Don’t Harass Your Religious Colleagues in the Workplace

This is just a reminder that your atheism doesn’t give you license to be an asshole at work.

Don’t be a workplace bully

In other words, don’t be like Portland Parks & Recreation worker Theresa Lareau who told her Christian co-worker KellyMarie Griffin the following:

“I am tired of your Christian attitude”

“You know you are praying to a figment of your imagination, right?”

“I’m not talking about your God; I’m talking about something else;”

“I’m tired of your Christian attitude and your Christian shit all over your desk and your Christian shit all over the place. I’m going to file a complaint against you the next time I sneeze and you say ‘bless you’. You’re just doing it for the attention; you wear it on your sleeve like a badge and I’m sick of it. It offends me.”

That’s only the beginning of a long string of harassment charges against Lareau.

Earlier this month, a jury awarded Griffin $14,080, to be paid by the city of Portland, for subjecting her to a hostile work environment and not taking “effective steps to end the harassment.” Lareau will have to pay $5,300 in economic damages.

Part of working for a government organization means that you will work alongside people with whom you disagree on all sorts of issues. By lashing out at her religious colleague, Lareau took an uncomfortable situation and made it far worse. The office just isn’t the right place to have religious debates — certainly not with someone who never agreed to that conversation.

(via Religion Clause — Image via Shutterstock)

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.

  • JA

    Fair enough. However, as soon as they say something worthy of scorn, the gloves are off.

    • alfaretta

      “Gloves are off” — bad idea unless you really don’t need your job.

    • Oranje

      Is it cold in your office or something?

  • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

    When I used to work for one of the large beltway defense contractors, my coworkers used to make snide or humorous comments to me regarding my atheism, but I never really said anything about their religious beliefs. Jerks.

    • Jeff Simons

      Booz Allen Hamilton?

      • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

        I’m not sayiNG. ;)

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    I’ve worked with religious colleagues before ( hell I even worked on the campus of a religious college – it’s what turned me into an atheist activist, the activist part, that is ) and sure the religious crap all over the desk can be annoying but get a grip. There is a time and place to take out your frustrations and that’s the comments section of youtube ; )

    I don’t know Theresa Lareau’s story. Maybe she had a lot of religious abuse or a bad deconversion experience. If that is the case she should seek help, perhaps starting with our own, wonderful Richard Wade. Never the less, her behavior goes above and beyond what is acceptable in a professional environment.

    • UMac40

      The comment section of YouTube? Oh boy, I bet you do really important work there.

  • Art_Vandelay

    This Lareau person is obviously an asshole and I hate that there are atheists like this but at the end of the day, taxpayers are being hit up for someone being offended on the basis of their religion. That can’t be right. I highly doubt that if Lareau was acting like this in regards to Griffin’s obsession with cats, she would have won a lawsuit.

    • eric

      Taxpayers are being hit up because their government promised a harassment-free workplace and then let harassment happen. This is not about mere offense, this was clearly a pattern of targeted behavior and I bet it was continued after the targeted person said ‘stop.’
      If someone acted that way about a co-worker’s obsession with cats, yes, it wouldbe illegal.
      You can certainly tell a co-worker your thoughts on their religion (or their cats). But if they say they don’t want to have that talk, and you actively seek them out and keep bringing the subject up despite their request, you’re harassing them.

      • Art_Vandelay

        If someone acted that way about a co-worker’s obsession with cats, yes, it wouldbe illegal

        I didn’t say it wouldn’t be illegal. I said it wouldn’t win a lawsuit. Of course, that’s only my opinion.

    • kaydenpat

      You can’t harass someone based on their religion according to equal employment opportunity laws. No prohibition based on their pet ownership though.

  • The Starship Maxima

    As a Christian surrounded and out-numbered by atheists most of my adult and teen life, I feel the need to say that this loser Lareau comprises exactly 0.00006% of all the atheists I know.
    Including the folks here at Friendly Atheist.

    • baal

      I assume you’re not in the U.S.? I’m sorry your harassed but we atheists in the U.S. certainly get our share from our christian co-workers.

      EDIT: D’OH, sorry I misread.

      • M.S.

        think you misunderstood baal….

      • Scott

        Read it again Baal… that isn’t what Starship said at all.

    • avalpert

      That is a disturbingly precise number

      • 3lemenope

        0.00006% of all the atheists I know.

        AKA, “that one asshole”.

      • Brian K

        So you know approximately 1.667 million atheists.

  • primenumbers

    I notice that the linked article links to the verdict and the plaintiff documents, but not to the case of the defendant. I’d like to read that before I pass any further comment. Anyone know where a link to that document can be found?

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    I’m going to disagree with you here Hemant. Maybe it the Christian who was the harasser. Maybe Lareau just got tired of it and lashed out.

    I used to work in a machine shop/weld shop and there were a lot of religious people there. Many of them did rub their religion in my face and often times I would respond and criticize their beliefs. It was usually pretty friendly, but I did have one woman who refused to reimburse me for expenses because it says, “In God we trust” on the cash. Of course she later forked over the cash when I threatened to take it up with the boss, but work places can be very hostile to atheists and sometimes we decide to respond in kind.

