No place for religion at work says Judge

Related content: No place for religion at work says Judge

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John Mounty
Member - 142 posts
11 May 2012 10:39AM

I have followed this thread with interest because I am a devout atheist (living in a country where a specific religion is an established part of the state) who simply cannot understand how any intelligent person can even consider involvement in any religion. It is my belief (!) that the pursuit of religion - any religion - is an illogical dependency upon superstitious mumbo jumbo but I don't think that I have any right to thrust that point of view at others except in respectful debate with people willing to discuss such things. I just wish that people with religious beliefs would behave in a similar way.

However, to get back to the original point - "Did the punishment fit the crime?". The question is actually asked in a context that misses the main thrust of the judgement; the reason for the doctor's dismissal was his disruptive attitutde with staff. So far as I can tell from a small amount of research, the doctor spent an inordinate amount of his own time and the time of the hospital management in tearing colleagues to pieces for which he had already been warned and given help with his management style. However he failed to improve and went so far as to break confidences that were central to his continued employment. The question of his religious beliefs was 'peripheral' in his dismissal and the judge merely said that the alleged discrimination against him as a Christian had been dealt with in precisely the same way as any similar alleged discimination against believers of other religions.

The judge's decision was that the doctor's dismissal was completely justified and that the religious discrimination elements raised by the doctor were, in my words, a smoke screen. Unsurprisingly elements of the press with, perhaps, political views that lie right of centre, have clutched at an element of the judgement that was of only very minor significance.

So did the punishment fit the crime? Yes it did but bear in mind that the 'crime' had little or nothing to do with religion.

Member - 239 posts
11 May 2012 8:22AM

Please can we avoid this thread decending into the rights and wrongs of religion or any particular religion, basis of moral etc. These are not issues for HR to decide on, our position is to work with employment law and reasonableness not personal opinion on anyone's beliefs or followings.
The question was about the judge's words not whether we should have any or all religions in the workplace and which one is right. Religion is an emotive subject, HR should not be based on emotions.

Cindy Rivers
Member - 31 posts
10 May 2012 3:03PM

Mark - I think you have misread my messages. I am fully in support of people having their religion. I would like people to pray for me. No one is against quiet rooms at work either.

As regards your comment about being against the law .... I dont know what you are speaking of. My company did not want to take disciplinary action and act on a good number of complaints HR had received about a particular chap in the workplace, who was being intrusive with his unsolicited diatribes about Islam. And the reason they would not is specifically because he is of the Islamic faith. I was part of that meeting so I know what went down. If it had been any other religion that was not so - shall we say, assertive - then formal action would have been taken. That is not evenhanded., esp. in light of the Judge's ruling in the matter we have been discussing.

Several of the men in the dept asked him not to speak at them individually or as a group about religion but he would not desist; he even said that it is the job of all men of the Muslim faith to speak forth about the faith and that he was simply obeying - even though his monologues occurred in the office itself, in the kitchen, in the archive room, on the way home to the Tube.

All of English Law and jurisprudence is based on Judeo-Christianity, and yet Christianity is always taking a back seat.

Mark Shuttleworth
Member - 238 posts
10 May 2012 2:02PM

Cindy, it also says in the bible 'go out and teach the word of the lord', but be careful, you might find not "touching" or employing someone because of their religious belief is against the law! Naturally those who take their religion at face value will try to do this but Robert is spot on, its no different from tele sales people trying to flog PPI comp or phone contracts or even Sky TV knocking at your door. Just tell them to shut up and go away if it offends you. I don't hate Sky tv but I hate the people who knock on my door and try to sell me packages I don't want. Like religion, the individual is free to take from it what they want.

How many people have prayer rooms in their offices; or for those offended by the term, 'quiet 'or 'contemplation' rooms? Not because we fear the consequences of not having them but because we're a caring compassionate society who treat our staff with respect and consideration.
By the way I don't go to church or practice any religion but how could i be offended if someone offered to do something caring for me? It doesn't matter that it's to say a prayer, it could be the offer of a cup of tea, a shoulder to cry on or tickets for the wimbledon final, its me that has the choice to say yes or no.

