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Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Earlier this year, we conducted a non-scientific survey to learn if you had experienced or witnessed religious bias in your workplace.

Although most of you who responded have never experienced any kind of religious discrimination in the workplace, 21% of you said that you had experienced unequal treatment. If we include those of you who witnessed bias, the number jumps to 29%. So, approximately 1-in-3 of you have experienced or witnessed religious bias at work.  

The diverse stories you shared suggested that no religion in particular seemed to be discriminated against more than the others. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists felt equally bullied at certain times in their work environments—especially during religious holidays.

Here are some story highlights, opinions and responses to “Have you ever personally experienced religious harassment/bullying/bias in the workplace?”

  • I worked for a very Orthodox Jewish employer and they allowed all Orthodox Jewish employees, but not others, to take off every holiday. They never offered an explanation why.
     
  • I am Roman Catholic and on Ash Wednesday, comments were made about my ashes on my forehead. How silly and pointless it was. I have been made fun of for going to confession.
     
  • I am deeply religious. I often feel that people make fun of religion or act like religious people are all fanatics and crazy. They never say I'm crazy, but I am the only one who seems to defend religion in our conversations.
     
  • Nothing in my employer’s holiday policy allows for alternative days off, just standard Christian holidays. My employer also does not make an effort to schedule meetings around important non-Christian religious holidays.
     
  • Where I work, many people are atheists and are not even comfortable discussing religion openly.
     
  • I work in an academic environment and I have experienced bullying from fundamentalist atheists, not from people of faith.

Although our survey was not scientific, the results certainly indicate that there is a need for employers to be more accommodating of religious needs in the workplace.

If you are working for a company that could use help adopting an accommodation mindset, we have several resources that might be of help to the company and their human resource professionals:

We thank everyone who participated in the survey. Although we only printed a small sample of the comments, we read and appreciated all the responses and look forward to hearing from you in our next survey. 

If you have a suggestion for a survey topic or question, we’d love to hear it! Please comment below or send the questions our way!

Cultivating Global Citizenship: Professional Development this Summer!

New York City school teacher Daniele Fogel enrolled in Tanenbaum's Cultivating Global Citizenship course not knowing what to expect. 

 

What Fogel experienced was a course that had "an impact on me and my teaching for the rest of my career."  

 

Tanenbaum is offering the course, which is eligible for N.Y.C. professional development credit, beginning July 22. 

 

Lauded by the N.Y.C. Department of Education, Tanenbaum trains teachers during a six-day intensive on how to incorporate religious identity into lessons – and how to integrate issues about diversity and practicing respect into classroom discussions. 

 

Click here or on the image above to watch a short video about Cultivating Global Citizenship.

 

Seating is limited! Click here to register.

Survey: Should an atheist be denied U.S. Citizenship?

Margaret Doughty, a 64-year-old atheist and permanent U.S. resident for more than 30 years, applied to become a U.S. Citizen. To become a U.S. citizen, she was asked if she was willing to take up arms to defend the United States. She said no, objecting on moral grounds:

“I am sure the law would never require a 64 year-old woman like myself to bear arms, but if I am required to answer this question, I cannot lie. I must be honest. The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms. Since my youth I have had a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or in the bearing of arms. I deeply and sincerely believe that it is not moral or ethical to take another person’s life, and my lifelong spiritual/religious beliefs impose on me a duty of conscience not to contribute to warfare by taking up arms . . . my beliefs are as strong and deeply held as those who possess traditional religious beliefs and who believe in God . . . I want to make clear, however, that I am willing to perform work of national importance under civilian direction or to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States if and when required by the law to do so.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, however, told her that, in order for her objection to pass muster, she has to be a member in good standing of a religious institution that forbids such violence. If she does not, her application for citizenship will be denied at her June 21 hearing. Her lawyers are arguing that precedent in U.S. law requires that simply having this sincerely held belief, whether it is based on religious or nonreligious convictions, is sufficient for citizenship. 

What do you think?

 

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

 
 
 
 
We will share the results of this survey–and our opinion–in the near future.

Remembering James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini has just died. The world has lost a great talent. But Tanenbaum, like many others, has lost a great friend. The world knows his acting, remembers Tony Soprano and many other characters where Jim's person merged with his character. At Tanenbaum, we also remember the man who cared that kids learn how to live together – – without hate and without bullying. We remember the man who supported our work combating religious prejudice and who lent his talent to support us.

We join in the sorrow of his friends. We share in the sadness his fans feel. And we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family. May he rest easy.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO
Tanenbaum | Center for Interreligious Understanding

Tony Blair on Islam: News Roundup

In the news this week: Tony Blair voices concern about Islam, a Florida courthouse soon to be home of nation's first atheism monument, and other news stories.
 

In a column for the Daily Mail, former British prime minister Tony Blair stated "there is a problem within Islam" and implored officials to acknowledge radical ideology is "profound and dangerous."

The piece regarding the Woolwich terror attack, which resulted in the death of soldier Lee Rigby, also urged governments to "be honest" about the problem radical deology poses.