    • The Starship Maxima

      For the record, while your theory may or may not be valid, there are no “facts” in the article to suggest anything other than Laraeu was a straight up bitch.
      Does it excuse your coworker being a being a bitch to you back in your old weld shop? No. But neither does it excuse her.

      • Fallulah

        Gotta look at both sides of the story.

        • The Starship Maxima

          True story. I’m happy to look at any supplemental facts.

      • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

        It is true that we don’t know the full context and that we should reserve judgement until we do. However, which situation seems more likely? I don’t know about you, but based on my experiences Christians are far more likely to harass atheists and believers alike about their belief. This being the norm, I am inclined to give Laraeu the benefit of the doubt until more of the context is revealed.

        • smrnda

          I’d have to know more – at times, you can get religious coworkers who pretty much try to turn the workplace into their personal mission field, and how that goes will depend on the attitude of supervisors and such. If your supervisor is a Christian they may *choose* not to see anything wrong with your coworker mentioning Jesus to you 10 times a day.

          Not really enough info to go here, but my own attitude is that I don’t lash into anybody unprovoked and I give any Christian coworker or such a fair break as long as they leave their beliefs out of my face.

    • Sven2547

      Maybe it the Christian who was the harasser. Maybe Lareau just got tired of it and lashed out.

      When your hypothesis has a 1:1 “Maybe”-to-sentence ratio, I think it’s safe to say you’re just guessing.

  • Bernhard Nornes Lotsberg

    There are jerks on both sides, unfortunately :/

  • Jack Rawlinson

    “The office just isn’t the right place to have religious debates”

    True enough, but the office is also not a place that should allow overt displays of religiosity or religious practice.

    • Lucimorland

      Don’t worry — all the concern trolls here are sure to side with the Jesus Freak to show that they’re not mean or offensive or whatever.

      Meanwhile, the religious nut in question is free to spread her jesus bullshit at work unabated. YAY!

      • The Starship Maxima

        Is this statement about the “religious nut” and her “jesus bullshit” substantiated by any facts?

        • Lucimorland

          Yes.

          • The Starship Maxima

            Perhaps you’d like to share these facts, so that we can all have the complete picture?

      • Carmelita Spats

        You don’t have to be confrontational like Lareau. Her approach leaves little to the imagination and is too predictable, cliche…You can release the frustration through quiet, well-placed, under-handed, mockery. I would have played the Christian like a fiddle by forcing her to compete on the “I-Am-A-Better-Christian-Than-You” scale. If she has pictures of the creepy Christer all over her desk, you up the ante. You can find the rattiest images of the virgin carpenter at garage sales, estate sales, Walmart during Easter (chocolate crosses, terrifying Jesus-themed t shirts, religiously inspired Peeps candy, etc), rifling through your grandmother’s collection, or at Mardel’s Christian Store. You plaster your desk with even MORE Christian kitsch. If she is fond of blathering Bible verses, you MAKE UP your own nonsensical, sanctimonious, gibberish. No one will be able to tell the difference. If she likes to send Jesus-y emails to everyone in the office, you thank her profusely and encourage her to display even more smarmy Christoholism to the point that it makes everyone’s ears bleed. I have no qualms about playing the FAKE Southern Baptist since I live in the Bible Belt. In the end, it’s a win-win situation…You get a laugh, she gets her dose of confirmation bias and you get to keep your job. Here are two sites that are very helpful in faking a bad rash of Christ-insanity…

        Jesus of the Week:
        http://www.jesusoftheweek.com/jesii/356/

        Crucifixion of the Peeps (put crucified peeps on your desk):
        http://www.doriabiddle.com/Stations2.html

    • 3lemenope

      I think it tends to hinge on the formality of the office and whether that office is intended to be an interface with the public at large. To me, in a private office that is not the public face of a business, religious paraphernalia is no different than pictures of your family or doodads from a sports team that one supports, so I can see different rules being appropriate to apply depending on the nature of the office.

    • Art_Vandelay

      It doesn’t bother me at all. On the contrary, if you’re a devout, fundamental religious person, I’d rather know that about you than not have known it.

      • TheG

        The more paraphilia on a desk (whoops! paraphernalia.. honest mistake when dealing with the crap littered on the desks of many of the devout), the better. I love that some coworkers feel the need to paint their faith all over their desks.

        It makes it easier to know whose desk to avoid.

    • ShhhImReading

      Jack!!! I knew I’d see you here!!!!

      Love, your fellow, quasi-anonymous phlogger friend from Texas.

  • Lina Baker

    Wow – all these “yes, but…” comments, these “oh, but she must have been provoked by the Christian…” comments. Yikes! Theresa Lareau was an ass, period, no excuses, let’s distance ourselves from her, not try to justify her behavior – that’s what too many Christians and Muslims do when their folks go bad.

    • Richard Thomas

      I disagree. Not about not trying to justify her behavior, because you’re right about that, but about distancing ourselves. That’s what Mormons do to family members who do things they don’t agree with. This woman acted inappropriately but she’s still a human being who can learn from her mistakes…. and a $5K payout is a pretty expensive lesson.

  • Bones Thompson

    I would never discuss religion with a co-worker. It would only make them want to talk about it.