Religion is no different to any other product or idea. An MD of a company making widgets will think they're the best thing in the world and will want to tell everyone about them, where's the difference?

Robert Barker
Member - 1 post
10 May 2012 10:18AM

There is a bigger issue here that most of you are missing or at least neglecting to comment on.
Most people have a 'Religion' and frequently express it to their colleagues in the workplace.

For some it's football. They go to their church weekly (football ground) and study their religion daily in the newspapers and specialist magazines. They even dress like their Rabbi with his name across their backs and are often numbered and sing worship songs to their god.

As a person who doesn't get the football thing, I don't think I should have to listen to hour after hour of this in the workplace.
The same can be said of most things, TV, films and pop stars and I have worked with women who will never miss a single episode of a particular soap!
If you remove Christianity from the workplace then you must remove traces of every other religion also.

Whilst you're cleansing the workplace of Christianity, you should remember that if it wasn't for Christians harping on about their religion, we wouldn't have schools, hospitals, and even the charitable giving that we all get involved in from time to time would never exist because charitable works stem from Christianity. Furthermore, we would still have slavery since it was one of those pesky Christians who never shut up about God who single handedly abolished slavery.

I for one would dearly love to have a doctor like this who is prepared to go that extra mile, which is also a Christian concept from the Bible. He would treat the body, mind and even my soul and spirit.

I am not a religious zealot but we all live under the safety of the laws of this country which say murder, rape, stealing etc. are wrong and these all came from the Bible.
If you really want to remove Christianity from the workplace then removal of these laws would complete the process and make stealing, rape, violence etc. common place at work.
Do we really hate the odd Christian so much that we would prefer this instead?

Cindy Rivers
Member - 31 posts
10 May 2012 9:54AM

Actually Mark, it is incumbent on every Muslim to put effort into trying to convert as many non-believers as possible. That is a clear & undisputed fact, and it's in the Quran. And because that is so tightly woven into the fabric of that religion, my company would not touch the employee who was proselytising in the workplace. However, he never offered to pray for any of us (unlike other recent cases we have read about), and I am told by a neighbour that a Muslim person cannot pray for a non-believer, an infidel. This neighbour is a Muslim family a few doors away so they should know.

Mark Shuttleworth
Member - 238 posts
10 May 2012 8:56AM

Religion has a place everywhere, in private, in the workplace, on the terraces, on the tube.
Its how it is demonstrated, no one person should have another's beliefs thrust at them if unwanted. The best way to promote your own belief is through your own actions and by example.
We are a nation built on Christianity but tolerant of the beliefs of others. One problem is that too many people blame an entire religion because of the unwanted actions of one person.

Religion is one of the best ways to teach tolerance, decency and moral conduct, but don't blame a whole religion for the unwanted attentions of one person. God, there are so many intolerent people out there!!

Cindy Rivers
Member - 31 posts
10 May 2012 7:39AM

I know that at my company, about 18 months ago, we had a Muslim chap who would proselytise and try to engage others in discussion about Islam. He was a nuisance and some people were offended that he thought we should consider leaving our respective religions & culture, and reported him. HR and management declined to speak to him because they didnt want to touch this subject at all. To them it was an ET in the making.

I personally think it would be wonderful if someone wanted to say a prayer on my behalf esp. if I was going thru a dificult time, but talking at people is not on. I agree with P. Edwards and P. Browning in many respects. Do you remember that bizarre story about the nurse who was sacked because she asked a patient if she could pray for her? There's nothing wrong in that, but there is if the person is continually door-stepping people in the workplace to speak about religion.

Peter Edwards
Member - 65 posts
9 May 2012 2:33PM

'If you abolish the God, the Government becomes the God.' GK Chesterton.

