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Asking the Clergy: Religion on the job


What is approriate religious behavior on the job?

Pastor Gregory Wilk, Abundant Life Ministries, Holbrook:

I have worked with government agencies, corporations and the public in my 31 years in ministry. The responsibility of the behavior is on the believer to be sensitive to others while being faithful to those core beliefs.

Before becoming a person of faith, I was an agnostic. I was so bold as to tell students where I taught that there was no God. After I had an encounter with the Messiah, I was so bold as to share my faith with everyone. I was overzealous. I had to learn boundaries. I had to earn the right, through a relationship with the other person, to share my faith with that person.

Sharing one's faith is time sensitive, person sensitive, situational sensitive, but above all spiritually sensitive. It is a challenge for people of faith to separate the workplace from their job as a person of faith.

I think of Jesus in John 16:12 when he says, "I have many things to share with you, but you cannot bear to hear them."

As a servant of God, you're there for others. As a servant, you don't intrude upon those you're attempting to serve. A good servant of Christ is watchful, sensitive to the needs of others and humble in offering his faith to others. You have to be sensitive to the environment you're in.

Brother Eric Michael, Little Portion Friary, Mount Sinai:

I'm a Franciscan Brother who wears a habit. When I was in California and got a job with a mental health agency, part of my job interview was with my co-workers who had some say in my being hired. They had no problem with my wearing my habit. My clients, all but two, had no problem with my wearing a habit, which I did for a year. It was a higher up who came to visit one day who had the problem, and I was asked to stop wearing it.

I think people can wear a cross, Star of David, veil, headscarf. I don't think it is appropriate to have a giant Nativity scene on your desk.

What you wear on your person is OK. Reading a religious book at break time is OK. Saying a prayer over your food is OK. Standing up in the lunch room and saying a prayer over everyone else's food is not OK. An honest display of your faith is OK. To push your faith onto others is not OK.

Rabbi Leslie Schotz, Bay Shore Jewish Center:

Basically, follow the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated. That's a good measuring stick to go by.

I'd think twice about bringing your religion to work if it doesn't necessarily reflect the place where you work. If I go into a church and hear the name Jesus Christ, I'd expect it and be respectful of that space. If I go to a school and hear them discussing Jesus Christ, I'd be uncomfortable.

You never want your religion to unintentionally -- or intentionally -- hurt others. Religion should bring people together, not alienate them. I used to work in a library where people could smoke. Thank goodness, we've learned the danger of secondhand smoke. You should think of your religious health the same way. Would you want the practice of your religion to damage others? I think that also is a good gauge of what to do.

Isma Chaudhry, vice chairwoman of the board of trustees, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury:

Practicing of religion is a personal choice. If you want to practice your religion and it doesn't interfere with your work, then you should do so. Your religion also should not be offending to others at work.

I am a physician with a private practice, so it is not always easy to pray five times a day. Even so, as Muslims, that is part of our daily lives. They are not two separate lives.

It is easy to perform the first prayer before sunrise. The second prayer is early afternoon, around 1 p.m. From a practical point of view, it is your lunch prayer. The third is the late afternoon prayer, around 4 or 5 o'clock. The fourth is an evening prayer, performed right before sunset. The fifth is right before you go to sleep, up to midnight.

Each prayer takes about 3-5 minutes to as long as you want to pray. But there is a window of time either way on when you must do each. If you're at work, you can easily perform it in three minutes. Islam wants to make your life easier, not harder.

Work has never interfered with my religion, and religion has never interfered with my work.

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