"There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam," he wrote. "We have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies."  Huffington Post

After years of fights over religious monuments on public land, a county courthouse in Northern Florida will soon be the home of the nation’s first monument to atheism on public property.

On June 29, the group American Atheists will unveil a 1,500-pound granite bench engraved with secular-themed quotations from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and its founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, among others, in front of the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Fla.

The New-Jersey-based group, which has a membership of about 4,000 atheists, humanists and other non-believers, won the right to erect the monument in a settlement reached in March over a six-ton granite display of the Ten Commandments on the same property.  The State

A Texas man who threatened to blow up the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Tennessee apologized to the imam and mosque leaders Monday, then pleaded guilty to a federal charge.

"I've been around with all types of people, and have all types of friends," Javier Alan Correa read Monday in federal court in Nashville. "I also understand not all Muslims are terrorists. I was just ignorant at that time, plus I had been drinking alcohol so I wasn't thinking very clearly which is why I made a very poor choice in calling. Sir, after making that phone call I felt really bad and guilty. I really felt awful and I knew what I did was wrong. I'm sorry for that."  USA Today

In the UK, the Fair Admissions Campaign wants to ban state schools in England and Wales from selecting pupils on faith grounds. The new group says religion-based admission policies can fuel segregation and cause "distrust and disharmony".

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Education Service rejected "the unfounded claim that Catholic schools are socially divisive". The group which includes the British Humanist Association (BHA), the Accord Coalition and the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education warns that a faith-based admissions system can have a damaging effect on communities.

No other public service, such as hospitals, would be allowed to restrict access on religious grounds, say the campaigners, who argue that faith-based selection is "fundamentally wrong".  BBC

Students Have Once in a Lifetime Experience with Peacemaker

Once upon a time, Chencho Alas, one of our Peacemakers in Action, was relatively unknown.  He promoted education and land reform in El Salvador, challenging those in power.  For his efforts, he was kidnapped and beaten.

As a Tanenbaum Peacemaker, Chencho’s story and case study is a part of our Peacemakers in Action book.  That book was picked up by a professor at Emmanuel College, Pamela Couture, and used as a basis for a religious peacebuilding course.

We connected Pamela to Chencho (and other Peacemakers) and now Emmanuel College has a course that travels to El Salvador.  The most recent session of that course just concluded and Pamela has a great blog post about the trip.

An excerpt of what one student shared in the blog post:

With no words to span the experience, the silence was complete unto itself. We then walked back to our beach house, home to us for five days now.

And the new leaf of life had just turned over…

And another:

Somehow the chapel was peaceful, women arranging freshly cut flowers in the lazy sun of the afternoon. No screaming or gunshots, no sign of what had transpired other than some words over the altar. Nothing seemed wrong, and yet in that chapel the history of a country changed.

This is the type of outcome we envision when we select our Peacemakers.  To Pamela, thanks for putting together this incredible course and thank you to Chencho and all of the Peacemakers for being the change we need in the world.

Syrian War Affecting Sunni-Shiite Relations: News Roundup

In the news this week: the Syrian war is growing more sectarian – and the conflict is springing up in more countries, plus other news stories.

The Syrian civil war is increasingly drawing in nations across the Middle East, a regionwide conflict that threatens to pit world powers against each other and Muslim against Muslim.

In a war that is now clearly pitting the two main branches of the Islam — Sunni and Shiite Muslims — against one another, the dithering and differences between world powers is bringing about a desperate situation, according to experts.

“The longer this conflict goes on the more chances it has of spilling over,” said Vali Nasr, dean of John Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.  Washington Post

Security forces on Wednesday struggled to bring peace to a northern city in Myanmar after Buddhist mobs set fire to a mosque, a Muslim school and shops, the latest outbreak of religious violence in Myanmar and a sign that radical strains of Buddhism may be spreading to a wider area of the country.

The violence afflicting the city, Lashio, in the north near the border with China, is hundreds of miles from towns and villages affected by religious violence this year.

One Muslim man was killed and four Buddhists were wounded in the clashes, said U Wai Lin, an official with the Information Ministry in Lashio.  New York Times

He has criticized the “cult of money” and greed he sees driving the world financial system, reflecting his affinity for liberation theology. He has left Vatican officials struggling to keep up with his off-the-cuff remarks and impromptu forays into the crowds of tens of thousands that fill St. Peter’s Square during his audiences. He has delighted souvenir vendors near the Vatican by increasing tourist traffic.

Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, has been in office for only two months, but already he has changed the tone of the papacy, lifting morale and bringing a new sense of enthusiasm to the Roman Catholic Church and to the Vatican itself, Vatican officials and the faithful say.

“It’s very positive. There’s a change of air, a sense of energy,” said one Vatican official, speaking with traditional anonymity. “Some people would use the term honeymoon, but there’s no indication that it will let up.”  New York Times

More than three in four of Americans say religion is losing its influence in the United States, according to a new survey, the highest such percentage in more than 40 years. A nearly identical percentage says that trend bodes ill for the country.

