Religious Jewelry and the Office

Elsa Peretti Infinity Cross pendantReader S has a question about religious jewelry…

I was wondering what you and all of the other readers think about wearing religious jewelry to work. I’m not talking about a head covering, or skirts as required by a religion, but more along the line of wearing a Star of David or Crucifix to work. If its small, and simple is that OK, or do readers tend to shy away from that?

The easy answer is: of course you can wear religious jewelry if you’re working for a private company. (I’m not actually up on the laws regarding state workers or public school teachers or the like — there may be special rules for those jobs.) If your boss or coworkers have a problem with silent displays of religion, I suspect there are several people in your organization and community who will want to know about it. (Pictured: Elsa Peretti Infinity Cross pendant, available at Tiffany & Co. for $175.)

The harder answer is: religion is a touchy subject, and ultimately I’m not sure what to say. (And I’ll be very curious to hear what readers have to say!) I have worn crosses from time to time, but tend to do so only when I’m actively praying (for a sick relative, or a friend suffering a loss, etc) — and sometimes I’ll wear it under a sweater because I want to keep my thoughts to myself.  I think there’s a difference between wearing a piece of jewelry and actively trying to “recruit” people to your religion, and I would generally advise against the latter, at least at the office.

(Full disclosure here: I’m a cafeteria Catholic who rarely goes to Mass, and while I consider myself spiritual I don’t consider myself religious. I also live in NYC, where people don’t generally talk about religion.)

Readers, what are your thoughts? Should religious jewelry be kept out of the office? (And if so — why?)

Comments

  1. I’ve always considered small cross necklaces to be in perfectly good taste, and the equivalents from other faiths to be as well. (Think small Stars of David, Hamsas, Hands of Fatima, etc.) In fact, as a Jewish woman, I always felt like a small gold cross was one of those necessary basic pieces of jewelry that I was disappointed I couldn’t wear. (Like earrings – I don’t have pierced ears for religious reasons, and not being able to have a pair of pearl studs in my jewelry wardrobe is sometimes frustrating.) I’ve had trouble finding an equivalent Star of David that I like. I think giant crosses (think Madonna) are over the top, but I wouldn’t think twice about a small gold cross on someone.

    • Roberto Coin makes a tiny, under-stated diamond star of david necklace. I love it, since it’s simple and elegant.

      http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/3030079

      I got mine at a jewelry store for half this price.

    • Yet Another Anon :

      They make some lovely clip-on studs these days. The magnetic ones you can’t even tell apart from normal earrings without inspecting the back carefully.

      For a basic Star of David, I tend to go to the other extreme from the diamond one, and go for something classic and simple, like this: http://www.heartweardesigns.com/detail.php?id=213&p=4&c=religious

      I personally don’t wear visible religious jewelry at the office. I don’t think discussions of religion, or politics, belong in the office. I don’t want to know my partners’ religions. I do wear a necklace that is beautiful dichroic glass, and on one side it a religious symbol within the glass. I wear it with the religious symbol inward though.

  2. I’ve lived in several different states and I think religious jewelry would be appropriate to wear in an office in any of them. I would have no problem if a colleague wore a cross or star of david (i also don’t take issue with head coverings or faith-motivated clothing preferences).

  3. I think it’s fine (and common, where I work). I think, personally, I’d only be wary of it if I was in a workplace where everyone was the same religion except one or two people. In that situation, I might avoid it so that the one or two co-workers didn’t feel more out-of-place than necessary.

  4. I’m a Buddhist and I used to wear a mala on my wrist all the time, but people kept asking me about it, and it got intrusive. (I’m not Asian or from a Buddhist family, and have heard more than once “you don’t look like a Buddhist.” Or I get pestered about why I chose this philosophy, etc.)

    Now I only wear the mala, like you, when I need that extra bit of a reminder to be mindful or more compassionate, or when I’m feeling like I need solace. I went to the trouble to buy one made of rose quartz that is more likely to be mistaken for “jewelry” than a mala though.

  5. govvie girl :

    Holding and expressing a faith through jewelry and the like – yes, absolutely. Many people who are non-spiritual have no problems expressing their views, and those of us who have a faith should be able to appropriately do the same. Proselytizing or overt evangelization in the workplace, or in a Starbucks for that matter – no. Even better, I really despise the bumper stickers that proclaim if you believe a certain way, you can’t be a certain faith. Bottomline, it’s personal and should be up to you.

    • I do not wear religious jewelry because I am a lawyer who serves many non-Christian clients. As such, I agree with what an earlier poster said — I dress so as not to offend those I “work for.” I do, however, have a Bible and devotional book on the credenza behind my desk. I do some of my daily reading here at work. Does anyone else think this is offensive? I don’t wish to hide my faith – it is part of who I am and I do not believe I should have to apologise for it. That being said, I do not want to be offensive. thoughts?

      • No, not offensive at all. You’re entitled to have your personal things in your personal office space, whether it’s a Bible or a picture of your dog (or both).

    • Govvie girl: I think you misapprehend whether and how “people who are non-spiritual” express their views. I am an atheist and frequently wait many, many months before feeling sufficiently comfortable to disclose that fact to a coworker with whom I am close. People who “have a faith” generally have much less to fear from public disclosure of religious beliefs than those of us who don’t. I am extremely appreciative of coworkers who, although religious, do not display any outward signs of religiousity that are not required by their religion.

      And when I am a client, I look elsewhere when a professional attempting to serve me makes an unnecessary (read: not religiously mandated) outward display of her or his religious beliefs. I am concerned that such a professional does not realize that I, the client, might feel alienated by such displays. And I am fearful that the professional is looking for me to recognize and affirm the religious display — as if to suggest that the professional’s religious affiliation is a “selling point.” It seems like a somewhat subtler version of those business cards and logos that include a cross or that reference some sort of biblical text.

      • I wonder how much of this is geographic.

        Here in NYC, I feel like the situation is the opposite. I am religious but don’t share that fact with anyone if I can help it because it basically guarantees ridicule. One of my associates who is openly religious – not proselytizing, but open about going to church, etc – gets a lot of eye rolls.