    • Jim Smith

      I hear you on that. Really, it takes a lot for me to talk to someone about religion. Unless it is Mormons, who don’t give you a chance to even avoid them these days. Epicurus’ Logical Problem of Evil is brought out straight away.

  • Johnlev

    Wow! I work for the government and we have a few fundie’s here in the office but I never would even think of doing anything like that. My co-workers know I’m atheist and it’s no biggie. There’s only one I debate w/ on a regular basis and it’s typically me that initiates it. Everything from abortion and gays to the bible. It get’s pretty heated between us sometimes but nothing ever hostile. I’ve even told him that if he ever wants me to stop to just say so but he said he’s not bothered by it. In anycase, I respect the guy too much and if I ever heard anyone treat him like that, I’d be the first to defend him. .

  • atheismFTW

    This story goes to show that an atheist needs to put the focus on being confident and happy with their own beliefs. If you find a co-worker’s “bless you” really irritating, then politely tell them something like “oh, I appreciate the sentiment, but no thanks. I don’t need to be blessed by your God.” Say it with a smile and go on your way. Or if that’s too risqué for you, then the next time they sneeze, say “hope you’re okay” instead of blessing them. You’ll be respecting your own beliefs without knocking theirs.

    If religious decorations on a co-worker’s desk are unsettling to you, maybe it’s time to outwardly celebrate your own beliefs instead of silently fuming. Decorate your desk with secular humanist things that inspire and comfort you.

    We atheists can find positive, unoffensive ways to demonstrate our rejection of religion and supernatural beliefs.

    • lovesalot
    • Joseph Trzaska

      I just say “Gesundheit!” (sic) It is socially acceptable and has nothing to do with a god.

      • 3lemenope

        I’ve tried to reprogram my ingrained “bless you” response to “Gesundheit!”, but–and this is weird, I know–it only sounds appropriate to my ears when the sneeze is really impressive, and so for run-of-the-mill sneezes it usually still ends up being a reflexive “bless you”.

      • atheismFTW

        I used to say Gesundheit, but too many people either didn’t know what it meant or thought it was German for “bless you.” So now I just say a straightforward “hope you’re okay” so there’s no chance of a miscommunication. I wouldn’t want people to be left scratching their heads wondering what I said to them. And I certainly wouldn’t want them thinking I’m religious, LOL.

      • TCC

        Yeah, I’ve pretty much switched to Gesundheit or Salud.

        • smrnda

          I’ve used Gesundheit, but working with people not from the US I’ve acquired the habit of saying ‘excuse me’ when I sneeze.

          • allein

            I’ve never understood why it’s other people who are obligated to say something when someone sneezes. (I mean, I know where it comes from but no one actually believes that anymore.) We aren’t expected to comment when people cough or anything else; why am I the rude one for not reacting just because someone sneezed?

            On a side note, I have a coworker who is a loud sneezer and whenever she does it it turns into a five minute conversation in the next aisle. Can we please just move on?

  • Lucimorland

    I don’t see anything wrong with it. Religious people wear their Jesus like a giant penis on their forehead. Keep it at home or get called out for it.

    • newavocation

      Reminds me of a story in Penn Jillette’s book about getting in trouble in high school for wearing a Chiquita banana sticker on his forehead on Ash Wednesday.

  • Rationalist1

    The best thing we can do to promote atheism is to be upfront about our atheism, but not proselytizing. A believing colleague may want to talk about religion and how can you be an atheist, but demur, even if asked to meet after work on your own time. It can just poison the atmosphere in a work place.

    Because you are challenging their most fundamental decision about the world, their values, their future. Expect them to not like it. Just be a good, kind, considerate collegue and eventually, over time, they’ll realize we’re not so bad afterall.

  • Bode Gibbs

    I have a live-and-let-live attitude. As long as they don’t try to shove that shit down my throat they can worship anything they like.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Wait…how do we even know this person is an atheist?

    • The Starship Maxima

      Shit, I hadn’t considered that….

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    For a second I literally thought this was from the show Parks and Recreation and it was all a big gag. Almost as hard as believing in deities is believing that people who are this huge of assholes actually exist.

    • Terry Firma

      Me too. I read that dialog looking for the joke. No dice.

    • Mario Strada

      Same here. I had to go back and read the article again and only then I found out this was a real office. I don’t even watch the show.

    • kaydenpat

      Initially that’s what I thought as well until I saw the $$$ judgment.

  • Jack7

    Sounds like instead of threatening to file a complaint, she should have kept quiet and just done it.

    Though I can’t help but wonder if the outcome here would be the same if the beliefs were reversed.

    • The Starship Maxima

      If Griffin was going apeshit on Laraeu and being all unprofessional and taking the extra step of cowardly hiding behind her faith as justification, I damn sure hope the outcome would be exactly the same.

      • Jack7

        Yeah, hope is great. I like to think that too. But we’ll never know. Except that it may well be happening right now all over the country.

