December 20, 2007

Forcing your beliefs on others.

So you work for this company that likes to pride itself in being "diverse" and respecting different religions and beliefs of it's employees. Yet when it comes to this time of the year they show their true colors. You see that they are all talk because they are only tolerant of differences if it coincides with what they want.

Let's say you don't celebrate Christmas for various reasons, including religious. You've made it clear to not only your co-workers, but supervisors, managers and anyone you work with that you don't. And as part of your beliefs you do not accept or give gifts this time of year. If you've made this clear every year, you'd think they would catch on. Nope, they do things like ask you to put on Christmas plays, join in on Christmas gift exchanges, and participate in Christmas activities. Now sure they try to mask it by saying, we'll just call it a "Holiday" party or celebration. And just accept the gift as a celebration of your holiday.

The narrow minded don't always realize not all religions have a holiday this time of year.

Every day for the two weeks before Christmas you have someone, who knows better, continually try to get you to join in on the Christmas activities, or give you gifts even with your protests. It's just falling on deaf ears. They continually do it Management and co-workers. Some people respect your beliefs and support you, but the vast majority doesn't.

If this person worked in your office, would you give them the same advice I did? Contact a lawyer and sue for hostile work environment?

The person I'm talking about is very tolerant of other religions and beliefs. They don't complain about all the activities and Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza themes floating around. They really don't care, yet other than myself and one other person, no one is respecting their decision.

Posted by Contagion in Questions at December 20, 2007 06:23 PM | TrackBack

One idea might be to just let the celebration go as a national tradition & holiday rather than focusing on the religious aspects. A good big percentage of people who celebrate Christmas couldn't give a rat's ass about the religious part of it.

Posted by: Shadoglare at December 20, 2007 10:49 PM

In the least have they contacted HR about this? That would be the first step.

And for discrimination cases you first have to contact the EEOC and give them first shot and if they deny it then they will give a letter so you can go to a lawyer.

Any lawyer would tell the person this as the EEOC must always be contacted first.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at December 21, 2007 07:20 AM

I think you are missing the point. To this individual it is a violation of their beliefs/religion. You and I grew up in a household that celebrated Christmas as is the majority of households in America. You view it as harmless tradition. however if someone asked you to slaughter a goat in the spring as a celebration of the season as it's their tradition, you might be a little upset too.

I know they've talked to HR, but HR is giving them the same song and dance that Shadoglare stated.

Posted by: Contagion at December 21, 2007 08:08 AM

Well, I seem to be running into a little bit of a mental impass in that it feels like we're comparing apples & oranges with that example. If I'm getting your example right the goat slaughtering "tradition" has direct religious bearing, and is actually part of a religoius ritual. Exchanging Christmas gifts is not.
In fact, although it was tagged as an excuse to celebrate the birth of a religious icon, most Christmas traditions stem from activities that are pretty darned non-Christian in nature; although in some cases slightly modified by Christians.
The gift giving tradition stems from a saint who used to sneak around at night tossing pouches of gold into the windows of the poor so they wouldn't have to sell their daughters into prostitution (which, although was started by a saint, really has no religious value - he was just a nice guy). Guy's name was Saint Nikolas.
The Christmas tree is a modification of decorated tree used as part of a pagan sacrificial cerimony.
Rudolph started as a marketing campaign for Montgomery Ward.
Mistletoe's traditions stemmed from a druidic belief that slimy juice of the berries was god-semen.
Really about the only Christmas tradition that is actually Christian in origin is the manger story and any carols specifically referencing it. Something hardcore Christians may not want to admit (or even know), but it's the truth.
So if *those* are being forced on you I'd have a problem with it as well, otherwise that mental disconnect is still there.

Posted by: Shadoglare at December 21, 2007 09:29 AM

To me it would be the same as if that person were a recovering alcoholic and the co-workers were constintly trying to get them to drink or go to the bar even when the recovering alcoholic tells them no.

They are trying to force them to do something that they wish not to do and have repeatedly told them they don't want to do it.

Having to endure that yearly is harrassment.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at December 21, 2007 09:51 AM

Are you saying he's a recovering Christian that's worried he may be tempted to go back to church if he slips up and gives somebody a Christmas gift?
Contagion I know you well enough to know you follow a different belief system, however I'm really having trouble grasping why you seem to actually get upset over being asked to participate. Somebody could ask me to spin a draedle with them every year, and even if I have no interest in it I don't see myself getting bent out of shape over it even if they try to get me to do it on a yearly basis. Is it being implied that if you don't participate that it will affect your work or career?

Posted by: Shadoglare at December 21, 2007 11:23 AM

Yes, it wasn't the best example, mainly because I don't have a good one. But if the exchanging of gifts is against this persons beliefs, then yes you are forcing your beliefs on this individual, especially if they have asked you to stop. And no matter how much you try to be secular about the Christmas holiday, it is what it is, a Christian holiday. So even in a "traditional" observation of it you are acknowledging and celebrating the birth of Jesus. To some people that is wrong.