        I wish we were all somewhere in the middle.

  6. Electric Slide :

    I grew up in the South, so I was used to routine displays of large cross jewelry in all places. I don’t mind ornate, and size only annoys me when it’s extremely large (like any huge pendant would). Changing the subject religion doesn’t bother me either.

    Places where it does bother me:

    1) The doctor’s office, especially if I am there for a reason that may be stridently condemned by a branch of a religion. It usually means it’s my last day at that place.
    2) Giant pins/buttons. For some reason a pin is more likely to convey “ask me about Jesus” and has only been worn, in my experience, by someone who wants you to ask about it. Obviously an actual slogan button, like a political button, crosses (heh) the line.
    3) Ashes on Ash Wednesday. More churches ought to change the reading to the one that specifically talks about how not displaying your faith is the more religious move. This is a personal peeve of mine and obviously one that many will disagree with. I do understand where those people who keep it on all day are coming from; I was just raised to keep that reading strictly in mind.

    As Kat said “recruiting on the job” is tacky at all times. I am still annoyed remembering the girls in college who would lure you in to their religious meeting by announcing it as a kind of secular movie night…until you got there. And that group of people who clog the announcements listserv with their prayer group, when it’s not meant to be used like that.

    • As a Catholic, my initial reaction was to gasp at the thought of someone being bothered by forehead ashes (as in, “oh no she didn’t say that!”). Then I remembered Joe Biden last year, I believe, doing some sort of press conference with ashes on his forehead and I remember thinking he looked really douchey and “look at me! look at me! I’m religious!!! See?!!” So, I think I have to agree on this one. As someone who always goes to the nighttime ashes service, I guess I never really thought about how obnoxious it might seem to be standing in court with ashes on my forehead.

      • Electric Slide :

        Ironically, I’m Catholic as well. As I said, growing up in the South made me familiar with both religious displays…and with daily bullying by kids whose parents didn’t like Catholicism (“drunks,” “cannibals” — in elementary school). I grew up with a strong aversion to people who walk up and proselytize, and my family, as I said, did emphasize that verse. Somewhere along the way I associated the ashes with the people who are a bit too outspoken about their faith.

        I was visiting someone in a city hospital (non-religious affiliation) on Ash Wednesday this year and found myself fairly disconcerted by how half the hospital staff was wearing ashes.

        I’m sure that many devout Christians who saw all those ashes in a hospital were comforted. Like I said, this is something obviously many people will disagree with me about. I’m cool with that.

        • Another Laura :

          Electric Slide, I too grew up Catholic in the South and had the same experience and really react negatively to any kind of religious proselytizing. On the other hand, it has made me more tolerant of other religions because I have some small measure of feeling like an outsider.

          My opinion: I completely support anyone who wants to wear a simple cross, star of david or other small, unobtrusive charm or necklace. I agree with others that diamonds, figures of Christ on the cross or otherwise loud pieces are too “far out” to wear into an office. And, depending on the situation (jury trial, clients of another faith/culture) I would advise against openly wearing a cross/star/symbol and instead putting it under a shirt or perhaps in a pocket where you know it is there. To paraphrase Kat on open-toed shoes: Know your office/client/firm.

          Now, as a lapsed Catholic, I wouldn’t wear a cross as it doesn’t mean anything to me. But as another poster said, I think that the Jewish religion is more in line with my personal beliefs. Kat posted the cross from Elsa Peretti, but I prefer her Star of David for its simplicity and beauty…though I wouldn’t wear that either. I have a Russian Orthodox silver crucifix that I got at a flea market in Moscow that I carry in my wallet: That’s about as far as I’d go with a symbol.

        • Blonde Lawyer :

          ES – they likely had a church pastor do a short service for all those working or offer the ashes to those working. That is probably why so many people had them. Many places that have pastoral services (hospitals, schools, jails) will offer services to the employees too. As a lazy Catholic, I hardly ever would go to mass on ash Weds. but when I worked in a facility where ashes were offered to me, I took them.

      • I’m not Catholic and am generally unfamiliar with Catholicism. Last Ash Wednesday, I told at least three people that they had dirt on their foreheads before someone clued me in.

    • Amen. The ashes have always been a pet peeve of mine… I am Christian (lutheran) and my church doesn’t do ashes. One time I went to an ash wednesday service where they did put on ashes, and that verse from Matthew 6 that you referenced was a reading that evening–the irony was apparently lost on them.

      Here is the verse, for the curious:
      “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “

      • Pray in your room, wear ashes, proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and spread the Word to the far corners of the World… wow, that Bible is a bunch of incongruities ;-D (from a Baptist who grew up in the Bible Belt)

    • Chicago S :

      How are ashes one day a year different than a head scarf everyday? Or a yamaka? It is an outward visable sign that the religion sets forth. While I agree with you on the first two points, I disagree on the last.

      • Anonymous :

        I personally feel weird about wiping the ashes off, so that’s why I leave them on. Not as a look at me thing, but as an “I feel sacrilegious doing this somehow” kind of thing. Like I’m ashamed about Catholicism if I wipe them off.

      • Electric Slide :

        As other people pointed out below, covering your hair/head is part of religious observance in several religions. But wearing a cross is not mandatory to being a practicing Christian.

        And while I can only speak for my experiences in the South, Midwest, and East Coast of the US, no one wearing a religiously-mandated head covering has ever tried to convert me. Plenty of people wearing ashes have felt free to use Ash Wednesday as a day to lecture to me (again, I’m a practicing Catholic) about the merits of their brand of Christianity.

        I know I’m biased and I do try to work on it. But I appreciate the other replies that show I’m not alone.

        • Electric Slide :

          Replying to add to Chicago S: To be honest, my main disagreement with the ashes is wearing them in your place of employment. The hospital startled me this year. I was in NYC, so I can only imagine that for every person who was comforted to see the ashes, there was someone who was definitely not. I shouldn’t have to wonder if your religion affects my relative’s health care.

          • If your relative is in a Catholic hospital they are impacted by Catholic beliefs as there are procedures that those facilities will not do that are done at other hospitals.

