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The Assault On Faith In The Workplace

March 2, AD2013 12 Comments

\"LarryD

Imagine these scenarios:

– Joe is the top salesman at the local car dealership. A \”gay married\” couple comes in to purchase a car, and asks Joe to sell them a car. Joe is a faithful practicing Catholic who follows Church teaching that same-sex marriage is wrong and impossible.

– Sue, a graphic designer at a website development firm, gets a referral to produce a small business\’ website. The business distributes outfits and shoes for exotic dancers and strip clubs. Sue is a faithful practicing Catholic who believes such practices are immoral and degrading to both men and women.

Sadly, these scenarios are easy to imagine. Every week, it seems we read of yet another case where a business owner\’s conscience and faith is pitted against the \”rights\” of the offended, and a lawsuit is filed. Whether it\’s a pharmacist, or a bed & breakfast proprietor, or a baker, or a photographer – we\’re familiar with these incidents.

And it\’s going to get worse before it ever, if at all, gets better.

Being a small business owner, I wonder when that day will come for me, when I\’m faced with such a scenario. It nearly happened six months ago. A customer referred her co-worker to me, to provide packaging materials for his home-based business. I was grateful for the opportunity, and after an exchange of several emails, he placed an order. It wasn\’t until then when I learned what his business was – he distributed shoes and outfits for exotic dancers (See?  Sue\’s example wasn\’t all that far-fetched!). Needless to say, I wasn\’t pleased with myself. Ninety-nine percent of the time, before reaching the point of getting the order, I know all I need to know about my customer. The particulars of this sale – it was a referral, I never met the guy, it was all handled via email – fell outside the standard sales call. Even still, I put myself in this position of \”what do I do next?\”

I couldn\’t in good faith refuse the order, but what I could do – and ended up doing – was refuse any commission on the order. I told the company fulfilling the order to make this customer a house account – meaning I wouldn\’t get paid for that order, or any possible future orders.

In reflecting on this experience, I asked myself: what would I have done had I learned the nature of the business early in the sales call, as I should have? If I had refused the opportunity because his business – catering to the strip club industry – conflicted with my conscience, what might have happened?

Looking back, I doubt there would have been anything he could have done. I wasn\’t infringing upon his right to operate a legal business, and I wouldn\’t have been discriminating against him or his civil rights. He might have gotten offended, but I don\’t think he would have had any legal standing if he had filed a lawsuit against me. Of course, frivolous lawsuits get filed all the time. Whether it would have made it in front of a judge – who\’s to say.

The battle between conscience and rights, between living one\’s faith in the workplace and being engaged in the marketplace, will continue to escalate. It will erupt on fronts unforeseen, in unexpected ways but with all too predictable results. People of good faith are being attacked not just by homosexual activists, but also by atheists and secularists of all stripes. The fight over conscience rights regarding the HHS mandate is not the final round – it\’s merely another round. If the mandate gets ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, then a different approach will be attempted. If the mandate is upheld, then additional strategies will be enacted against people of faith, and expressing one\’s beliefs in the marketplace will become so marginalized and restricted, that doing so will be illegal.

Don\’t think so? Look at Canada, where last week their Supreme Court upheld as \”hate speech\” the dissemination of material saying homosexual behavior is immoral. Yes, we have the 1st Amendment enshrined in our Constitution, but for how long, really?

More and more corporations are throwing their support behind so-called \”gay marriage\”. Recently, a group of over 200 companies filed a friend of the court brief to the US Supreme Court asking them to effectively strike down DOMA. What\’s a faithful Catholic to do if they\’re employed at any of these firms? Can a faithful Catholic sell to any of those firms? Are we required to stop purchasing these companies products? Does the Church require Catholics to quit their jobs if they\’re employed at any firm who supports intrinsic evils?

These are truly difficult questions, and responses to them requires prayer, consulting with a knowledgeable spiritual director, and seeking strength with like-minded people. I\’m certainly not an expert in these matters. It doesn\’t take an expert, however, to see that the assaults on faith in the marketplace are accelerating and deepening. The battle lines are becoming clearer and starker. Our options are becoming bleaker and darker. Or so it would seem.

Because if the goal of every Catholic is to become a saint, does it matter how we get there? No matter how we get there, the journey leads through the Cross.

