What are the Legal Boundaries to Bringing Faith to Work?

If there is one thing we want people to understand, it’s that it is perfectly legal to practice your faith in the workplace. You’ll see with many organizations that are a part of our movement that it is highly encouraged to live out your faith in how you interact with your coworkers. However, like any good thing, when abused, religion in the workplace can be used as a dangerous tool to hurt others. In light of that, it’s important to understand that at Christ at Work, we desire to love and care for others no matter their faith and that using our beliefs as a means of belittling others or disregarding their faith is in direct opposition to what God has called us to do.

So while you may be confident that you would never walk down this dangerous path, it is still important to know the signs of someone practicing this type of abuse that goes beyond the legal boundaries of faith at work.

Hostile Work Environment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. This Act is the basis for all the boundaries that exist regarding bringing religion into the workplace. 

It’s important to be aware of the work environment you are creating when you bring faith into the workplace. When implemented properly, faith at work opens up incredible opportunities to care for your team and support others beyond their needs as an employee. However, if bringing faith into your workplace becomes creating mandatory Bible studies that threaten the careers of those who do not participate, you are in direct violation of Title VII. Therefore, participating in faith-based events and meetings must be voluntary to protect your work environment's health and stay in line with Title VII requirements.

Objections and Concerns

If you've implemented any faith-based practices in your workplace, it is also your responsibility to hear out any objections or concerns an employee may have. Offering a listening ear, following up with those who have objected, and evening making accommodations for such individuals goes a long way to show your primary goal is for their wellbeing.

For example, let’s say you decide to begin praying before staff meetings. After the first meeting, someone comes to you and complains that they don’t feel comfortable being a part of the prayer. What do you do?

So many of these situations must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and it’s up to you and your leadership team to take the proper steps to respond with compassion and make space for their potential religious preferences.

Accept Disagreement

You cannot impose, harass, or attempt to indoctrinate people in your workplace with your religious beliefs. When you bring your faith into the workplace, you may be met with acceptance, indifference, or even hostility. Whatever the reaction, you must accept that people may disagree with your beliefs and that attempting to force your stance on them violates Title VII.

Imagine yourself in their position. Your boss has asked you to practice a faith you do not believe in, or else you’ll lose your job. You would not be okay with that, and it’s clear to see the injustice in that expectation.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: yes, all of these circumstances are beyond the legal boundaries of bringing faith into the workplace. However, if the only problem we see with these practices is that they are illegal, we’re completely missing the point of what we’re trying to accomplish.

In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul writes, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” This is a call to love others, not because it keeps us out of legal trouble but because we were loved first. Faith in the workplace is not a forced responsibility. It’s a calling that Christ has invited us to follow as a way to show his love to those he’s put into our lives. 

If you find yourself wondering whether your actions are putting your company at risk, chances are you should adjust whatever it is you’re doing. In addition, if you feel you have people in your workplace starting down this path, do your part to show them the same love and patience Christ has shown you.

For other legal questions you may have regarding faith in the workplace, check out our website.

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