          • Electric Slide :

            It was not a Catholic hospital. It was a city hospital.

    • Wow, I’m pretty shocked to read your comment about ashes on Ash Wednesday. The reading that you point out is one of my favorites, and I keep it in mind when I’m fasting or praying, but I’ve never applied it to ashes. I think that ashes are a tasteful and quiet way to express your faith on a very holy day–plus, for Catholics, they’re mandatory. One can’t always fit an evening service into one’s schedule so there’s no other choice–and yes, IMO washing them off before the end of the day is sacrilegious. That said, I’ve never been in a community with a large Catholic population so I’ve never, ever encountered someone using their ashes to proselytize. I’ve received plenty of stares, sure, and comments from well-meaning passersby letting me know I’ve got “something on [my] face.” I guess if the proselytism has been your experience then I understand your feelings, but it doesn’t seem fair to extend them to those of us who are quietly obeying our religion and not involving anyone else.

      • These are my thoughts exactly. I’m a little stunned that people are offended by a personal, silent religious symbol marking the beginning of one of the most sacred periods of the religious calendar for the wearer (at least for Catholics).

        • Ditto. I hate to think that someone is judging me and my personal religious beliefs based on negative experiences they had with someone else who happens to be my religion. I’m Catholic and it is very important to me to wear my ashes on Ash Wednesday for the rest of the day. I have butted heads with my Southern Baptist mother-in-law many, many times over religion-related issues, but I don’t find ALL Southern Baptists offensive or assume that anyone who wears a religious symbol is out to convert me. Head scarfs, crosses, Stars of David, ashes – I don’t judge the wearer until she does something to warrant it.

      • I think you’re confusing praying and proselytizing. Proselytizing by definition is done outwardly. Praying is something that is personal and done inwardly. The Matthew verse is about praying, not proselytizing. The most effective and appropriate ways to “spread the good word” is a topic for another time and place, but I’ll assume that we can all agree that an “ask me about Jesus” pin is a bad idea.

        Re: ashes–I agree that I’ve never seen the ashes used for proselytizing. The message I get from ash-wearers is more the “look at me, I went to church today and I’m such a good spiritual person” vibe that the Matthew verse warns against projecting.

        BTW, I’ve never heard that ashes are “mandatory,” even for catholics. Attending the ash wednesday service is a “holy day of obligation,” but receiving the ashes is a symbol or tradition, or at the most a “sacremental ritual” (not a sacrament) which some catholics believe may confer certain supernatural benefits. A quick search of catholic websites and some wikipedia-ing yeilded absolutely nothing about ashes being mandatory or restrictions against washing them off, etc. Of course, that’s just the official church line–individuals can add to or subtract from that and can believe or not believe whatever they want to about it.

        • I am disappointed that so many people seem to think that ashes are worn to attract attention. They are meant as a reminder to the wearer, and some of us find them personally significant. Why are they so offensive? Why does it matter if ashes are “mandatory?” I happen to be Catholic but have had friends of all religions (and none). From my friend who wears a headscarf to my friend who is an agnostic – to each his or her own. Please don’t judge me for wearing ashes or make assumptions about my motivations.

        • Electric Slide :

          I think a lot of people who responded strongly to my original comment (which I expected) don’t realize that the active, prominent display of a faith can trigger negative reactions in a person that sees them, especially in the service industry, or in an arena where someone feels extremely vulnerable (social work, court, health care). And ashes, like large religious symbols, might feel like a private symbol to you but are actively on display.

          Unless you work in a religious workplace, if you are an active worker in one of these “vulnerable” fields please consider that what you think is a harmless display may actually really bother one of your clients, or make them wonder that the care/service you provide is biased against them. If you choose to display them anyway I just ask that you be mindful of this.

          And as Anon said, Ash Wednesday is a holy day of obligation for Catholics but the ashes are not.

          The comments, in general, have been fascinating. I appreciate everyone’s honest opinion.

          • Just replying (to Anon at 11:26pm and Electric Slide) to point out that Ash Wednesday is not, in fact, a holy day of obligation. The idea of going to a service on Ash Wednesday and NOT getting ashes is laughable, since that’s the whole point–the service often doesn’t include a Mass since it’s not a Holy Day, so it’s just an ashes service.

            I know you said you’re Catholic, ES, but your mistake might reflect a lack of understanding about Catholicism and the spiritual reasons most Catholics feel compelled to get ashes despite it not being “mandatory.” (I know you’ll probably get really offended by that and I’m not actually making judgments about whether you’re a ‘proper catholic’ or whatever that means, although it might sound like it–I’m just saying this might help to explain why you don’t get the point of the ashes).

            I get your point about other people’s reactions. I just think it’s unfortunate that these reactions are supposed to dictate how I silently observe my faith on one very sacred day of the year. Are female Muslim doctors not supposed to wear headscarves to work? After all, not all Muslim women wear them, so they’re not “mandatory”….

          • Hey, don’t laugh at the idea of not getting ashes on ash wednesday. Plenty of christian churches, including mine, do not to ashes for exactly the reason discussed above (the Matthew verse, etc.). We have an actual church service–a sermon, readings, hymns, etc. and getting the ashes is not done. I pity someone who is only going to church to check off a chore for the day/year/whatever.

          • Way to misread my post. I said the idea of going to a Catholic ashes service (one that’s not a Mass) on Ash Wednesday and not getting ashes is laughable. I wasn’t speaking to other religions or to those Catholics who choose to go to a Mass on that day and not receive ashes (although those Catholics are rare). I pity people who jump to conclusions about others’ motivations for getting ashes–who assume it’s to show off or to “check off a chore”–while understanding nothing about the spirituality behind it.

      • I wonder to what extent this is Northern vs Southern. As a Northerner (not a Catholic), seeing Catholics with ashes on their foreheads was a common sight and no big deal whatsoever — can’t imagine how it translates into “proselytizing” when, let’s face it, Catholics aren’t the branch of Christianity that does all that in-your-face proselytizing, tries to shove prayer in public schools, etc.