  • Fallulah

    Pffttt…hard for me to feel sorry for this religious woman. I have been fired twice for just BEING atheist. I didn’t announce it either…one time they found out because I had to handle legal docs and I said, “I swear” instead of, “I swear under god”. My bosses face dropped like I had just told him I eat babies and he treated me like shit after that and then found some lame reason to fire me. Second time, my boss and coworker (who used to be youth minister and now work for a stationary company) were riding in a car with me and they were discusing their beliefs and they asked me and i said, “i am an atheist” and they both cried, “NO YOU ARENT YOU ARE TOO NICE TO BE ATHEIST” and then there was the time I was good friends with a lady at work until she asked me my beliefs and I said atheist…after that I was enemy number 1, and she would tell me daily what a bad person I am and would try to get me fired. We atheists take so much damn abuse from religious people and we are supposed to just suck up being told we are bad people and getting fired without just cause.
    I bet this is only the religious person’s side of the story…dig a little deeper and that Christian woman probably protheletizes all the time and drives everyone nuts with her cacophany of religious decorations and bullshit. It’s an office. It is a work place and a public one at that…if you don’t want your religion being discussed…DON’T BRING THAT SHIT TO THE OFFICE.

    • Lucimorland

      I would LOVE to see a picture of her desk at the time she alleges she was being persecuted. I bet it looks like Hallmark Stores after Halloween.

    • The Starship Maxima

      First of all, I am truly, truly sorry that your atheism garnered that kind of abuse. It was unacceptable.

      With that said, you are generalizing and making wild assumptions, and your poor experiences with other religious people does not justify it.

      • Fallulah

        I am saying there are two sides to every story and it seems like we are only getting the religious woman’s side.

        • The Starship Maxima

          After thinking it over, I find much validity in your statement. If new details and it turns out Griffin harassed Lareau, I will eagerly await the countersuit.

          The fact that the City of Portland already ruled in her favor makes me think they looked at Lareau’s defense and found it wanting.

          • Fallulah

            You have much more faith in the judiciary system than I do. I could be wrong, maybe Lareau just felt like being a bitch for no particular reason but I would still like to have insight into her motives until I make my final assessment. Yes those blurbs taken out of context do make her look like a giant DOUCHE but I don’t take these things at face value and go deeper.

            • The Starship Maxima

              I must say Fallulah I like the way you think.

              • Fallulah

                Thanks lovely…ditto.

            • poliltimmy

              I wonder how many times she had to listen to the condescending ‘bless your little heart’ or ‘isn’t that heavenly’, or the boat load of other little religious sayings designed to root out the heretics.

              • Jim Smith

                OH man, reminds me when I used to work in a call centre located in Canada, and would be working for AT&T/Cingular, and you get to the southern states, and then the Christian blessings come out ALL day long. I was told that I had Jesus in my heart because I was so kind and caring *Atheist with Buddhist leanings here*, or you get those bless your little heart, or my favourite one though, was hearing Let me pray for you while I am on the phone with you.. and by Cthulhu do I wish I could summon him from his sleep when you have to listen to 5 minutes of prayer since you can’t hang up the phone. You are allowed to hang up on people having sex, but not being prayed at… jerks. Not all Christians are like that, but those southern ones… yeah..

                I understand how easy it is to snap, but sensibility on the job site should make you think twice about losing your job :-)

                • poliltimmy

                  I agree her better judgment was nonexistent, she should have took other action. But I have a strange feeling the good religious lady was not as innocent as the story leads on. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to both. The lady lasing out. I give her the benefit that she may have endured a lot. And the other lady gets the benefit that she did not know how frustrating her proselytizing can be to others.

                  When you cover your desk and constantly giving the lord praise for my work, that is proselytizing and I might get pissed too.

                  But I’m just guessing because we know so little about it.

          • Art_Vandelay

            Well Lareau filed for a restraining order against her. She didn’t get it but it seems relevant.

            • The Starship Maxima

              I suppose it is, but then some requests for restraining orders are downright frivolous, which might have been the reason she didn’t get it.

              • Art_Vandelay

                Of course but it does indicate that she was proactively being pursued by Griffin…even if it was just some innocuous proselytizing that you’d never get an RO for. No…that doesn’t excuse threatening to report her for saying Bless You though.

    • MNb

      Tribal thinking in the jewish-christian tradition leads to your position.
      I think atheist skepticism applied to ethics should lead to feel empathy for KMG.

    • fjpor

      These days it is usually the Christians who are accusing us of persecuting them

  • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

    There definitely needs to be boundaries on all sides with this. There is no need to go beyond stating you are not religious and then saying you are atheist if you get more than one question about it. Berating someone for anything at all from their choice in favorite football teams to their choice in mythological fantasy figures to believe in is a form of bullying and intimidation. Same if it’s directed at you. Goose and gander and all of that although I am surprised there is a place where the atheists outnumber the religious here in the US of A. I am not surprised that a-holes are everywhere cause man they are everywhere.

  • Jorge Pérez de Lara

    While Lareau certainly crossed the line into personal territory, I do think that the open (especially massive) display of religious paraphernalia in a workplace also makes for a hostile work environment. Part of being tolerant and respectful involves keeping one’s opinion on these sensitive subjects to oneself.

    • The Starship Maxima

      A reasonable assumption, but the pendulum can swing too far the other way. If you notice a Christian band playing on my screen at work; on MY screen, at MY desk, that I did NOT invite you to….are you truly right to feel harassed by it?

      To the point you berate me and act unprofessional?

      • Fallulah

        It is company property, not your personal property. Unless you own the company.