As for the history of gift giving, you are right for the most part. You just forgot the giving of gifts by the three Magi to the baby jesus. Although the idea of the modern gift exchange didn't really come to fruit until the 19th century, there are still earlier connections than St. Nick.

And there are religions and belief systems out there that find the exchanging of gifts to be taboo unless for particular reasons. In this individuals case the exchange of a gift this time of year is stricktly part of the Christian observance of Christmas or the Jewish observation of Hannukah or what ever other holiday is this time of year that people exchange gifts for.

Posted by: Contagion at December 21, 2007 11:40 AM

Well, this really isn't directly about me, although I do sympathize with the individual. Shadoglare, I think you are missing the overall point still is that this person has told them they do not want to participate as it violates their beliefs. Yet for the entire month the same individuals continue to push the issue even after they have said no.

What has me in a bind and why I'm pissed about it is the complete lack of respect that is being shown to this employee. I'm a firm believer that each person has a right to their beliefs and religious choice. As long as you don't go forcing it on others you can do what ever you want. It's an individual freedom. This whole issue is nothing more than the narrow-minded christian majority not showing the same respect to my employee that they are showing them.

And yes it has effected their job because they are stressing over the entire issue.

Posted by: Contagion at December 21, 2007 11:47 AM

Hmmm... I guess if that belief system had some type of doctrine specifically forbidding such a type of celebration that I could see it as a more valid point - apparently I'm not familiar enough with said belief system to recognize it as an issue, which may be the case with the other employees as well.

Posted by: Shadoglare at December 21, 2007 11:57 AM

The thought also struck me of an email going to all parties in management explaining that it's against her religion, but then I remembered that work environment and figured this would probably be akin to opening Pandora's box or at least a big can of worms...

Posted by: Shadoglare at December 21, 2007 12:05 PM

Even if it was just this person stating, "I don't celebrate Christmas or any holidays this time of year. I also don't do anything to acknowledge the celebration of it as it goes against my beliefs" should be more than enough. Just because you and others want to force people into your belief system and traditions doesn't give you the right to do so. They have every right to say no and stop. But yes there are a lot of religions and beliefs that state gift giving is bad. And each individual may view acknowledging another religions holiday as wrong. That's why you don't see too many Christians celebrating Ramadon.

Posted by: Contagion at December 21, 2007 12:21 PM

I think it comes down to this: People feel better about themselves when they give a gift during the Holiday season. They can't fathom the fact that someone else might not want the gift, and refusing the gift bruises there sense of self worth, therefore they force the issue.

Posted by: ktreva at December 21, 2007 04:52 PM

Whether or not he escalates this, he has to think of how he might be able to work with these people the rest of the year. In other words, once you bring in the big guns, while it might get you what you want, it will incur the anger of those who get the hammer dropped on them. They already know they're wrong for pressing him after he asked them to stop - so bringing in people with bigger clout to point this out to the world will piss them off big time. (no one likes it publicly pointed out that they've been a jerk). Thus they will be very angry indeed - and this will be a breach that may not be able to be mended. It's going to impact his relations with everyone for the rest of his career at this place...not just the Christmas season. That might not be fair- but that's life.

If he's that uncomfortable, he should be looking for a new job. If he doesn't want to quit then I would tell him to cultivate a lovely vacant stare. He has told all of these people he does not participate, if they can't hear him, he should fail to hear them when they talk about it. Totally ignore it. If they ask him, he should walk away (even out of his office if necessary).

There are things that drive one nuts at any job - if this is pushing his buttons to the point that he can't simply say "No" and walk away - he may need a total change because I'm betting there are other things happening between him and these co-workers too. It's never just one thing - it's a build up - but this is the easiest one to see and to take hold of because it isn't work related.

That's my take, not knowing the people involved.

Posted by: Teresa at December 22, 2007 12:38 AM

Hello. Long time reader, first time commenter, etc.
Probably should have read all the comments, but thought I'd throw in that I sympathize with the "non-Christian" (as I am one, myself), I also agree with Shadoglare. Perhaps it's superficial, but I don't mind putting up a Christmas (*cough* Yule) tree and laying out presents for my daughter because Santa came. It's not so much the religious part of it for me, but the fun of it. It really is just an excuse for me to party if up. Sort of like Cinco de Mayo. I'm not Mexican, but I still find an excuse to go out to a bar and partake.

Posted by: Barmy Mama at December 22, 2007 05:51 PM

Yeah there's probably some of what Ktreva said too... if this person doesn't accept their offers... they feel *rejected* - Can't have that!

Posted by: Shadoglare at December 22, 2007 11:57 PM