We must accept the fact that since the Church will exist until the end of time, these battles will never end. We may win an occasional reprieve. There might even be a lull in the fighting here and there. But the enemies of the Church are emboldened, driven to extinguish the light of Truth to the fullest extent possible, especially in the workplace. It is being turned into a raging battlefield. To be the light of the world, to be the city on the hill, is to be a target. This isn\’t news to any of you – but it can be overwhelming. It ought not be.

Living one\’s faith in the workplace is a requirement of being Catholic, not an option. We have been sent out by Christ, to be \”wise as serpents and innocent as doves\” (Mt 10:16). We have the grace of the sacraments and the witness of the saints at our disposal. We have the gifts God has given us to accomplish His will.

It doesn\’t mean it will be easy – it just means it\’ll be worth it.

© 2013. Larry D. All Rights Reserved.

Filed in: Business • Tags:

About the Author:

LarryD resides in southeastern Michigan with his wife and 2 sons. Most of his career has been in sales for a variety of packaging firms; in May 2012, he joined the ranks of the self-employed, starting his own manufacturers rep company. Despite the commitment of building up a business, he still runs the award-winning blog Acts of the Apostasy, and contributes to The American Catholic. You can follow him on Twitter at @AoftheA. He also has a cat of whom he's 89% sure is plotting to kill him.

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  • Evelyn

    With your first scenario, where’s the moral dilemma?

    • http://actsoftheapostasy.wordpress.com LarryD

      Hi Evelyn – your comment has been rattling around my noggin all day. Let me try and address it.

      The moral dilemma in the first scenario, rests entirely on Joe’s response to the couple. If he refuses to sell them a car because of their relationship status, he’d be discriminating against them, and that would be immoral. That would put him in opposition to Church teaching – not to mention the law. His “comfort level” is insufficient cause to not treat them with dignity – no different if he was an avowed racist and a black couple came to purchase a vehicle.

      Of course, when I wrote this, that wasn’t my thought. I was trying to imagine unique scenarios – in this case, I over-thought, or didn’t think it through well enough (a case of procrastination slathered with a deadline, with a helping of pressure on the side. Mea culpa.).

      Now that I’ve taken more time to think about it, a better example might have been a limousine service owner approached by a “gay couple” wanting to rent a limo for their upcoming wedding. Too little, too late though.

      To stick with my scenario – One way to put Joe in the crosshairs, as it were, would be to say the couple came in with the premeditated intent to harass Joe, or asked him point-blank his opinion on so-called same sex marriage, hoping to get a reaction. There are different ways Joe could respond without giving them the satisfaction – ie, “It’s really none of my business”; “I don’t see how my opinion has any bearing on what type of car is best for you”; “I prefer to keep my opinion to myself”, etc.

      Merely treating them as people made in the image and likeness of God is all that’s required of Joe, and that alone would be sufficient witness to the faith. He doesn’t need to proselytize, or lie to get himself out that sort of moral dilemma. And the couple would leave perhaps having a different perspective on how Catholics respond to homosexuals in their midst.

      If they were to continue their attempt to elicit a reaction, he could ask a co-worker to help out, or invite his manager to “assist” with the sale – some way to get a witness on hand to protect himself.

      There was a case some time ago in which a lesbian office employee was planning her “wedding”, and she had a co-worker who she knew was a fundamentalist Christian, and knew that he didn’t approve of what she was doing. Well, she goaded him into giving his strong opinion, and then filed a bias/discrimination/harassment suit against him, and I believe was compensated as a result. So such things have happened.

      Thanks for your comment. I apologize if my scenario was unclear and gave the impression that I condone discrimination – I don’t, in any circumstance.

    • Evelyn

      Thanks, Larry! Personally, I’d consider it inappropriate to discriminate even for wedding-related things, since I see it as the same as refusing a mixed-race couple access to your services, and I don’t think it’s our job to police the life choices of individuals. I do believe it’s well within our rights to refuse to do work for businesses whose work we don’t want to be associated with, though, so at least we do completely agree on your second scenario! Anyway, I appreciate the response, and mostly see your point – thanks for clarifying!

  • Richard E

    Evelny, think it falls back that the salesman knew they were a ‘gay married couple’ maybe because he read it in the paper under weddings or write of the two getting married. they might of introduced themselves as Jim and my wife John, or Sue and my wife shannon – making a statement of what they were. If working with them to purchase a car made made him uncomfortable I could see where he might want to hand them off to another salesman, maybe without having to tell them or the other salesperson why.
    Just my thoughts.