        • The Starship Maxima

          Quite true. However, I am allowed to use company property for personal purposes within reason. If you were lesbian and felt offended by pictures of me (a guy) with my wife, and tried to file a lawsuit, you’d be rightly laughed at.

          If I kept a Fred Phelps poster saying “Kill da Gayz!” and tried to claim religious freedom, I’d be rightly laughed at.

          The point is, the rules exist to allow for multiple different kinds of people to coexist, not to remove all manner of personal expression.

      • Jorge Pérez de Lara

        The line is very fine, I will grant you that. While it may be your screen computer and your desk, frequent display of religious items can be sufficiently “in your face” for people who have to walk by your desk and look at them to qualify as creating a hostile environment. The US being a christian nation, I wonder how the overt and profuse display of FSM imagery at a workplace would go with most workers. The reason christian symbols are mostly allowed to be openly displayed at a workplace has much more to do with the fact that they have become a “natural” part of the social scenery than with the fact that its display is not considered blatant.

        • The Starship Maxima

          Without question, the display of Christian symbols probably has to do with the fact that it is just a part of the fabric. I grant that.

          I just think that rather than trying to turn workplaces into these antiseptic spaces devoid of any expression, where no one can sneeze for fear of offending; we need to EXPAND the right of workers to express themselves.

          A cross shouldn’t have to be hidden, but then someone should be able to watch a Christopher Hitchens youtube video at work, or hang a “In Yoda We Trust” dollar bill on the cubicle.

          I think American workers are mature enough to handle it.

        • Jim Smith

          Ask the group in the Ukraine or Russia who had an FSM parade and were arrested by police as supsected terrorists because some Orthodox something whatever they call themselves got all offended.

          • The Starship Maxima

            Uptight losers.

      • Jim Smith

        I understand the point you are trying to make, but then if I were to play some good Black Sabbath without headphones, most would get offended. As long as I didn’t have to hear it, I would be ok with it, it is your choice, but if you had the speakers up loud, and it was in a small space (like people who seem to do the same thing with cats funnily enough *I wonder if there is a correlation?*), anyways, I digress..umm yeah, so anyway, if you were playing it loud, I would ask you nicely to turn it down, if you failed to comply because you told me it was your right to listen to it, then I might just have to pull out some Black Sabbath and see how that went :-)

        I like Christians with sensibility.. rare these days.

        • The Starship Maxima

          I like some of the basslines in Black Sabbath songs, I might ask you to share your playlist. :)

          • Jim Smith

            God is Dead is definitely one of my favourites, and not for those words either, the damn song is a masterpiece of Ozzie being back to drug addled awesome capability, and it is a damned good song. Paranoid is an all time favourite, love Dreamer by Ozzie when he did some of his solo stuff. I have too wide a range in music to list all my fav Black Sabbath stuff.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              Rock on, dudes. Rock on.

              *goes to find earbuds*

        • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

          But I was told I could listen to the radio at a reasonable volume from 9:00 to 11:00….

          • Jim Smith

            bwahahahahaha… yeah. I have nothing to say to that LOL

    • Forrest Cahoon

      Especially if the prominence of the display was in direct response to the knowledge that people of other religions (or no religion) were co-workers. Imagine how a Muslim would feel, after having just worked there long enough for everyone to know his religion, suddenly have crosses and framed psalms with praying hands and such all over a co-workers desk space. That would be hostile.

      In this case, we simply do not know the facts.

  • newavocation

    Would have been more interesting if Lareau was a Muslim. Welcome to the Middle East! Actually a while back I had to get a new license plate and encountered a customer service rep with a desk loaded with Christian artifacts. Mind you this is a government service office. Then I was asked if I wanted the In God We Trust license plate, while other people were around and with Fox News blaring in the background. Na this is not a religious test at all.

    • The Starship Maxima

      I suppose simply saying “No thank you I don’t want the ‘In God We Trust’ plate” was too much of a stretch?

      • poliltimmy

        Maybe the person could just ask if they wanted a specialty plate, instead of a specific one of them.

        • The Starship Maxima

          If I worked at that DMV, I’d more readily give them a “Hail Satan” plate than one that said “Patriots Rule!” But that’s just me.

          And yes, politimmy, they could have simply asked if they wanted a general specialty plate instead a specific theistic one. True.

      • Fallulah

        You should have said, “No but can I get one that says ‘Hail Satan’? Thanks.”

      • newavocation

        Of the 30 other speciality plates it’s interesting she would ask about that one. I wonder if the next service rep over was a fisherman, would he ask if I wanted the Bass plate?

        • poliltimmy

          I wonder if you are ‘marked’ now. A little check in some obscure place.

        • The Starship Maxima

          Good point.

      • newavocation

        Another thing to consider Starship is this government paid clerk can pose her religious question to what 2000 customers over a years time? Let her promote her religion on her own time and at her own church.

        • The Starship Maxima

          Good points made, newavocation.

    • LesterBallard

      Should have asked for Allah Akbar.

  • MichiganDodle3695

    in a way, I feel badly for the woman being harassed. but then again, we atheists have been more than just harassed for a very, very long time in this sea of Christians.

  • Artor

    Yeah, harassing someone back does nothing to fix the problem of religious nutjobs harassing the non-religious. Being as bad as your opponents is no advance over them.

