Thoughts and Prayers

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This topic contains 39 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Strega 4 years, 8 months ago.

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    Simon, if Beth was a Muslim would you consider it OK for her manager to ask her to pray to Jesus? While at work religious discrimination is against the law just as sexual discrimination or racial decimation is also against the law. Would a black woman be overly sensitive in complaining about racial “humor” at work? Would a gay man be a “snowflake” for not wanting to hear the conservative religious views of his line manager? Breaking the law is breaking the law, no matter how trivial it may appear to you. We do fight the serious cases all the time but the lesser ones are important too.

    Yes, Christians do point out that cases like Beth’s are trivial but they are bigots. If they think that they are breaking the law “just a little bit” (my words) and that it is OK to proselytize then can I assume that you think it is OK for employers to be just a little bit racist or a little bit homophobic to their workers too?

    It is not one broken window that is the problem but the tolerance we have for allowing it to stay broken that is. My tolerance for it is zero and I will support Beth or anyone else all the way when it comes to religious bullying. I don’t want to have to play with their toys.


    No, the company should either stay out of people’s private lives or obey the law and leave the word “prayers” out of it.



    I did a little more research on the EEO laws (including my own company’s policy), and I can’t quite make out whether this really does violate the law or not–it seems to be a bit of a gray area. While I do agree with Simon that this isn’t an egregious example of religious discrimination, the religious tone of the email is making at least one employee uncomfortable (and who knows how many others–I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority in this position at my company, but it’s quite possible others feel the way I do and just haven’t spoken up) and it seems like I’m within my right to say something to HR.

    I prefer the cover of anonymity, not because I fear retaliation from my company (I know I’m legally covered there, and in all other aspects this company treats its employees really well–this thoughts and prayers things is its only offense so far since I’ve been working there), but because I don’t want it to seem like I’m making a sensitive situation (the death of a loved one) all about me.

    They do have good intentions sending these emails out, but I think that religious language should be struck entirely, as it’s inappropriate in a company-wide email. They should say “condolences” or “sympathies” instead.



    Beth, why don’t you wander in to HR and point out that although you personally aren’t actually offended, the terminology does expose the company to unnecessary negativity in not complying with the general understanding that religion ought to be kept away from the workplace?



    @strega I prefer to stay anonymous, not because I think the HR rep would blab or that the company would retaliate, I just don’t want to have a target on my back in case it gets out that someone complained and there is a personal response from my fellow employees. (The majority of them are Christians, and I can totally see a “But how could anyone possibly be offended by this? How dare they??” response.)

    Also, I think it’s important they know that someone *is* offended by the religious language. Of course they should clean their act up either way, but it would be an important indicator that they need to take their EEO responsibilities more seriously.



    If you feel anonymity would help 🙂



    I do. Plus, I express myself better in writing than in verbal communications. 🙂


    Do a search for the word “atheist” in this pdf from the EEOC.

    There is a point cited from the “Townley” judgement (ref 206 on page 81);

    Employer’s free exercise rights may be overridden where necessary to avoid religious discrimination

    I have previously pointed out to some people in Ireland that their employer will have them sign employment contracts that prevent them from any form of religious intolerance or discrimination at work but those same employers often abuse their position by pushing to get their own (usually Catholic here) ethos across. I knew one place where the manager expected everyone to go silent at lunchtime while he mumbled “grace to god” or whatever it is called before eating his sandwiches. I would have loved to have been in that canteen!



    Beth, can’t say i agree that your company is well-intended in giving that message. It is not malicious either.  It is simply mindless cant. Thoughts and prayers in such circumstances are for those who know and care for the deceased.

    It seems to me this affront is similar to merry christmas.  The assumption is that we are all christians who celebrate silly santa in his silly santa suit.  Your employer’s assumption is that there is a silly santa listening and we all subscribe to silly santa.

    Why not broaden your legal search to “merry christmas” and “happy holidays”, the accommodation for those offended by merry christmas.

    Employers in America have great latitude in discharging employees. Unless there is a contract of employment an employee is characterized as an employee at will and can be fired cuz the employer feels like it. It seems like a remnant from the time when all of the power was in the employer.  The employer continues to have a great deal of power. Laws designed to protect employees from discrimination strike a balance in the power between employer and employee.  Is there enough here to compel a change?  I am dubious that you will discover that  your employer is violating any laws. But I hope so.


    Simon Paynton

    @reg – @beth‘s problem is nowhere near even in the same ballpark as those offenses.  It’s kind of outside, in the car park, having a picnic, and looking over the fence of the ballpark.

    @beth – I think the religious people would have a point if they were upset that someone complained at the practice, which is, after all, proper respect for the dead, as they see it.

    However, if you, and what’s more, other people, are “uncomfortable” at being asked to be religious, you’ve got a point too.

    It seems like both sides have to be accommodated with respect.  So, maybe, on these presumably rare occasions, it could give both options for remembrance – the religious and the non-religious.

    @jakelafort – are you saying that people actually get “offended” when someone says “happy Christmas”?  Who?  The Offense Bunny?  I get offended that someone might offended by “happy Christmas”, but then I think it must be an urban myth.



    Jake’s mentioned most of what I had in mind, and I, too, would look into what the FFRF (thx Reg) would have to say. In my personal but (imo) bigger picture, I view ‘thoughts and prayers’, ‘merry christmas’, ‘bless you’ after a sneeze (and so on) less of a personal affront than many atheists, and more as cultural cliches. E.g. I’ve met Japanese who love to say merry christmas, rarely if ever even thinking about its connection to Christ.

