What About Religious Expression?
By Luke Visconti
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January 05, 2009
I would never presume to limit the wearing of headscarves, crosses or modest clothing. What, though, about clothing, not otherwise prescribed by the religion, which is an expression of belief? For example, if you worked in a bank in which suits were the norm, and an employee chose to wear a T-shirt with the words "Jesus Saves" in large print on the front instead of a more traditional shirt.
Nothing in any branch of Christianity suggests that adherents should not wear shirts or should wear T-shirts, nor that good Christians must proclaim their beliefs in large letters on their clothing. Yet asking someone so attired to change clothing (especially since I am not a Christian myself) could lead to charges of suppression of religious expression.
There's a big difference between wearing a small cross or headscarf and a T-shirt proclaiming "Jesus Saves" or "Allahu Akbar." One is modest dress while the other I would consider to be proselytizing.
For a typical business or any public institution, proselytizing is not appropriate. Is there a strict definition for proselytizing? No.
Who gets to decide? For business, top management must establish what "crosses the line." The CEO clearly stating values, both publicly and repetitively, facilitates this. What constitutes "proper" dress will also be much less of a problem if effective diversity training and follow-up is in place.
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This doesn't take away anyone's "rights" because you don't have a "right" to be a counterproductive employee.
I'm sure there are a couple of people reading this who are tempted to send me an e-mail about Muslim women wearing headscarves as a form of proselytizing. Here's my answer so we can all save time: Don't be asinine.
While we, as headcovering people, will be asked occasionally why we cover our heads, and we often use that as a chance to give an answer for the spiritual hope that lies within us, I believe there truly is a difference between pushing our opinions, belief or understanding onto someone who disagrees with us, and simply living what we believe. Any thoughts?