  • Richard Thomas

    I think this point has already been made, but how do we know the religious paraphernalia in question wasn’t of the “REPENT OR BURN IN HELL SINNER” type? That would certainly provoke righteous indignation on behalf of the defendant.

  • LesterBallard

    I get tired of hearing “god bless you” when I sneeze. Do some practical; wipe my nose for me.

  • dmc

    I wonder if she should have just put up a bunch of atheist stickers and darwin fish, and said thor bless you like a regular passive agressive sarcastic atheist lol. That wouldn’t have been mature, but maybe that would have been fair?? But after reading the comments below I guess it would behoove us to know the full story.

  • Bart Meltzer

    A unique story. Most of the time it’s the other way around. The Christian harassing the Atheist. Christians used to kill atheists for sport. Remember that? And the Atheist is the person chosen to pay for this kind of behavior?

    When was the last time a Christian was fined for harassing an Atheist like this? Because that happens a lot more often.

    • The Starship Maxima

      I’m a bit disturbed by this “Well they do it! So I should get to do it too!” That sounds uncomfortably juvenile and adolescent. Maybe we should all be aiming to be more adult, not less.

      And FWIW, Christians used to be killed for sport as well.

      • Bart Meltzer

        Starship, you also missed the point. I never said that just because many Christians persecute Atheists means that it’s okay for an Atheist to persecute Christians. It’s not.

        I’ll make my point again. No Christians have been held accountable for persecuting Atheists like this one Atheist was held accountable. In fact, Christians get away with this kind of thing all the time.

        So the point is one Atheist is held accountable while many Christians are aloud to get away with acts like this. That’s the point that’s ignored.

    • Zach Wilson

      Obviously you didn’t read the article. Instead of acting like a rational-minded person, she made an abhorrent dick of herself. Rebutting the religious in a discussion is fine; being an asshole to your coworkers is a whole different animal. Yes, the religious should keep there silliness to themselves, especially in the workplace; but for an irreligious person to act so irrationally is both imbecilic and ironic. Ironic because atheists are often renowned for their logical and rational minds, yet here this woman is, simply being inane.
      To quote her own irresponsibly irrational behavior: “You’re just doing it for the attention; you wear it on your sleeve like a badge…” All she cared about doing, it seems to me, was inciting a response by acting like a toddler.

      As for her being offended, I think Stephen Fry says it best:

      • Bart Meltzer

        You missed my point. I did not condone the Atheists behavior. I commented on how she was held accountable for it when so many more Christians engage in the same behavior or worse and get away with it on a continuous basis.

        Why was the Atheist held accountable when so many Christians are not? A rhetorical question.

        • Zach Wilson

          Fair enough, you’re right. Sorry for jumping down your throat.

    • The Starship Maxima

      Upon review, I guess I did miss your point. Yes, Christians, not all, but far too many, have an uncomfortable habit of pouncing on captive audiences, not just at work. It is true, they need to be held accountable for that.

  • Annika Raaen

    I’m behind you 100%. Universal rule #1. Don’t be a dick. I don’t think I would ever be able to say those things to someone, no matter how obnoxious they were. I’d probably try to get them to stop, but…yeah…I’m not sure.
    HOWEVER….I know someone who worked with Griffin. Apparently, she used to sing hymns outloud all day and was always on the defensive about her faith being suppressed, i.e. asserting her beliefs before anyone could say anything about it. It was very distracting and sometimes made it difficult to work. This was yeas before Griffin moved to Parks. My friend wasn’t surprised that someone would have eventually snapped. From the report I read, it seems as though Lareau tried to do the right thing by reporting offensive/distracting behaviour, but it (obviously, duh) escalated beyond that. Not saying that Lareau’s commets were appropriate, because they weren’t. It’s just that coupled with the fact that Lareau lacked tact, Griffin might have played a large part in it coming to this.

    • The Starship Maxima

      While hardly definitive, this certainly tempers the view of Lareau as a douchebag who simply took it too far.

      While I see the potential offensiveness of singing hymns at the workplace, I wonder then if humming the latest Jay-Z track from Holy Grail also counts as harassment.

      But still, with all the work to be done, who HAS time to sing hymns all day?

      • Annika Raaen

        Yeah, my comment isn’t meant to be definitive, just second hand (third hand?) information from someone who knew Griffin as someone who has a history playing a martyr for her faith without provocation.
        I don’t know if your scenario would count as harrassment, mostly because I’ve never listened to Jay-Z. Is it offensive?
        I work in a government office where singing and audible music is prohibited, which is why I’m surprised that Griffin had worked for so long in a government office with this kind of behaviour and HADN’T been called out on it before. It’s also against policy to place religious and political flyers or posters in prominent areas of the office i.e. outside your cubicle. There are plenty of people whose religious and political views are the opposite of mine, and even have little tokens representing those beliefs on their desk, and it’s never an issue. Because we a) are adults and treat our jobs with respect and b) don’t feel the need to be overt about our beliefs. My team is actually very close and cohesive and we work extremely well together. Not being able to be overt about these things helps us learn to share the idea that work isn’t about our personal beliefs.

        • The Starship Maxima

          Your workplace seems to have the right idea.