  • Evelyn

    Richard, thanks, but I don’t understand how the couple wanting to buy a car would be immoral. You’re not condoning their relationship by selling a morally neutral item like a car to them. Is it considered inappropriate for Catholics to even interact with gay couples?

    Also, at what point does something making you uncomfortable mean that it’s okay for you to discriminate? If I, for instance, felt uncomfortable around Muslims, would I be justified in refusing them some morally neutral service?

    • Steve

      If in the example we take out a SSA couple and replace this with a male – female couple where they are very aggressively and obviously into domination type behaviors. Lets go so far as to say they come into the dealership with one of the two in a dog collar being treated as a pet. So its two adults, legal so there should be no hesitation on anyone’s part to sell them a car or provide any form of service right?
      The issue is how we are defining the situation. Where should a society draw the line? Is there any behavior that should be unacceptable? If someone came in with a shirt saying I am a Christ and believe in human sacrifice and loudly proclaimed this, should the salesperson have any qualms? We are all creaturs of God and to be loved but do we every get to a point where some behavior is just too much to accept.

      I say yes of course. It seems that your argument is no. Not that the line is drawn in the wrong place in the example but that no line should be drawn. Am I missing your point?

    • St Donatus

      Another example might be, lets say that you work in Walmart in the sports section. A ‘normal’ couple comes up to the gun counter and wants to purchase a gun. The woman has a black eye and bruising. The man is verbally abusive to her and is getting visibly angry at her. Then he off and slaps her for no apparent reason. Should I sell him the gun?

      Most would say no.

      Next situation. A male homosexual couple wishes to spend the night at my Bed and Breakfast. Having a history in the medical field, I can see the signs of illness from AIDS. By renting the room, the one that appears healthy probably will become infected. Do I rent them the room?

      Most would say no.

      Next situation. A male homosexual couple wishes to spend the night at my Bed and Breakfast. One of the two, is a young married man with children who has always appeared to be a good father and happy husband. I have read the Bible and know about the punishment God brought against Sodom and Gomorrah and I also know the warnings of Jesus and the Epistles about the terrible anguish those who engage in fornication will receive. By renting the room to them, I very well could be contributing to the married man falling into terrible sin, the breakup of his family, and possible a lifestyle that causes him to spend eternity in Hell. Do I rent them the room?

      Each situation presents basically the same danger, but the last in today’s world would require that I rent them the room. Personally I am just as blood guilty in each situation.

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  • Jonathan

    The difference here for Catholics (and, I think, for any right-reasoning individual confronted with questions of participation in acts for which one would prefer not) between the two scenarios is whether one is furthering, assisting, or condoning the act one perceives as immoral.

    1. In the case of the car, I doubt that one is doing so. One could sell a car to a group of people contemplating group marriage, and one would not, ipso facto, be participating in the immorality of the thing.

    2. Conversely, when confronted with the case of the website, one is directly participating in and assisting in an immoral act, and one’s actions could be scandalous and potentially seen as condoning if they became more widely known.

    3. In the case of comparisons of SSM with legal difficulties faced by interracial couples, this make sense only if one is willing to make the leap from persecution through prosecution to societal shrugging in the case of SSM (if a same-sex couple puts on rings and calls themselves “married”, they will neither be persecuted nor prosecuted – and will garner either congratulations or shrugs). Only then can one conflate the situation of the two sets of couples, to say nothing of the reasoning that would place the two situations on the same level biologically or inclinationally.

  • St Donatus

    I have actually ran into a situation that was difficult for my wife and I. We owned a Bed and Breakfast and two men wished to rent a room for the night. The room only had one bed and we could tell from the affectionate nature of the two men, that they were homosexual. We also knew that since we ran a ‘romantic’ Bed and Breakfast, that they would be engaging in immoral acts in our home. Likewise we had unmarried heterosexual couples request rooms which caused us the same concerns. (Honestly, because of the unnatural nature of the homosexual couple, we did feel more uncomfortable with that situation.) But in both situations we did feel that we were in fact making money and giving the means by which these couples would be performing acts abhorrent to God. We also felt that we would be culpable due to our involvement.

    Our solution was to be friendly and yet make it obvious that we were religious. Usually they would choose to stay somewhere else. Perhaps they felt uncomfortable. Sadly, some times they would stay with us anyway. I really don’t know how God feels about our situation but I know I felt bad about it and it factored in our selling the Bed and Breakfast.

  • BeePee

    Your (final) answer (response to the scenario question) is what I consider a just action that a conscientious Catholic would take. Thank you LarryD for clarifying.