    So I support your hope to make a difference locally anonymously, and would consider involvement with ffrf, aclu, (and Reg!) if you’re thinking of making a difference at a higher level.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 9 months ago by  PopeBeanie. Reason: fricken gingerbread mobile-edit shenanigans


    are you saying that people actually get “offended” when someone says “happy Christmas”?  Who?  The Offense Bunny?  I get offended that someone might offended by “happy Christmas”, but then I think it must be an urban myth.

    Wow Simon. How magnanimous your belittling of non-religious people’s offense to religious commentary in Public. You can wrap that condescending attitude with some humour but you are still dismissing people who have every right to express their frustration with religious loaded terms and expressions pervading their workspace, schoolspace etc. Nor you nor I live in a religiously charged enviroment. Some users here do. They encounter reminders of religion all the time, both with artifacts in public and the narratives and comments people use, in school, at work, at public events etc. That some of them express their frustration with having, on top of all of the above, endless religiously charged “Merry Christmas” dozens of times a day for a month…is totally understandable.

    You and live in countries where Christmas is highly secularised and for most people the religious artifacts and songs we come across appear more like relics to relive as a cultural history. Some people in religious America however have to deal with something far more intrusive at Christmas time, and Easter, and Lent etc. Their frustration should not be simply dismissed as silly. It is more than valid.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 9 months ago by  Davis.


    I think the religious people would have a point if they were upset that someone complained at the practice, which is, after all, proper respect for the dead, as they see it.

    Simply because one is passing through an emotionally difficult time, doesn’t make it suddenly acceptable to insert your world view in a public setting. Imagine if your son died and people repeatedly mentioned “as sure as heaven is real your boy is with the angels”, it would become infurating after some time. I don’t think anyone here would tollerate that for long, I certainly would put a stop to it. And I would instantly tell someone not to include me in a “you’re in our thoughts and prayers” because nothing is in my prayers because I don’t pray and I prefer to look at tragedy through a humanistic lens, not religion. Who likes having words put in their mouths?

    Somehow, when there is tragedy, people are less willing to call out religious intrusion, but if you were to do the same with a non-religious ideology, it would appear totally unacceptable. If you started talking about a marxist-lenninist view of tragedy or a utlitarian ethical offering on a tragedy, it would likely be upsetting for many people. The only reason Christians can get away with it in America, is because the majority of the people are Christian. As Reg pointed out, if it was a Muslim prayer or comment on “Hey…that’s just the karmic cycle” there would be complaints and it would not be repeated. But in her case, they are mostly Christian and for this reason feel entitled to inject their world view into other peoples tragedies in a public enviroment…and they feel more emboldened about it because its an emotionally charged time.

    There is never an easy time nor easy way to tell religious people who talk about their religion, that you are uncomfortable with it, especially when someone is speaking on your behalf in a religious manner. It is VERY innapropriate and if someone can deal with the fall out that comes after it, they should express their discomfort.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 9 months ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 9 months ago by  Davis.

    I have no problem with people saying that I am in their “thoughts and prayers”. I don’t even bother replying that “I will think for you” when I hear it. However it seems to be a “get out of jail free card” for most Christians. I prefer action, to do a “good deed” or to try to resolve the problem they have spent just one second thinking about. I also have no problem with anyone wishing me a Merry Christmas. I take them at face value. If I was Jewish or Muslim it might bother me, especially with the assumption of Christian privilege. But I care so little for such banalities that they hardly register with me.

    However if I am at work I will reply that I am here to work and not to listen to or read emails from Christians asking me to pray for dead people that I have never met. I have no problem asking them to stop bothering me with such things. If they tell me they are offended I will tell them that is because they have decided to take offense. If that does not end it I will tell them to stop whinging and take it up with the employer as I am bored stupid by it already.

    In the case I mentioned yesterday, I spent several hours with a work colleague whose father had died suddenly. The HR people seemed so concerned about getting us all to pray for the dead yet when his son returned to work not one of them offered him condolences.

    Simon – I already acknowledged that on the scale of offenses Beth’s case would appear minor. However it is still the abuse of Christian privilege in the workplace. It is illegal to discriminate (show favor to the majority) against workers on grounds of race, religion or sexuality. If you make an exception for religious favoritism then when someone is accused of racism or sexism they have an “out”. They can claim that the company breaches the law on a regular basis and that was seen as a green flag to some other idiot to be racist. Even if I was an ultra-right wing Christian I would ensure none of it was tolerated in my own company or business because I could be sued.

    I also know several survivors of clerical abuse, who are not Christians that could be upset with such constant “trivial” offenses in their work space. It is one thing to have a priest recite the Bible and ask you to pray with him after he rapes you, it is another to have to be asked to pray in work.

    If employers want us to engage in “Thoughts and Prayers” at work then they should give us an app to do that.

    Yours Holiness Pope Beanie – I have been a member of the FFRF for a long time. Dan Barker is a good friend to Atheist Ireland and has met us a few times over the years. They do excellent work.



    Simon, the  christmas season with its inundation from tv, radio, business and citizens with christmas messages and “merry christmas” made me sick as a kid.  Growing up jewish, (ancestry not religion)  atheist and not sharing their bigotry i felt like an outsider.  Hated hearing that crap.  God bless you was even worse.  No doubt many feel that way. And for those who live in the bible belt it must be much worse.  Hell, driving through the bible belt was culture shock for me.

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