          • Annika Raaen

            I think so. :)

  • David Roche

    I didn’t like reading this article online, so I’m suing the people who made my computer, for subjecting me to something that makes me uncomfortable!

  • ShhhImReading

    I live in Texas. I now work from home (for a scientist!), but my last job was in a very close-knit, fairly conservative environment. I knew that the vast majority of my coworkers were Christians. One, who is a dear friend, enrolled in a Theology program while I was there (he should be finishing up with his MA soon), and he and I would have many, many discussions concerning theology. He knew I was an atheist, but our discussions were biblical and literary, not scientific, and even with my questions and disbelief, we both had a great time talking to one another, quite civilly, with plenty of laughter and smiles. We both looked forward to these conversations, because for him, it was good practice defending his beliefs (and what is a belief if it cannot be defended well?), and I guess the same for me (but I am a trained folklorist, so for me it gets at the heart of my primary, lifelong obsession: mythology). Louie was the only one I ever really had any religious conversations with. One time, another coworker was shocked, just SHOCKED, that I didn’t believe. It was a short conversation, which I nipped in the bud as quickly as I could. He said, “I bet you don’t believe in god, do you?” And I said “nope!” and walked away. I used my work address for my amazon.com deliveries, and I was so excited the day Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True” arrived, that I ripped the package open immediately and gleefully carried my book to my cubby. Another co-worker (one who I know absolutely does not believe in *church*, but I’m unsure of his take on god), expressed slight dismay with my book choice (he murmured my name disapprovingly).

    Up until then, I had done all of my atheist readings on my kindle app on my iPhone. That’s how I read Hitchens, Harris, Stenger, Shermer, and Dawkins. It’s horrible on the eyes, by the way. But I wanted to make sure I always kept my reading habits a secret from my coworkers, lest they think less of me. The day my book arrived, I was so excited (major bibliophile, here), I couldn’t wait to unwrap it. I wasn’t thinking.

    I worked very hard to stay semi-closeted. If anyone had asked me my position, I would have shared it, as I did with the two who asked me directly. I don’t lie about who I am. However, it was not information I offered to anyone, and I did not use work time to go around confronting my coworkers about their beliefs–it’s wrong to do so. Work is work. If we go to happy hour later, I might open up more, but I would still stay relatively tame because I would see those people again the next day. Many of them wore crosses and belt buckles that said “faith,” discussed bible verses occasionally, and talked about whichever services they attended last Sunday. They were all very comfortable being open about their religion, whereas I was not, because I know that people like the one in the article are the ones making our names for us. As much as I ridicule religion in public forums online, I don’t do it at work, because it is not an appropriate discussion for the workplace, whereas the internet is an appropriate place for free thought and speech. I don’t like staying silent about my strongest beliefs, but I do it because I still cling to a little bit of decorum.

    • The Starship Maxima

      I must take exception that someone like Lareau “makes” a name for all atheists. Bullshit. She no more represents all atheists than that Nazi Fred Phelps represents Christians (he’s not really a Christian, but anyway….)

      Also, I think sometimes we make the mistake of preempting the responses of others. In thinking others guilty of bigotry, we don’t realize we’re practicing bigotry by assuming their thoughts and deeds simply because they belong to a certain demographic, one that happens to be based on religion.

      I had a girl pull back from dating me because I was upfront about my opposition to abortion and homosexuality. I’m sure she had no idea I’d dated several women who’d had abortions before and that I was a regular donator to the HRC.

      On the flip side, I’ve felt I couldn’t share my religious faith with some atheists. I was being bigoted. I shared my beliefs and some treated me differently and were snide, yes. The OVERwhelming majority treated me no different than before.

      While it’s good to use caution, sometimes we should give people the chance to show off their better nature.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    For years I worked as a temp. I saw desks like this a lot. (Roughly half the time) Mostly they were Bible verses of the “daily affirmation” sort. All positive messages. Eye-rollingly silly to me, but harmless and inoffensive. I’m more offended by “precious moments” type kitsch. But it was their desk and caused no one else any harm. I feel the same way about a “god bless you” after sneezing.” I realize there are folks who are passive-agressive about promoting their religion and they can be obnoxious about it, but considering the number of people who are openly hostile and mean-spirited in this country, I feel it’s best to give a pass to those who are well-meaning, even if misguided. Yes, I realize that others will have a problem with that attitude, but I feel it’s best to choose my battles and those seem hardly worth fighting. My energy is better used on more constructive matters.

  • Sondra Erb

    in the work place; should be kept professional. not everyone believes in the same thing. you should keep your religion and life problems at the door. that would help alot!

    • The Starship Maxima

      By that token, I could ask a gay person to keep their pride pins at the door. Or I could tell them to not show pictures of them with their same-sex partner.

      Or we could try this. The gay person doesn’t tell me to keep my pocket New Testament in the drawer and I told them to take off their equality pin. We deal with each other as coworkers, possibly pals, that have views that don’t mesh.

      • Sondra Erb

        like i said…not everyone believes in the same thing..and btw where talking about religion in the workplace not gay people. being gay is one thing and people should keep it personal too and many people do….
        MY point is…
        someone could be a satanist and have a satanist bible on their desk….would that make you feel uncomfortable?.
        another point-
        how about having an atheist co-worker that has atheist posters and nik naks on there desk?
        .my bottom like is________
        wouldn’t you want them to keep their satanic and atheist stuff left at the door as well?

