry about it. People shapes change, pets find things to chew/scratch, kids decide on spontaneous art projects, the coffee mug has had it up to here with your beverages and its going over the edge/gravity unfortunately works, etc. Life happens.

    1. tinybutfierce*

      1 – For REAL. When I was a teen working in a grocery store, it wasn’t uncommon for a customer to hand me a Chick Tract after I’d finished ringing them up. They always went straight in the trash can as soon as they’d left.

      1. whiskeytangof*

        Wow – learned something new today.

        Assumed that was slang for some creepy way of hitting on you. Googled it and …. wow, the “creepy” part was spot on, but really missed the mark on the rest.

      2. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

        Word. And there should be a metaphorical circle of hell for restaraunt customers who give out tracts instead of tips to servers, especially those tracts printed to look like currency.

      3. MsSolo UK*

        We used to get handed them occasionally when I worked at a museum. They were mostly the subject of mild amusement, especially among the younger staff who hadn’t seen them before. I don’t think we had anyone try to proselytise to staff more directly, because people get very shy talking to staff dressed up as Victorians at the best of times, and there were absolutely members of staff who’d have leapt on the “you’re talking to me? Let me tell you every single thing I know about the history of Quaker cocoa houses in this city / all of the many and various poisonous pharmaceuticals and the importance of evidence based medicine / why the white mice you’re thinking off are a post-war invention and not the same as Victorian sugar mice” opportunity.

        (I used to live near the mormon church, which meant I got accosted by people on mission on the way home more often than not, and honestly, it was a small joy when I saw those sharp suits and name tags in the museum, because they were on my turf now! Being able to make eye contact without the risk of evangelism was a bit of a treat)

        1. That One Person*

          That is honestly beautiful, especially when you’re at work so of course you’re expected to educate! If I’d had to deal with on the regular I might’ve tried to figure out a better trick, but it was luckily infrequent enough to just be kind of uncomfortable.

  48. Pookie*

    Oh the irony of someone telling a Jewish person to come back to Jesus, who in fact was Jewish. The minute someone touches you at work without explicit permission is time to get HR involved.

    1. Essess*

      Personally, the time to get HR was even before that. Constant harassment about a worker’s religion falls squarely into violating labor laws.

  49. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#4 — No, as Alison says, don’t try to guilt your Nice Young Man into staying, but you can certainly be upbeat about the things that you can offer him. In your position, I think I would put together an offer package for him: “Here’s the salary we can offer you, here are the benefits. We have been very impressed with your work, and would love to add you to our team full time.”

    In addition to the flexible environment you have in place, and which he already knows about, can you offer to support some professional development opportunities for him? You don’t say what your field is, but this might be an incentive for someone just starting out in it.

    Don’t guilt trip him, claim that you’re a “family,” or do anything else that gets tagged with the “Wait, What?!” tag in the AAM archives. But if you’re professional and candid about what you’re able to offer him, he might be willing to stay a few years, especially if he’s committed to your geographic area.

  50. a tester, not a developer*

    I grew up hearing “s/he has returned to Jesus” as a way of saying someone had passed away. So as horrifying as the actual situation is, I was relieved that OPs co-worker wasn’t wishing she was dead.

    1. irene adler*

      That was my first thought too! A co-worker wants you dead?? Holy cow! Leave the vicinity immediately!

  51. Molly*

    #1: She touched you without your permission. What’s next? If you turn away and try to ignore her, will she grab your arm and forcibly turn you back to her? Oh hell no!
    Go to and stress to them if she touches you again, you will consult a lawyer!

    1. CatBookMom*

      I was alarmed at the earlier actions of this proselytizer. But how did you manage not to reach up and push her hand off your head, before that “lengthy” prayer finished? Shock accounts for some of the delay, but I hope you still have some internal fuming that has moved you along soonest to HR, to complain in loud terms.

      Proselytizers, of any faith, religious or con-game (remember self-help gurus?), cause me to move as fast as possible away from them. IMO, they share a lot of personality traits with low-level work bullies; I have some history with those, not relevant here.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Sheer shock at the activity can cause you to freeze in place as your brain tries to process the level of violation involved.

    1. ABCYaBYE*

      The thing is that the closet full of snacks is a benefit. They’re not asking the individual to work for free… they just listed the closet full of snacks as one of the benefits the company offers.