      • We generally don’t proselytize

      • Agreed. I’m not Catholic but I always like seeing hundreds of people in NYC walking around with ashes… Something about people having lives outside of work…

    • FinanceGal :

      At the last church I attended the priest asked each worshipper on Ash Wednesday if he/she preferred to receive the ashes on the forehead or the hand. I loved having the option of wearing the ashes on the back of my hand, where it was a more personal reminder to myself of the significance of the day and the season we were beginning.

      So if any Catholic corporettes are now worried about how to handle it next year after reading this thread, you might ask to have the ashes somewhere other than your forehead.

  7. I am essentially a lapsed Catholic but dug out a cross to wear during a jury trial once … so I’m horribly cynical and worse, insert your own adjectives here. But when I’ve seen colleagues wear a small tasteful cross or star of David in the office it seems like a total non-issue. And if you are in a workplace that has those kinds of hostilities, perhaps you want to know about it sooner rather than later?

  8. I’m in NYC and don’t see this often in a professional context. I’ll be in the minority here and admit that I always wonder why someone is putting their religion on display when it’s not specifically called for by the religion. It’s not relevant to your job and strikes me as similar to the woman in my office who has a silver basketball pin with her favorite team’s mascot etched in. I can’t articulate it well, but I always find it vaguely inappropriate. I’m a strong believer in people’s rights to practice whatever religion they choose and a “cafeteria Jew,” for context.

  9. Personally, I really dislike religious jewellery. I work with a woman who wears a gold cross necklace every day. To me it is just not appropriate for the office. Religion is for your own time, not for at work. I think back to when we had the conversation about being goth at the workplace- many people felt that goth clothes had no place at the workplace. Well that is because being goth is a little freaky to some. Being christian is not, so no one makes a big deal about a little gold cross necklace. But maybe we should look for the double standard.

    • Annonymous for Religion Discussions :

      For many religious or spiritual folks, religion is a constant and not something you can turn off and on depending on your location. It’s a guide for *every* action, including those in a workplace.

    • “Religion is for your own time, not for at work.”

      I strongly disagree with this statement. I am not only a Buddhist when I am not at work; I am a Buddhist all the time. I don’t separate the values of my faith into “for work” and “for personal time”; my spiritual advancement depends on me living my values every minute of every day, whether or not I am at work. If my faith helps me get through the day and be a better worker, I don’t know why anyone would have a problem with that. And that goes for any faith – Judaism, Christianity etc.

      • I completely understand having your religious values guide your decisions – in both personal and professional contexts. I just don’t see why this warrants a visible symbol of that religion in your professional life.

        • Why shouldn’t it?

          • It makes certain people vaguely uncomfortable / feel excluded in a way that a “required” religious symbol might not and makes me think to myself, “okay, why is this person trying to tell me she’s Jewish [or whatever] and how is that relevant?”

          • E3, what’s the difference in feeling between required symbols and optional symbols?

          • No offense, E3, but that sounds like a personal problem to me.

          • E3 (and anyone else who has made a similar comment), no offense, but it really comes off as self-absorbed to think that the person is wearing religious jewelry to “broadcast” their faith to you. It’s just something they can look at and feel as a constant reminder of their faith and its role in every aspect of their life (while it’s debatable whether such a physical symbol is necessary, I feel that’s more a matter of personal preference than something for anyone to judge)

            If you think people only wear religious jewelry to flash their faith at you, do you also believe that people only wear wedding rings to announce to the world that they’re taken so they can ward off advances and/or brag with diamonds that they successfully landed a mate?

          • Yes, I do think that’s one of several goals of a wedding ring. It’s BOTH something special for yourself and a message to the world. Same for religious jewelry.

          • Seattle Lawyer Mom :

            Very interesting posts. I’m Protestant (Lutheran), and have never worn a cross, but always been impressed by people who do. I wholeheartedly agree that if I were to wear one, it would NOT be to try to suggest others to become Christian or whatever. It would be to serve as personal reminder to myself. But true, others can see it. But how is someone seeing a cross on me any different than me giving an honest answer if the question of my religion comes up? Further, realize that the whole idea of “invisible” religion is purely American and modern. For most of the history of the world and in most places even today, everyone knows everyone else’s religion through their names, their clothing, and their history.

    • “Religion is for your own time, not for at work”

      Actually, I have to disagree with this. Being a practicing Christian/Jew/fill in religion of choice here is not a hobby; it’s a belief system and affects all aspects of life. I would have issues with someone trying to push conversion on me at work, but I wouldn’t expect my co-workers to go to the other extreme and hide their identities.

    • Being Jewish is not something I do between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. – it is a 24/7 part of my identity – I would never try to convince anyone else to change religions/religious observance levels (Judaism actually is against proselytizing), but it’s part of who I am, and I’m not interested in disguising that.

    • Sorry Ladies, gonna have to stick with my guns here! Wearing a cross is like wearing lucite heels. You can love them 24/7 but they have no place at work. If your religion doesn’t mandate that you wear it, it falls under the same rules as all clothes/accessories we wear to work. Office specific, know your audience. And I could be working at your office, feeling uncomfortable with your choice of necklace. Or I could be your client. Or boss.

      • Really? A cross is like lucite heels?

      • Yeah, but if someone is wearing lucite heels or goth, I just think “how tacky” but I’m not highly offended. If someone were wearing some ginormous bejeweled cross, I might think “how tacky” also, but I wouldn’t be offended.

        I don’t think people wearing a subtle, simple statement of faith and nothing else (i.e., not proselytizing) are trying to tell you anything; it is just an expression of who they are – and if you are reading more into it, that might be saying something more about you than about them.

      • Sorry PP, but I find your comparison offensive and insensitive.

        • This is a fashion blog, and PP was trying to illustrate what she meant by “religion is for your own time, not for work” by relating the cross to other accessories. I don’t think she was trying to denigrate Christianity.

          Your reaction, though, highlights why I would agree with others who have suggested leaving the religious symbols at home–it is a touchy subject and people are easily offended. Better to steer clear, imo.