        • Sondra Erb

          All in all. I don’t believe in disrespecting anyone’s religion and i expect the same from them- respect.

        • The Starship Maxima

          No. I would not. Their satanist and atheist stuff are things that they feel makes their workspace more comfortable. It poses no threat to me. Just like a pride pin poses no threat to me. Just like a Red Sox cap poses no threat to me.

          If these are the harmless expressions of personal taste and opinion, I see no discomfort in it.

          My point is, maybe what we label “harassment” and “hostile work environment” bear rethinking.

  • A3Kr0n

    My boss doesn’t ask me if I go to church, and I don’t ask him about those religious icons in his cubie. Like Bill Clinton once said “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

  • Dave Lanson

    Tolerance extends both ways. OK some people believe in concepts completely alien to our own. They have the right to do so as long as they are not harassing or otherwise harming others. That’s just common sense. Let them be.

  • Itarion

    If you replace “Christian” with “IPU”, it still sounds cruel. Assholes [okay, abusive coworkers] are everywhere, and it is everyone’s responsibility to call them out. Nature of comments, not content.

  • SeekerLancer

    Bullying is unacceptable no matter where it comes from. Religious or not, you should follow the basic rule of life: “Don’t be a douche.”

  • paulalovescats

    I wonder how the Christian behaved. I can ignore signs on desks, etc. but was she being preached to? I’d like to hear the other side, not that that’s an excuse. And Portland? Portland where? Be specific. There are people living in other Portlands besides OR.
    I know it couldn’t have been here.

  • Damon Howell

    They, on the other hand, get to harrass atheists all they want. Because Jesus.

  • ncc9389

    Does that mean the co worker who said he was going to be raptured in 1994 and I asked him for his boat, since he wouldn’t be needing it any longer was inappropriate?

  • navymom

    I once worked at a fabric store with a coworker who would spend all evening proselytizing instead of working, leaving me to do *everything* – and when I complained to management, *I* was the one shoved out the door. Gotta love it. :-(

    • The Starship Maxima

      Navymom, it is my humble opinion that, if not too much time has gone by, you should sue the shit out of that lame ass fabric store.

      • navymom

        It was almost 15 years ago, and that location closed not too long afterwards. The offender ended up unemployed. Karma in action, maybe? Thanks for the advice, though, I would have loved to do it.

      • navymom

        I tried to reply last night, but apparently it disappeared into cyberspace. That was over 15 years ago, and the fabric store closed down not too long afterwards. The offender ended up unemployed. Karma, maybe?

        Thanks for the good advice, though, Starship Maxima. I would have loved to nail them!

  • Gehennah

    I have to agree here. I don’t like religion, but it’s certainly not something I’m going to create a hostile work environment over. I am an out Atheist at work, but actually have a few Muslims and Christians that will talk to me about it and we all stay respectful with the discussion (because we act like adults).

    But for the most part, we tend to not talk about things like that at work. But my work does a lot to try to keep work from becoming hostile. One lady used to harass one of the girls I work with because she’s an Atheist and a lesbian. HR talked to the lady, and she continued and she was fired a few days later. And I’d expect the same thing to happen to an Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, or anyone else that was harassing anyone else at work.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    This doesn’t pass the smell test, man. There’s more to this. There always is.

  • ScottG

    I’ve been reading the “Amended Complaint” – which is only 24 pages double-spaced (and gets into the actual timeline on page 3). It really gets bad at the bottom of page 9 where they tell the Christian she’s being let go for “budget cuts”, and it later gets found out as “age discrimination” (top of page 11). The town also held numerous HR meetings with her and turned the recorder on and off as they saw fit.

    The defendant behaved poorly. The Portland’s Parks Dept. just plain crossed the line over and over. There was a year time spread from the first formal complaint to the apparently false order of protection (judge eventually threw it out): major management fail for letting a personnel issue get and and stay out of hand that long.

  • http://yogscast.wikia.com/wiki/User:Supertoastfairy Supertoastfairy

    What an asshole!

  • fjpor

    As an atheist I find her actions to be totally offensive.

  • Stephen Barba

    “One who makes peace with the new by destroying the old is not to be honored”

  • allein

    Ironically, the person most likely to say “bless you” (he leaves out the “god”) when I sneeze at work is my atheist coworker who sits across from, who knows I’m also an atheist. He also likes to bring me the religious tracts he finds on his door because he knows they amuse me.

  • Kellen Connor

    Wow, lot of arguments in the comments. I think it’s pretty clear that both teams have an equal number of douche-bags. All we can really do is try not to be one of them. And maybe call out the behavior when we get a chance to.

  • Blacksheep

    I have learned that being an a’hole has nothing to do with one’s religious belief. A certain % of people are a’holes, it’s that simple.

  • Acleron

    Considering the victim status that xtians have claimed for 2000 years and the number of stories you have published demonstrating the bias towards xtians in the US your outright condemnation of Lareau is surprising. I can quite easily envisage the situation where she stated she was being harassed and became a target by her managers. Her mistake may just have been naivety in expecting fairness and not collecting her own firm evidence.


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