      The question was whether it unethical to not pay the person what they could earn elsewhere. If the offer is presented with the salary they can pay, plus the benefits they’ve listed, the individual can choose whether to pursue employment elsewhere or not.

      1. Qwerty*

        I was surprised to realize how important the snacks and soda are to me. Personally I prefer job with okay pay and good food/soda supply over high pay and having to fend for myself / worry about who is taking my soda from the fridge. It just frees up mental energy and reduces what I have to plan for the day. But its the norm in my field, which probably skews my expectations.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        That’s true, but I think listing a snack closet as though it’s comparable to a fair wage is a little disingenuous. The last time I checked utility companies don’t take individual bags of Cheetos in exchange for heat or water.

    1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      “Let go of me now. Do not touch me.” In a voice that carries throughout the building. Honestly PTSD here due to domestic abuse. I’d have been hard pressed to not have an automatic hand reaction if someone cornered me and put their hand on my head. @Luna I stuck up a Kuzco No Touchy sign at the beginning of the pandemic before they shut down Cubicle Land. Still seriously considering it as my next tattoo.

  52. Wendy*

    I get the sense that people *in general* have issues with religion, but man created religion

    Since man created religion, our issues and frustrations need to be directed towards man

  53. ABCYaBYE*

    LW1 – I started reading and was annoyed on your behalf. Then I got to the part where the coworker put hands on you and prayed. March directly to HR. That’s completely unacceptable in and of itself, but then praying over you and closing with you returning to Jesus is so far beyond acceptable. This is at work!

  54. managing my dog*

    LW1 I am so horrified. I cannot believe that this type of thing happens in real life. that is so over the top and ridiculous. As a christian I apologize for the blatant disregard of your feelings, and the disrespect of your persons. I’m so grossed out by your coworker.

    I hate the “in your face, i’m right – you’re wrong, my way or the high way” type of christianity. i dont think its biblical and it is definitely disrespectful and disgusting.

    1. Good without God*

      Agreed, it is disrespectful. I am an adult who has their personal thoughts on the matter and it is insulting and infantilizing for someone to act as though I have been insensate and unaware of the options potentially available through organized religion. After being told by a Christian co-worker a few years ago that Scripture was very clear and that I was definitely going to Hell because I was divorced, I was just like great, as long as I don’t need to spend eternity with my former spouse. I also don’t want to spend an eternity with a deity who faults me for taking my innocent children out of a bad domestic situation. Or, presumably, HER.

  55. ABCYaBYE*

    OP4 – If you offer the individual a position and a salary that is fair based on what your company can afford to pay, there’s nothing wrong with that. If that person chooses to stay with you, they’re making a decision that is personal to them. They probably know that they could earn more elsewhere. I don’t even think you need to highlight that they could earn more elsewhere. You offer what you can offer and then leave it in their court to decide what to do.

  56. Luna*

    “Janice, I have told you before to not discuss your religion with me, including not praying for me or demanding I come back to Jesus. You need to stop that, right now.” And then go let HR know about this issue, including that you have had this happen for a while and you have now put your foot down and very clearly told her to stop. If she doesn’t, that’s when HR and her manager will step in and tell her to stop, lest she get worse consequences.

  57. Observer*

    #5 – Ingredient cards are an EXCELLENT idea. I do want to call out something that a few people have pointed out. That is that ALL the ingredients need to be listed, and specifically. “Seasoning” doesn’t cut it – I can’t have pepper, but I can have garlic while my husband can’t have garlic. “seasoning” doesn’t tell either of us whether either of us can eat it.

    Also, if people can note what their kitchen is like, overall. Like, I cannot have wheat, but if you used the same bowl for a mix with wheat flour and then a mix I could have, I’d be ok. My relative with Celiac would not be so ok. And people who are highly allergic to dairy should probably not eat from the kitchen of someone who is constantly cooking with milk. On the other hand, in my experience people with that kind of sensitivity don’t eat anything cooked by someone that they don’t know for sure that they can trust.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      In practice, ingredient cards are helpful, but it’s unrealistic to expect full compliance, or full detail from everyone.

      People who don’t have serious restrictions rarely understand the level of detail needed.
      But the cards are at least helpful for people who have mild sensitivities/allergies and aren’t going to be severely affected if they get a bit of something unexpected.