"It may be happening, but Americans don't like it," Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, said of religion's waning influence. "It is clear that a lot of Americans don't think this is a good state of affairs."

According to the Gallup survey released Wednesday, 77% of Americans say religion is losing its influence. Since 1957, when the question was first asked, Americans' perception of religion's power has never been lower.  CNN

2013 Tanenbaum Award Ceremony Journal

Click on the journal cover to learn about the honorees and more from the 2013 Tanenbaum Award Ceremony. 

Laws repressing religious freedom worldwide: News Roundup

Countries around the world, including allies of the United States, have used laws on blasphemy and apostasy to suppress political opponents, the State Department said on Monday in an annual report chronicling a grim decline in religious freedom that has resulted in rising bigotry and sectarian violence.

The report singled out eight countries for particularly egregious and systemic repression of religious rights: China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. In China, the report said, religious freedoms declined in the last year, highlighted by punitive actions against Christians, Muslims and Buddhists in Tibet, where 82 monks, nuns or laypeople killed themselves in acts of self-immolation last year.

Proliferating laws against blasphemy or apostasy, including in several countries undergoing political transitions after the Arab spring, are not protecting religions, as officials often claim, but rather targeting other faiths, at times selectively.  New York Times

Leaders of Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims reacted with horror and anger following Wednesday’s (May 22) slaughter with knives and machetes of an off-duty British soldier in the streets outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in south London.

A statement from the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the slaughter of the soldier by two men – both believed to be Christian converts to Islam – as “a barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and which we condemn unreservedly.”

Abdullah al Andalusi, a spokesman for the Muslim Debate Initiative, which brings together Islamic scholars and researchers in the U.K., said: “These people claimed they killed the soldier in the name of protecting others from UK foreign policy. But if what they claim is true, they have acted no differently from the crimes they claim they wish to see stopped.”  Religion News Service

Even with some legal protections in place, Afghan women, and sometimes even little girls, can be sold to pay family debts. In the country’s vast rural areas, just talking to a man who is not a close relative can be punishable by death. And in some places, girls are routinely married at puberty.

And now, preserving any protections long-term appears to be in question, as the country’s tiny women’s rights movement faces an unenviable decision: leave intact the only law that attempts to halt such abuses, or continue to present changes to Parliament and run the risk that a growing conservative bloc could dismantle the law entirely.  New York Times

Atheists and other nonbelievers largely welcomed Wednesday’s (May 22) remarks by Pope Francis that performing “good works” is not the exclusive domain of people of faith, but rather a place where they and atheists could and should meet.

In a private homily, Francis described doing good not as a matter of faith, but of “duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness.”

Then, referring to non-Catholics and nonbelievers, he said, “if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”  Religion News Service

Laws repressing religious freedom worldwide: News Roundup

Countries around the world, including allies of the United States, have used laws on blasphemy and apostasy to suppress political opponents, the State Department said on Monday in an annual report chronicling a grim decline in religious freedom that has resulted in rising bigotry and sectarian violence.

The report singled out eight countries for particularly egregious and systemic repression of religious rights: China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. In China, the report said, religious freedoms declined in the last year, highlighted by punitive actions against Christians, Muslims and Buddhists in Tibet, where 82 monks, nuns or laypeople killed themselves in acts of self-immolation last year.

Proliferating laws against blasphemy or apostasy, including in several countries undergoing political transitions after the Arab spring, are not protecting religions, as officials often claim, but rather targeting other faiths, at times selectively.  New York Times

Leaders of Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims reacted with horror and anger following Wednesday’s (May 22) slaughter with knives and machetes of an off-duty British soldier in the streets outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in south London.

A statement from the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the slaughter of the soldier by two men – both believed to be Christian converts to Islam – as “a barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and which we condemn unreservedly.”

Abdullah al Andalusi, a spokesman for the Muslim Debate Initiative, which brings together Islamic scholars and researchers in the U.K., said: “These people claimed they killed the soldier in the name of protecting others from UK foreign policy. But if what they claim is true, they have acted no differently from the crimes they claim they wish to see stopped.”  Religion News Service

Even with some legal protections in place, Afghan women, and sometimes even little girls, can be sold to pay family debts. In the country’s vast rural areas, just talking to a man who is not a close relative can be punishable by death. And in some places, girls are routinely married at puberty.

And now, preserving any protections long-term appears to be in question, as the country’s tiny women’s rights movement faces an unenviable decision: leave intact the only law that attempts to halt such abuses, or continue to present changes to Parliament and run the risk that a growing conservative bloc could dismantle the law entirely.  New York Times

Atheists and other nonbelievers largely welcomed Wednesday’s (May 22) remarks by Pope Francis that performing “good works” is not the exclusive domain of people of faith, but rather a place where they and atheists could and should meet.

In a private homily, Francis described doing good not as a matter of faith, but of “duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness.”

Then, referring to non-Catholics and nonbelievers, he said, “if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”  Religion News Service