          • I understand what she was trying to do, but I think there were more thoughtful ways to do it.

          • THIS! That whole second paragraph – My thoughts exactly!
            If there are already 70-odd comments on this post, definitely a touchy subject and if you are going to potentially offend even one person, I’d prefer to leave the religious symbols at home as well.

          • Amen!

      • Anonymous :

        You are a moron.

        • Anonymous :

          That was meant for PP. Why don’t you stop giving your opinion and go back to work.

          • Uh, well, Kat asked for opinions. You don’t have to like mine, I’m just showing you that different people think different things. And are entitled to!

          • Yet Another Anon :

            And this is why many of us prefer to keep discussions of religion out of the office. People people quickly get offended, or rude. Thanks for being a demonstration case.

            I observe my religion 24/7, but when I wear religious symbols it’s under a shirt. Advertising your religious faith is not part of my religion, and I don’t think it’s part of most.

          • Please, be nice. Kat DID ask for our opinions on a definitely touchy subject. I personally disagree with the comparison of lucite heels to religious symbols, but that’s my First Amendment/freedom of religion right, as it is PP’s – and if PP equates lucite heels with various symbols, she has the right to express that opinion/belief. Particularly here, particularly now. And we should all be thankful that we can do so, and given that freedom (not to mention staying in touch with the overall vibe of this site), we just should not be rude or mean to each other. There, I feel better now and will step down from my soapbox.

            And, for my opinion: I agree generally with the concept that as long as you are not proselytizing (don’t), a small/discreet jewelry symbol (cross or star of David along the lines of what Kat showed) or display (eg, buddha in office) is your business…but it is appropriate to be aware of your client/audience. Sometimes less is more/neutrality is good. My personal choice is along the lines of Kat’s and a couple of others here – I wear my cross occasionally if I want to ‘have it with me’, sometimes under a top, sometimes not; I have pictures of my kids at their baptisms displayed in a photo book on a credenza. But I would not necessarily attend a ‘conference room’ meeting with new clients or similar types with any sort of ‘on display’ personal info.

            I don’t think it compromises my personal religious beliefs to NOT loudly advertise them – my job is to live by them, not sell them to others. But, like others have said, I am what I am 24/7 – in my case, a cafeteria Catholic/active Protestant. So, I try to adhere to the basic principles (which probably are present in most of our diverse religious beliefs anyway) – don’t lie, cheat, steal; do unto others as you want done to you; don’t cast stones from a glass house; be grateful for what you do have that others don’t; don’t speak ill of others; empathize with folks who aren’t as well off as you or who are struggling at a given moment; lend a helping hand when you can….

            You know, just be nice….:). Hugs to all, and wear whatever religious jewelry you feel like wearing in good health and good spirit.

        • Anonymous :

          Two wrongs don’t make a right, people! Let’s not stoop to name calling.

      • PP, that was really, really offensive. I’m honestly sorry you’re either non-spiritual that you cannot understand other people’s expressions of their faith, or you are so insensitive you can’t understand why your statement is offensive. For shame.

        • Yes, analogies can be horribly offensive to those who completely misunderstand them.

        • Yet Another Anon :

          Telling someone you’re sorry for them for not being spiritual is equally offensive. I grant that the OP’s analogy was not particularly good, but clearly what was was communicating was the appropriateness or inappropriateness of certain garments in certain places.

      • So what if someone’s religion does mandate that they have to dress a certain way, and they dress that way at work? Why would your advice about “not offending people” apply then?

        The counter-symbol people can’t even justify their own arguments, which doesn’t help the legitimacy of said arguments. IMHO.

      • What is the difference between this advice and, say, counseling someone that they should hide their sexual orientation at work because it might offend someone? Or that they should not have up pictures of their partner who is of another race, because that might offend someone, too? In those cases just as in the case of religious jewelry, the idea that one should have to hide a core aspect of one’s identity lest one offend the office bigot is, well, just plain offensive. I’d much rather be a happy person than well-liked by those whose ideas I find repulsive–whether they were clients, bosses, or coworkers.

        And I rarely wear religious jewelry. Maybe I should start doing so as a sort of screening mechanism.

        • Another Laura :

          I think Kristen has the best post of the day. I really can’t see why one would think less of someone else (coworker or acquaintance) for wearing a (small, non-flashy, tasteful) religious medallion. It’s like discriminating against someone for wearing a wedding ring – it’s a cultural thing…not everyone has to wear a wedding ring. Just because an individual wouldn’t wear a regligious medal shouldn’t cause them to have disdain for someone who does.

        • Kristen: So should I take from the comparisons in your post that you find atheists “bigoted” and the views of atheists “repulsive”? If not, I don’t understand the point of your comment.

          • Nothing about being an atheist requires you to be offended by the mere fact that some people are not atheists. Kristen’s comment was about intolerance of all forms, not atheism.

          • anon - chi :

            Huh? I don’t see how Kristen called atheists bigots – she suggested that judging someone negatively because they are wearing religious symbols = bigot. But I can’t understand how an atheist would be *offended* by someone else’s cross or star of david, etc. Just because it’s not something you believe in doesn’t mean you have to be offended by it!

  10. surrounded by lawyers :

    Just want to point out that the reader did not mention wearing a cross as her example, she said “crucifix.” By my understanding, this means a likeness of Jesus nailed TO the cross. I don’t know if this would change anyone’s take, but just thought I would highlight her question as this may be what she is considering wearing to work.

    • Oh yeah, wearing a crucifix is even worse than how I feel about wearing crosses.

      • PP is offending me and I am not religious at all. I would not want to work with or for anyone who cannot handle being around people who have different religious beliefs. Wow.

    • hmm. That would get an even less tempered “no!” from me. But I suspect she just misused the term.