      If someone’s restrictions are serious enough that the state of the kitchen matters, they probably can’t risk potluck food even with ingredient cards.

      1. Observer*

        You are right. Which is why I agree with all of the people who say “Be OK with people who say no”. Do the best you can, and then understand that sometimes it’s just not going to be enough. But if you want to be as inclusive as practical, try to get as much information as possible on the cards.

  58. Jenna*

    Sigh, LW1 I’m sorry about your coworker, as an evangelical Christian myself I hate reading these kinds of stories because it makes us all look bad. I promise not all (I’d venture to say not even most) evangelical Christians are weird, boundary-crossing, disrespectful, unprofessional, over-the-top wack jobs. One of my favorite sayings I’ve ever heard from a pastor is, “God isn’t weird, people are.” Amen to that. Agree with the advice to go to HR!

    1. Bromaa*

      welll… you do belong to a religion that via its name insists on public witness to faith and the necessity of conversion, so I’m going to say that to people who have no desire to be publicly witnessed to or converted, you *are* all kind of boundary-crossing and disrespectful if you adhere to those tenets of your religion. and if you don’t, or your church doesn’t, are you actually evangelical? because every evangelical I’ve met has very explicitly been interested in the state of my soul, my religious beliefs, where I went to church, or if I wanted to come to this nice church event, and made sure I knew about it. they were otherwise quite nice, kind people, but they also clearly thought that they were being normal and chill and not “making us all look bad”. but they were people I stopped associating with pretty much immediately because they were super, super pushy. it’s just something to think about!

      1. Dinwar*

        This reads very much as “I know your religion better than you do.”

        I think a safe starting assumption is that a religious group generally has a good idea where they stand on the basic tenants of their faith. The interpretation may seem strange to outsiders, but those within it generally are going to have an understanding of how their behaviors fit their theology. Any discussion with them should start with the assumption that if their actions seem to contradict their professed theology (and to be clear, a name IS NOT a profession of theological stances), the outsider is missing something.

        1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

          You’re assuming that anyone who criticizes a religion (in this case evangelical Christianity) is an outsider. Do those of us who were evangelicals and left lose all our knowledge of the religion when we leave? I can definitely say that when I was growing up in a church I was explicitly taught to witness just like LW#1’s execrable coworker did and I listened to adults congratulating each other on such behavior and ascribing the pushback they got as evidence the world is evil, etc.

        2. Bromaa*

          The evangelicals I referred to above said things precisely like this person, down to often citing fun things their pastor has said, and portrayed themselves as Not All Evangelicals. Even the liberal Evangelicals I know — lovely, trans and queer affirming, BLM activists — still make sure anyone they run into knows All About How Great Jesus Is, Look How Affirming My Church Is, You Should Come.

          it’s harsh, maybe, but it’s true. it’s always worth examining yourself — both as an individual and a church body, and especially as a member of a privileged group of any kind — to be sure you aren’t part of the problem.

          1. Nomic*

            This has gotten rather off topic. May I suggest y’all stop centering yourselves in someone else’s problem?

      2. DJ Abbott*

        The term Evangelical is technically a specific denomination of Christian church.
        I was surprised to learn this from a nice young couple I met several years ago. He was in training to be a pastor and they both enthusiastically practice their religion.
        They have never tried to proselytize me and I’m sure they would never behave like LW‘s coworker.
        However, the term Evangelical has been hijacked by the fundamentalists. They call themselves evangelical and there’s a very strong association of people like LW1’s coworker with this name.
        The actual Evangelical denomination will have to find a new name to separate themselves from the fundamentalist monsters.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      That’s the thing isn’t it – this isn’t acceptable to practically anyone! It’s outrageous to a person avowed of another religion, it’s awful to as n atheist, it’s offensive to most Christians even an evangelical one such as yourself which if memory serves re the meaning of evangelism, does involve a certain amount of spreading the word (doubtless in a much politer way). I’m going to fix on that word actually – whatever your religious position, this just isn’t polite. If you told Jane she was being rude and I’ll-mannered she’d probably be gobsmacked!
      So yes as Alison says, people shouldn’t do this to ANYONE!
      I’m Christian-ish but Jane pulled that crap on me I’d slap her with an official grievance so fast her head would spin.

