City Employees in Mansfield, Ohio Will Get Paid for Attending Church on Good Friday

The city of Mansfield, Ohio is offering Christian government employees a pretty sweet deal (PDF): On Good Friday, in addition to their lunch break, employees can take an extra hour to go to church. Oh, and they’ll still get paid for that time.

The Mid Ohio Atheists point out that if every employee made only minimum wage and took the city up on its offer, it would still cost taxpayers $4200.

This glaring violation of the establishment clause not only shocked me, but shocked at least one employee of the City of Mansfield who is an Atheist. This employee contacted our Group and we took action. We immediately sent a letter to the City of Mansfield advising them of the violation and requesting that they modify their policy to bring it in compliance with the establishment clause by requiring people to submit leave requests for accrued time off on that day in the normal manner. We received no answer from the city regarding our request.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is already on the case. They sent a stern warning to the mayor, Timothy Theaker (PDF):

…Clearly, a policy in which employees go without pay for the time they spend at church, instead of work, is permissible. We urge you to amend your policy to provide only unpaid time off for employees to attend religious events.

When the government pays people to attend church, even for an hour, it crosses the line from accommodation to preferential treatment of church-going Christians…

Asking a city to treat employees equally, regardless of their religious beliefs, shouldn’t be controversial at all. Christians don’t deserve any preferential treatment and it’s sad that no other group or city leader was willing to speak out against this. But kudos to the Mid Ohio Atheists and FFRF for not letting this go by unchallenged.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    What the fuck happened to going to church in the evening?

    • Ashley Will

      I am sure they would rather go in the day if they get paid for it. ;-) I know I would enjoy anytime getting paid for not working. Haha

      • http://www.facebook.com/cburschka Christoph Burschka

        Meh, I’d work on Sunday if it was a choice between that or church. :P

  • http://bounteo.us/ Rob

    Not really any different than Christmas as a paid holiday.

    • kate

       Actually, it’s completely different. The letter specifically states that “city employees attending a church service” will get paid for the time off. With Christmas,  everyone gets paid, not just the Christians going to church that day. This little deal is clearly preferential to Christians.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=544525141 Lauren Ely

       But Christmas, *everyone* has off and gets paid….and you DON’T have to go to church.  I think I would hit a yoga class and say I was worshiping.

  • Anonymous

    One could just say they are going to church and have an extra long paid lunch break correct?
    I know it doesn’t solve the preferential treatment problem but I would still do it.

  • Jim Valentine

     NOFX lyrics from, ‘Seeing Double at the Triple Rock,’ come to mind here:
    —–
    I’m a religious drunk and this is where I pray

    The church of alcoholics can’t break up the congregation

    Give us air to breathe, through carbonation

    We are at liquor church, genuflecting on barstools

    We’re praying that the taps will keep the holy water flowing

    Key kicks of communion, then a long night of confessions

    Coming home after noon seems to raise a lot of questions

    When in Minnesota (Ohio) and you got a drinking quota
    —–
    Get paid to drink man!

  • http://sarahoverthemoon.com/ Sarah Moon

    My partner is an editor at the Mansfield paper. I sent him this and they’re looking into it. Hopefully something will get done! The establishment cause is under enough attack as it is…

    • Robert P

      Hopefully he can accomplish something…If it’s the News Journal, though, I’m not going to hold my breath. The powers that be at that paper have already made it pretty clear that they generally side with the Christians. Here’s to hoping…

      • http://sarahoverthemoon.com/ Sarah Moon

        So I’ve heard. I think he managed to convince someone to do a story on it though so hopefully good will come out of it! 

    • Michael

      Awesome, maybe you could encourage them not to so a total hatchet job on the Mid Ohio Atheists like they attempted to so with the billboard controversy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1662432506 Jonas Green

    First of all — Could everyone regardless of religion or lack thereof take an extra hour, for certain special occasions. — I can’t think of a Jewish midday service off hand, but the principal is the same.

    Secondly — what about paid sick time, or paid vacation time. — Or making up the hour of work another day — Sort of like a comp day, but only for 1 hour. 

    Basically — don’t give preferential treatment only to Christians, instead if there is a policy to accommodate Christians special case, have something so it’s fair.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LNWAM4DYCN4MLBLHFGDHE2YKZM GloomCookie613

    I almost wish I worked there.  I’d love to convince everyone I possibly could to just knock off that extra hour and then DARE any manager/boss to question where I was or try to tell me I wasn’t getting paid, but Chrissy Christian over there went to church so she gets paid.

    • Erp

       You might not want to since it seems Mansfield has been cutting employee salary and benefits.   I would be interested in seeing the exact wording of the ordinance cited.

  • Jordan walsh

    try living in ohio i think my brother and i are the only athiest here!!!!

    • Lisa Blair

      Not the only ones. It does seem like living in a right-wing, Bible thumping, Tea Party Apocalypse at times though. 

    • Robert P

      Not so…Another one here…AND I live in Mansfield. 

    • Mairianna

      Jordan, you are not alone.  I just wish I was closer to the middle of the state so I could join the Mid Ohio Atheists, who, I am positive, will get involved in this issue. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthonyjwmoss Tony Moss

    I think I might be ging to see Alestorm, a pirate heavy metal band, next month.  Do you think I can bill my bosses as a Pastafarian for the “service”?

  • http://www.zenbuffy.com/ zenbuffy

    In Ireland, though it’s not technically a public holiday, almost everyone will have Good Friday as a paid full day off work. 20 days holidays is fairly standard starting allowance for a full-time job here, so virtually every job will offer 21 as a starting holiday allowance, and tell you that this includes 1 “company day”. The company day will be Good Friday, and you will have to take your “extra” holiday on this day, as the company will close. This is in addition to laws which forbid the sale of alcohol on Good Friday, which effectively means that all of the pubs close as well. This is especially frustrating when you live in a small student town (like the town in which my former university was situated) and the only places to eat are pubs which serve food!

    I also remember that, when I was in my primary school (a Catholic school, as virtually all schools in Ireland are), that any child who was attending a morning mass during Lent was permitted to arrive late to school. I know of several kids who simply used the extra time to sleep, and then arrived late to school for an entire month.

  • Anonymous

    But I thought City employees were Evil and their Unions were destroying America and they should be fired and rehired making less money? How is this going to help the economy? Where are all the gophers (gop-ers) to stand-up and say this isnt right….oh wait, I forget, the religious majority always gets “special rights” in the USA.

  • http://twitter.com/SaintSpartacus Spartacus of Thrace

    From a technical HR perspective, the problem with this really isn’t that employees can attend church for an hour with pay.  The issue is that a certain class of employees are being given special consideration – the City should have given EVERYONE an extra hour at their lunchbreak with pay.  


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