    • I’m guessing– based on her specification of “small and simple”– that the reader didn’t actually mean a crucifix. Many people don’t know the difference; I only remember it because of the worried monologue I got as a teenager when my wonderful Catholic aunt gave me a cross necklace at my baptism. “I asked the lady at the store, and she said Protestants don’t wear crucifixes, but that any other cross was fine, but maybe that’s wrong and I’m really sorry and I don’t want to offend so you can exchange it for ANYTHING you want, really, I won’t mind, and…”*

      That said, I don’t think it makes a difference. I can see where a graphic crucifix could be off-putting, but for the size of necklace we’re talking about, I can’t imagine it could be too noticeably gruesome. You just wouldn’t be able to see that level of detail unless you were scrutinizing it up close.

      *For the record, the cross was perfect, and I’d still be wearing it today if I hadn’t– alas!– lost it on a vacation years ago.

      • Anonymous :

        Actually, a crucifix is the object to which Jesus was nailed. It does not need to have a body on it to be a crucifix. A cross is a generic term for that geometric shape.

        • I believe most dictionaries list something like “a cross with a representation of Jesus crucified upon it” as the first definition of crucifix. But you’re quite right that there’s an ambiguity about the word– thus the confusion, I’m sure.

          • Anonymous :

            I agree with EK. A crucifix is the cross with a representation of Jesus on it. Generally speaking, only Catholics tend to wear crucifixes on jewelry or display them in their churches. Protestants, on the other hand, generally wear and display crosses, not crucifixes.

            Also, for all those speaking of tasteful or non-graphic crucifixes, I think this is a non-issue. Most crucifix jewelry–at least those truly marketed to religious adherents–would be non-graphic. There’s no cause to think otherwise.

  11. Seems a non-issue and very clear line to me – wear whatever jewelry you want, but don’t wear a “have you heard the word” button or other item that could be taken as crossing the line into proselytizing and, obviously, don’t use the office as a place to proselytize.

    I am not religious at all, in any way whatsoever, but I could care less and wouldn’t think less/more of someone who wore a cross, star of david, or other item. And if you are of a faith that requires certain rules for dress, I would certainly hope your employer and fellow employees wouldn’t try to use that against you. (And I’m pretty sure there are laws against discriminating based on religion in the workplace.)

    I think its really a line of active/passive expressions of faith – passive is OK, active is not.

  12. I wear a mala on my wrist when I am in need of spiritual reinforcement. Mine is black and looks like a bracelet so I don’t get a lot of comments about it. I also have a framed picture in my office of a close-up on the hand, in prayer position, of a Tibetan Buddha statue. I am not sure if those things count as “wearing religion on my sleeve” but if so, I guess I don’t care. My faith is a constant comfort and supportive force in my life and my life includes work. I actually put the “Buddha hand” picture up to remind me to treat everyone around me, even frustrating clients/coworkers, with loving kindness. It helps more often than I thought it would.

    I would say in all the offices I’ve worked in, at least half the staff had some kind of religious/spiritual item on display either on their person or in their offices. The only time I have ever had a problem with someone’s religious display at work was a woman who brought in a two-foot-high crucifix of Jesus on the cross, done in full living color with the gory “scourging” wounds, blood drips, etc. on display. Pretty much everyone in the office had a problem with it – even the other Christians – and so the office manager asked her to take it home. The woman put up a fuss but did take it home in the end. That kind of thing is just flat-out inappropriate at work; I’ve seen churches that don’t have crosses that big. As long as the religious jewelry isn’t too big, flashy or in-your-face, I don’t know why anyone would have a problem with it. Now, proselytizing at work – that’s a whole other ball of wax.

  13. As to jewelry of any kind, it should not detract or distract from the business role you are trying to fill. Accordingly, if it is small, I don’t care what symbol of faith someone chooses. I am a baptized, non-observant Catholic who considers Judiasm to be more consistent with my belief structure.

  14. I don’t do it because I work with clients of different religions all the time and even though no one I work with would have a problem with it, I have no idea how my clients might react. I’d hate for them to trust me less because I chose to wear a particular piece of jewlery. the only exception I make for this is that I still wear Christmas Tree pins at Christmas time. I try, however, to make certain that I’m not meeting with clients who do not celebrate Christmas when I do, and I have some generic snowflake pins for when I do. My job is to serve them, and part of that is to make them comfortable. To me, it just isn’t worth the risk not to.

  15. I don’t have a problem with small religious items like a cross, star of david, etc., at work, though I myself don’t wear any, save for a very occasional small Ohm pendant, and a small hamsa that I got as a gift, neither of which, I think strikes, most people as particularly religious.

    My one judgment (and it may be unfair, so feel free to judge me back) is actually reserved for people who wear religious symbols as obvious jewelry: e.g., jewel encrusted crosses, etc. — even the idea of a buying a cross or Star of David at Tiffany’s strikes me as somewhat at odds with the humility & piety that such symbols are trying to express. I have a small cross from my childhood — but it came from a church, not a jewelry store.

    Similarly, I find any large religious symbols kind of tacky — not necessarily inappropriate, but just in bad taste so I may judge, but not b/c it’s a religious display, but because I find it vulgar.

    (for context, in case it’s not obvious from the above, I do not have an allegiance to any one religion, so that may color my views).

  16. Elizabeth :

    I agree with what seems to be the general consensus: it’s fine as long as it’s appropriate and discreet. I find it refreshing when someone is comfortable enough in her own skin to talk about or display symbols of her religion. Of course, there are limits of appropriateness in the workplace.

  17. Hydrangea :

    I prefer that my coworkers not make a religious statement with their jewelry. I think it serves to exclude others. I like Kat’s style of wearing a cross under a sweater.

    • I disagree, depending on your workplace, sometimes displaying a statement of religion (whether through clothing or jewelry, etc.) serves to exclude the religious person. It really just depends on the make-up of the office/group. When I lived in a place where my religion was the dominant one, yes, a display of religion would be exclusive. However, where I am now I am in a very narrow minority (of just me as far as I know) so any external expression of my religion excludes me from the majority.
      For the record, I don’t wear any religious jewelry although others of my faith do. I personally just don’t like it but I think it is up to others to decide if they should do so.

    • How does a symbol of your religion serve to exclude others? If I say “I , personally, like ice cream” am I being exclusive towards those who prefer cake?