    3. Lunar Caustic*

      Can you find a different place to self-soothe instead of foisting your feelings and insecurity onto a person who has been hurt by your religion? This isn’t helpful or kind.

        1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

          It is not “assuming motivations without evidence” to call out an instance of a very common pattern (someone in a disprivileged group describes an instance of bigotry inflicted by someone from a privileged group and another person from the privileged group promptly centers their own feelings in the discussion).

  59. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Honestly, where I am, this might rise to the level of stalking, which might be sufficient to get a restraining order. In the event HR does nothing, a restraining order might be what gets this person’s attention. And that would most certainly also get HR’s attention.

  60. Risha*

    LW1 I’m an atheist and although I’m not super open about it, I will say I am if someone asks what my religion is. I’ve had religious people (at work!!!) tell me that I better come to church or I’ll go to hell (which I don’t believe in), I’ve been told that Jesus died for me and I should open my heart to him, etc etc. Why do some religious people do this? Do they think threatening someone with hell is going to make them want to convert to that religion?

    If you haven’t done so already, first try to be firm but polite. You can say something like “I do not wish to discuss religion at work and I would appreciate it if you stop doing this”. There’s a good chance she won’t listen to your polite request so at that point you can be more forceful and loop your manager/HR in. At that point, at least you can say you asked her to stop and she refuses to. This is pretty serious and no matter what your religion is, you have the right to not be harassed about it at work. Shut that crap down now before you start resenting your job.

    1. Observer*

      Do they think threatening someone with hell is going to make them want to convert to that religion?

      Yes. Yes, they do.

      If you haven’t done so already, first try to be firm but polite.

      No. I don’t think that the OP has any obligation at this point. What the coworker did crossed SO many bright red lines, that the OP no longer has an obligation to play nice.

      At that point, at least you can say you asked her to stop and she refuses to.

      At this point, the OP could speak to the CW, but HR simply CANNOT insist that she talk to CW first. At this point, HR *must* intervene because this is not the type of thing that anyone should ever have to “ask” to not happen.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yes. If the OP had been *totally fine* with the other behavior to this point and said nothing for that reason, it would still be reasonable to go straight to HR when the coworker put hands on her head and vocally prayed over. Doubly so if “cornered me” means that the coworker was actively blocking OP in so OP couldn’t leave without getting more physical with CW. None of that would be okay *even if* OP was otherwise unbothered by the CW inviting them to things and so on. (Nor is it reasonable for the CW to assume OP is okay with it even if they said nothing, because obviously, this is ridiculous. But this action went right past “tell them no” and into “WTF” really fast.)

    2. Dinwar*

      “Why do some religious people do this? Do they think threatening someone with hell is going to make them want to convert to that religion?”

      You’re trying to understand a religious person’s theology by assuming from the start that they don’t believe their theology. That usually is going to give you wrong answers.

      From the perspective of these Christians they aren’t threatening you. They’re WARNING you. What they’re doing is no different from a doctor telling you “If you don’t quit smoking three packs a day you’re going to get lung cancer”. Hell is, to those who believe this religion, every bit as real as lung cancer is to a doctor. It’s not somewhere they send you to, but an inevitable consequence of the course of action you’re taking (this part gets….complicated; see theodicy for a full discussion!).

      If you saw someone you cared about destroying themselves with drugs, alcohol, or something else, wouldn’t you feel at least somewhat obliged to say something? Same thought process is occurring here.

      All that said, we live in a pluralistic society that includes a diverse array of religious beliefs. Liberty is not nice; it means constantly being faced with things you find offensive, and you just get to put on your grown-up pants and deal with it in ways that do not interfere with the other person. This includes Christians seeing non-Christians live in ways they (the Christians) think are wrong. So none of the above should be taken as an excuse for this sort of behavior. While the internet seems to be baffled by this concept, understanding something and explaining it do not mean that I agree with it or endorse it.

  61. Jessica Fletcher*

    For LW1, with a 40% Jewish campus, I’d be surprised if this was the first time the coworker did something like this! Surely she must have multiple students or coworkers who are Jewish. This might be the last straw for her with HR.

    1. Observer*

      Either that or no one has complained to HR yet. So you would be doing everyone a favor by putting this in front of them.