Peter Edwards

Leonard Newman
Member - 9 posts
9 May 2012 9:29AM

Is this case one of contradiction, do we still have to swear on the bible in court ?. Could this doctor have been disiplined in some manner and told to keep his religion to himself, personally i think religions have caused enough pain and suffering on this planet. On a lighter note Peter Brownings reference to the case of Wayne Rooney telling his team mates that god was on their side, was the referee not negligent in not noticing that they had one more player than the opposition !!!

Member - 239 posts
9 May 2012 9:13AM

@ Peter

Looking at just the point of your original question - was the judge out of order - any behaviour by an employee that results in offence, discomfort or what could be construed as harassment or discimination under latest EU law is a problem.

Perhaps the people this doctor worked with were over sensitive, perhaps far more has been going on than we have information on, it does suggest there were emails, comments etc and this was not a one off occurrence.

If any behaviour is so regular that it affects others people's ability to do their job for any reason and the dismissed doctor had been spoken to and requested to cease, or even been through a disciplinary procedure then the judge's comment as part of his ruling seems perfectly reasonable in THIS case because it was religious activity that was the problem.

Should the doctor have been dismissed? not if it was a one off and if that were the case then it is likely a tribunal would have found in there favour - we don't know how l long this has been going on, but the fact they are a doctor is irrelevant - they are in this situation an employee, equal to and no more important than any other in the workplace.

The comment /ruling in this case involved a religious situation, but it could have involved any number of other situations where someone continuously acts in a way that disrupts the workplace and offends others. This doctor happened to be Christian, but the religion is really irrelevant to the ruling which was not made on the basis of their faith but their behaviour. You cannot take one sentence and say the judge "undercooked their judgement", you have to take the ruling and the case as a whole.

Peter Browning
Member - 119 posts
9 May 2012 8:31AM

For those of you who are "with the judge" on this issue, you may yet perhaps feel able to answer my original question - "Did the punishment fit the crime ?"... In so doing, you might also perhaps feel able to bear in mind the resultant devastation of the career of someone whose work might be regarded as rather more important to society than, say, a pop star or a footballer. In the unlikely event that, say, Wayne Rooney was sacked for telling his team-colleagues that God was on their side, just imagine the public outcry ! Forgive me but, on the original facts as stated, I still think that the judge was out of order.

Neil Tilley
Member - 120 posts
9 May 2012 7:51AM

I agree with the judge. We use slang terms for different types of people, Petrol Heads for car enthusiasts as an example. Excuse me if I don't sound sincere, but the religious botherers in the workplace are NOT wanted. We all have opinions and I'm happy to hear that without feeling insulted.

Once said to me ''if you read this page I've printed off for you (Lev 18:22-23) it will change your life for the better, you'll thank me for it. You need to find God''. No I do not need to find anybody. I have a choice, and don't want to be abused by narrow minded people at work. I do not go to work to hear how my life is flawed and reading a one page print off will change me to being as normal as this idiot!

This person goes to work to work, but also to preach to colleagues from time to time. In the vending area, at peoples desks. It is always the same case that 'we' must change something about 'us' to be as decent as the preacher! She is off my coffee list. I mention but one person, but there are hundreds that think it is their God given right to trounce others lifestyle choices(whatever it may be), insulting colleagues without directly insulting them. One who with an upward glance, and raised hands regularly announces as a lead in to accidental insult, something along the lines of ''Look at the blue sky, He is shining down on us today. Have you thought to pray, asked God to help you become a better person?'' I want to shout, 'how dare you, you fruit loop!' But I know to turn the other cheek, unlike these workplace nuisances.

Religion, along with some cultural ideas and political sway can remain your right to believe. But don't sell it to me at work. Printing bible extracts or symolic photos on work printers is theft. How honest and integrious, the thief who steals from the hand that feeds him(or her)

Kelly Barker
Member - 1 post
8 May 2012 9:09AM

I agree with the judge, religon is personal and should be kept personal.

Nigel Dupree
Member - 1907 posts
5 May 2012 10:04AM

Having followed the thread I am wondering where supportive positive regard for a another regardless of faith, a few kind words or kindness turns into evangelism or preaching ?