      (Personally, I’m not crazy about crosses as jewelry in general, mostly because they remind me of something that was trendy when I was a kid/teen and just strike me as immature. But it’s not excluding others to have your own religious belief.)

      • Oh, I didn’t mean that I think people who wear crosses are immature. I meant that it’s something that I associate with young girls (tween-ish) based on my experiences, so that’s my first thought. I’m sure it’s not the case, it’s just my gut association.

      • not a great analogy. With one notable exception, the right to cake has never caused the same upheaval as religion :)

        religious jewelry can be very personal, but it’s also a powerful shibboleth. It’s not always (or even often, I hope) deliberately exclusive, but the potential exists.

  18. I have worn a small gold cross on a thin braided chain every day since I was confirmed, and it has never been an issue in a variety of very formal to informal workplaces. It is plain and discreet, but visible, especially on dark tops. Over the years, I have gotten a few compliments on it, but never any questions or negative comments. I can’t imagine not wearing it, and I can’t imagine that anyone would care that I do.

    • anon today :

      You’ve probably never gotten any negative comments because it’s office napalm to comment negatively on someone’s religion. I’m sure it’s a lovely and tasteful piece of jewelry, but I am in the “it makes me (mildly) uncomfortable” camp. As an Atheist, it makes me feel more like an Other when I’m looking at people’s religious symbols. It’s a visual reminder of how I’m part of a tiny minority in the US that is widely regarded (though sometimes not in educated circles) as amoral and offensive. However, it isn’t a big deal for me, and I’m used to feeling uncomfortable about other people’s religiousness. I do start to get twitchy once all the stores switch to Christmas music and put out creche displays in November though.

      • I can’t wait until the Christmas music season is over either – b/c I’m Jewish – and b/c it seems like they just play the same 5 – 7 songs over and over (having worked in a mall at Christmas time I can verify that in that instance the lack of variety is sadly not an exaggeration)

        • Another Laura :

          I like Christmas, celebrate Christmas and sing Christmas songs…but I hate, loathe and abhor 24/7 Christmas music in stores, especially when they start the day after Halloween! Sometimes I just want to yell “ENOUGH already!”

          • SF Bay Associate :

            I worked in retail during and after college – usually the muzak got changed once a month, but during Holiday, it was the same Christmas song muzak from Nov 1 – Jan 8 or so. Brutal. Because of that experience, I also associate the holidays with rude shoppers who shove each other in line and yell at me about why the sweater they want is sold out two days before Christmas, and late nights cleaning up the store from said shoppers.

            And thanks to my (public!!!) school choir director who also happened to be very actively involved in his Baptist church, I know the lyrics to every. single. carol, often in both English and Latin. Dozens of carols. The director would then require our entire (public!!!) school choir to “field trip” to his church to sing at every Sunday service during the holiday season. Mysteriously, he never had us perform the one song about Hannukah we learned except at the official school concert at the end of the semester.

            I can still recognize the artistic talent that went into writing many of the songs, but I guess you could say I have Christmas song PTSD.

        • I can never wait until football season is over, personally.

          • @ Lyssa, um, enough Rocky Top for a lifetime? :). Been there!

            Second Shayna and others on the never=ending Christmas muzak starting at Halloween! Ruins it for everyone.

          • @ Suze my cell phone ringer is currently Rocky Top :-) I’m glad it is so widely recognized as the fight song everyone loves to hate (except for my fellow Tenn grads). You have officially made my day!

        • If you think Christmas music in stores is bad (and I’m with you there) . . . I had several conference calls with a consultant hired by my clients last Christmas season who played Atlanta’s 24/7 Christmas radio station in the background in each and every call we had during the month of December. While I was on speaker phone. Suffice it to say, I thought this was incredibly distracting and annoying.

          • There’s one state agency that I have had to call in the past that is notorious for playing the Nutcracker’s Sugarplum Fairy suite over and over and over … year round. Their average wait time? About 40 minutes – on a good day.

          • @Shayna, oh boy do I know exactly which agency you mean, and oh boy do I hear that music in my dreams. So, so awful. I think it’s a form of psychological warfare to get us to hang up & figure things out on our own, like how police blare death metal to wear down hostage-takers ;)

      • “As an Atheist, it makes me feel more like an Other when I’m looking at people’s religious symbols.”

        Again, this sounds like a personal problem to me. Why should EG stop wearing something that has great personal meaning to her because you have a problem with it? Why is it her responsibility to stop wearing it, and not your responsibility to get over yourself?

        • anon today :

          Like I said, napalm. People are often easily offended when they feel their religion is being attacked, which is understandable as it is intensely personal, and far too willing to escalate. However, nowhere in my comment did I request or expect that EG stop wearing her symbol. You may have noted that I said I was “mildly uncomfortable” and that “it isn’t a big deal to me.” But it isn’t wrong for me to note that I would be more comfortable if I wasn’t looking at her religious symbol, just as I would be more comfortable if the malls didn’t turn into a red and green Santa’s Workshop/Christmas Tree land and the radio stations I like didn’t switch to Christian music on the first of November. All of these things are exclusionary, but it’s often only those who are being excluded who notice.

          Yes, it makes me feel like an Other. I am well aware of my pariah status as an Atheist, and therefore never discuss it at work. I was merely pointing out the flaw in the logic that just because no one has made a negative comment does not mean that people aren’t thinking negative things or feeling uncomfortable. See the “Know Jesus” example below as well. It’s obviously still EG’s choice to do as she likes.

          I do not want to launch a debate regarding what it’s like to be areligious in an extremely Christian country, as that is totally pointless, but I will say it’s pretty frustrating to be attacked by people in the supramajority.

          • “but I will say it’s pretty frustrating to be attacked by people in the supramajority.”

            I’m not Christian. Am I therefore in the “supramajority” to which you are referring?

          • Well said!

        • anonymous :

          Why are you calling it a “personal problem” and telling the poster to get over herself? I mean, I bet some people consider religion to be a “personal problem.” How is your perspective any more correct than hers?

      • The Christmas music and merchandise displays (especially in September!) is not so much to do with religion as commerce. I find the music and tacky displays irritating, tasteless, and some songs almost tear inducing by mid-December!

        • legalicious07 :

          Exactly! The secularization and commercialization of religious holidays (think: Christmas, Easter, etc.) is tacky and irritating to me — and I’m a Christian! There’s nothing at all “religious” about most of the holiday-related complaints above.

      • Anon today – you took the words right out of my mouth.

    • Yet Another Anon :

      Just because no one comments doesn’t mean no one is uncomfortable with it.

      One of the partners in my office has a sign on his wall “Know Jesus, Know Peace; No Jesus, No Peace.” I’m incredibly offended every time I see it, and I avoid his office (and working with him). Have I said anything? Absolutely not.

      • Although I’m in the small-religious-jewelry-is-fine-camp, I had to comment on the “Know Jesus” sign. I find that EXTREMELY offensive! I would be shocked to see something like that in an office, and I think that it’s worthy of a call to HR, if you can do it anonymously.

        There’s a huge difference IMO between a personal statement (like a cross, or even the above sign without the second clause) and an attack on people who don’t agree with you (ie, the second clause).

    • No one who has their own life would care what you wear around your neck. Only busybodies.

  19. I have always thought that religious jewelry and the office do not mix well. Lately, though, I have occasionally been wearing a beautiful small gold pendant that has some religius significance – I am not sure what – and that belonged to my mother in law. But I am sure it would not appear religious unless you happened to belong to that religion. I used to wear a beautiful silver pendant that I think has religious significance to a Moslem (which I am n not) but I stopped wearing at after 9/11.

    • Why would 9/11 have made you stop wearing it?

      • Not the original poster – but – I get that. I work in a political office (Canadian Liberal, which is to miles to the left of the most Liberal American politician I can think of) and we had a lovely framed photo of a Moslem religious symbol that we took down. It became too politically charged to have in the office; it was making a statement. We, now, don’t have any religious stuff in our office, including doves, christmas trees or the really pretty photo of Jerusalem.

    • Why would you wear religious jewelry the meaning of which you don’t understand?

      • I think jewelry –religious and otherwise — can have many meanings, including the non-obvious ones. Maybe the OP is wearing it because it’s a family heirloom that happens to have some religious significance.

      • Many symbols have religious significnace, some of which you might not be aware – i.e., a lot of people wear celtic or native american jewelry because they like it, but many of those symbols could also have significant religious meaning to other people.

        As someone who is not religious at all, and is fairly unaware of most religion’s symbols and meanings, while I am aware of the more common religious symbols such as the cross, I could quite easily pick up a piece of jewelry I thought was pretty and find out after the fact that it had a religious meaning.

  20. Being Jewish is part of who I am, all day, every day, so if the mood strikes or the outfit matches I’m as likely to wear a silver chamsa or a gold star of David or Chai as another necklace. When I wear a chamsa hand I often find out there’s another Jew in the office or somewhere else I frequent, since it’s usually only another ‘member of the tribe’ who knows what it is called and compliments me on it (a non-Jew may compliment me on it, but usually only sees it as a stylized hand, not a ‘chamsa’)… sort of an undercover symbol ;-)

    • Though there’s a North African version called the Hand of Fatima that looks similar/identical (if you can’t read the language of any writing on it). I used to have one that I bought in Tunisia and stopped wearing it because people assumed I was Jewish, which made me feel appropriative.

      • I have seen these – A co-worker asked if my chamsa was one a few years ago which made me look into them – I think it’s amazing how the two symbols can still be so similar despite the ancient divergence in religions – not only do they look similar, but among other meanings associated with both is that they ward off evil.

        • It is very interesting. The story I was told in Tunisia was that they precede both religions, go all the way back to ancient times, and were originally called the “Hand of Ba’al,” but I don’t know if this is truth or legend!

          • Hmm, not sure about the “Hand of Ba’al” but my understanding is similar – that the symbol does predate both religions and came from the Phoenicians

          • @ v — I wear a hamsa at times. I am not particularly jewish (especially by jewish definition since my mother was not actually jewish), but I like what it stands for & I got it as a gift from a jewish family member. I never thought it would come off as appropriative given that it is no overtly religious (like, say, a cross), spans cultures and predates the religion that it is typically associated with. To each their own comfort, but it sounds like you like this piece and have a lovely memory to go with it, I don’t think it would be inappropriate if you chose to wear it.

          • Thanks, AIMS. Maybe I’ll give it a shot again.

      • My Greek Orthodox friend also wears a hamsa. I think it extends into several religions although is most commonly associated in my geographic area with Judaism.

    • Well, you just made a strong argument for the “religious symbols exclude others” camp. And my opinion was that small ones are fine, I didn’t realize anyone used them as a way to find other people in their religion

      • Ci – Sorry if that came across as exclusionary – I didn’t mean it, just the opposite – that the chamsa necklace I wear is noticeable as a specifically Jewish symbol (usually) only to other Jews, so it typically does not make those of other faiths feel uncomfortable.

        I think it’s kind of fun when I find out someone else is Jewish – one year it resulted in being able to invite someone without family in the area to my Passover Seder…

        • Well as a non Jew who went to Brandeis, and was kindly invited to Passover Seder many breaks when I was going to be at campus since going back to Cali wasn’t feasible, its nice to keep in mind that someone doesn’t have to be your religion to appreciate your religion, or to be the recipient of a nice gesture. Its been a long Tuesday/Monday, I guess I took (much too quick) offense to the thought that only Jewish people know what a chamsa is.

          • Agree – I have had the pleasure of having friends for various religions to my home for different holidays, but being Jewish, I *have* to attend a Seder, whereas if you are not Jewish it is something that may be nice/interesting, but not mandated. I would be comfortable w/ inviting someone I barely know but is Jewish to my home for a Seder, but would only invite someone who is not Jewish if I knew them well enough to know they have an interest in attending – an invite to someone who is not Jewish and I don’t know just comes across as proselytizing/creepy ;-)

            No worries – I’m glad to have been able to clarify my point since I obviously didn’t intend for it to sound snooty :-) Hope your evening is better than your day!

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