I, for one, still remember Dave Allan who ended his TV comedy show with the phrase " and may your God go with you " having spent some time making fun of his own and you are not going to tell me whatever faith does not include self-deprecating humour.

Sooo, whether familiar with the Ten Commandments, Scrolls, Curran or Human Rights Act sure all contain an ethos of goodness and kindness in word and deed whilst accepting that self-defence when threatened maybe necessary.

Frankly if I was going under the knife I would be happy, maybe even comforted to have anyone's prayer said over me, provided not to long, with good intent and kindness and what happened to "do as the locals do" respecting others whatever custom and practice exist, taking your shoes off, wearing a hat, not wondering around off the beach in ya budgie smugglers or bikini.

Member - 239 posts
5 May 2012 8:31AM

I think we need moral conduct in our lives and relations with others not religion.
Basic decency, tolerance and good behaviour are what are required in the workplace not preaching of personal beliefs - which irrespective of whether you follow any particular one or none, may be offensive to others. As offending others is against dignity at work etc, it is simply easier to keep workplaces secular and allow people to do their own religious thing in their own space, be it home, or place of worship etc.

Richard Aust
Member - 25 posts
4 May 2012 6:51PM

Bizarre. There must have been more to it that that. What our society needs is more Christian encouragement and teaching not less.

Peter Edwards
Member - 65 posts
4 May 2012 4:44PM

Oh dear! The judge has placed him/herself in somewhat of a quandry. He/she sits below the Royal Coat of Arms under which sits the motto, 'My God and My Right'. He/she also asks that witnesses swear an oath on the Holy Bible to tell, 'the truth, the whole truth, andd nothing but the truth'. These will have to go straight away. Oh, and so will most of the Law of England as this is based on Biblical principles. In fact, the law courts of the UK will now have to be radiacally re-assessed to ensure that no reference is made to any religious symbols, practices or other matters during procedings. Still, maybe this will speed things up a bit when 90% of the law no longer exists. One final thought. Will Ministers of Religion still be able to state their occupation and wear their clerical collars, crosses and other religious insignia of office?

Peter Edwards

Daniel Sweeney
Member - 174 posts
4 May 2012 11:37AM

Further to my previous post the attached link gives more detail in relation to the case It seems that the religion aspect of the claim was essentially periferal. I would still be interested in the Judges opinion on oaths etc and religious symbols in court Hey Ho! This from the secular Society.

Richard Simms
Member - 50 posts
4 May 2012 11:32AM

Personally, I tend to view the world from the standpoint of Hitchens and Dawkins, but still find it very disturbing that this doctor was dismissed for what was, on the face of it, a seemingly harmless action. I somehow think there is more behind this story. Most reasonable people would not be offended by receiving such a message and if they were, would you not just ask him to politely to remove you from his mailing list when these emails were sent out?

Daniel Sweeney
Member - 174 posts
4 May 2012 11:02AM

Bravo Peter well said. I am not a religious person but I have no difficulty in recognising the wisdom and inspirational effect that some religious writers have demonstrated throughout the years. Presumably the Judge will now petition to have the Bible and other 'holy' books removed from his court as in his own words 'religion has no place in the workplace'?

Peter Browning
Member - 119 posts
4 May 2012 10:03AM

Sorry, Judge David Kearsley, I have not seen your ruling in detail but, from this report, I think you've undercooked your judgment. Why ? Well, you state ..." if complaints were made about Muslim or Hindu doctors who had quoted from holy texts, they too would be asked to refrain from such behaviour".

The Applicant in this case is not reported to have been asked to "refrain from such behaviour", he was culled from what must otherwise have been a valuable career, apparently for trying to do his best, within his personal ethos, to get his team motivated.

For that otherwise laudable intent, his career has been devastated. My question thus, admittedly based upon a sparse report, is "Did the punishment fit the crime ? ". On the information given, no, it did not. Woe betide those who get a bit too enthusiastic about motivating their teams, choose only politically pure platitudes, and you just might survive.

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