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.)

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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?)

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  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.

      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:

      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.

      • Any suggestions for where to find magnetic studs, or where to find magnetic stud backs so I could have loose pearls mounted on them myself?

        • Yet Another Anon :

          I bought something like this:

          I think the seller is able to make just about any earring into magnetic clip-on.

      • Wow!! That is a beautiful piece. Would it be wrong for me, a non-Jewish woman, to wear that? Would anyone be offended?

        • anon - chi :

          I’m Jewish and certainly wouldn’t be offended by someone who was not Jewish choosing to wear a star of David. If I knew you pretty well, I would probably ask about your jewelry though – so if you choose to wear one, prepare to be asked by those who know you aren’t Jewish! Just saying that you wear it because it’s pretty seems innocuous enough.

  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!

  21. anonymous :

    Well, I’m going to be rather unpopular, I fear. I think that when you are in an industry of serving clients (like a lawyer, for example), you really shouldn’t be making wardrobing choices that could make your clients uncomfortable. I do not wear particularly interesting or revealing clothing, and I do not wear religious jewellery. And with the more intolerant sects of Christianity these days (“Koran burning ceremony” planned, those advocating violence…) that succeed in speaking much more loudly than more [mainstream] groups, I would suggest that those who wear (especially: Christian) items keep that in mind if they work with people who may have been singled out by those groups (those from the Middle East, Muslims, LGBT folks, etc.). That’s just one example. I suppose it’s a matter of balancing.

    • Exactly. While your Christianity (or whatever) to you might mean doing the right thing, loving humanity, etc. to someone else it could mean something entirely different (Catholic priest scandal, exclusive of LGBT population, disapproval of the abortion your best friend had in high school – whatever) and is just a very charged symbol…

      • Anonymous :

        Wow, I find these comments to be very bigoted. Christians are supposed to not wear crosses to work because their outward display of religion might be taken out of context? A symbol of Christianity is wrong because of a few bad eggs??? Imagine if we used that reasoning to say headscarves can’t be worn because “it could mean something entirely different and is just a very charged symbol.”

        • anonymous :

          That’s unfortunate. I don’t think these comments are bigoted. I said my example was “just one example.” As in: you should always consider the effect of what you do on other people. Specifically, religious symbols. If you say, “I don’t care what my __________ clients think, I will wear this for me,” that’s your own decision. The other poster also said “Christianity (or whatever).” No one said “a symbol of Christianity is wrong.” Christianity is a good example for the purposes of this discussion because the vast majority of the US and Canada identify as Christian, and most people know of the discussion surrounding the various groups.

          For the record, I think that a headscarf is not a parallel example because some people who wear them consider their religion to require it. I am familiar with many different sorts of Christianity and I know none to require wearing a cross. Please correct me if I am wrong.

          SHOULD you have to consider how people will interpret your religious symbol? No. But that wasn’t the question that was asked.

          • Anonymous Agnostic :

            I agree with this. I don’t believe that it is WRONG to wear a cross or other religious symbol, but I do believe that it should be done thoughtfully and with consideration of the message you are sending and the audience you are sending it to. A colleague of mine worked with, for example, Muslim clients who were being discriminated against relating to plans to build a mosque. I would not personally show up to such a client meeting (or a hearing where the client’s religion was being targeted by attendees) in a cross, and I would think it a questionable decision for any lawyer to do so. I don’t believe that is a bigoted position to take; I believe it is a considerate one. It’s a choice everyone must make for themselves by answering the question of whether they feel that their religious convictions compel them to wear the given jewelry item. For better or worse, you are sending a message that may put people off.

            I see a big distinction between the wearing of a cross, which is not required for any religion that I know of, and the wearing of certain clothing items that ARE required by some religions.

            I am not at all religious, so take my opinion for what it’s worth.

        • I don’t think it’s bigoted for someone to make certain connotations with certain religions – particularly when they’re not just of the someone-who-belongs-to-religion-X-committed-atrocity-Y variety but of the many-religious-leaders-and-members-of-religion-X-think-I-am-going-to-hell variety.

      • So someone who is Christian and wants to wear a cross needs to “be aware” of injustices they did not perpetrate, that are not supported by passages in the Bible or by the tenets of their particular religion, and that happened to the observer in a completely different context? That seems a little burdensome on the person wearing the jewelry, to me.

        FYI: not all Christian sects oppose abortion rights, are anti-LGBT, or abuse children. To put all those things in the same sentence, and imply that the cross symbolizes all of those things, is so outrageously offensive and ridiculous, I honestly don’t know what to say.

        • Exactly.

        • Agreed.

        • Anon for this one too :

          Is it not the stance of the Catholic church to be anti-abortion and anti-LGBT? I can’t tell you how many people (at work nonetheless) have volunteered to me that they will never vote democratic because they are Catholic, and being Catholic means they do not support a politicial party who supports abortion and gay rights.

          I understand that Catholicisim is not the only form of Christianity, and that not all Catholics believe / agree with the beliefs of the Church as a whole – but it is naiive to think that these two things are not associated. They may not be associated for YOU, but the Catholic church has a public stance on these topics.

          • I think it’s just a matter of pragmatism. If you want to wear a religious symbol you need to know there is potential that clients, coworkers, or even your boss might make assumptions or interpret it differently than you want them to. They might make assumptions about your beliefs (eg, that because you are Christian, you MUST be anti-choice) or simply question your good taste.

            Personally, I wouldn’t wear one because to me religion is private and I wouldn’t want to open up that part of myself to be observed, analyzed, or asked about by coworkers or clients. And I support the right of others to wear such things but it does come across as almost “oversharing” to me, but generally I don’t judge people based on one element that I find off putting, so 99.9% of the time it wouldn’t impact how I interacted with that person.

        • Statistically speaking, most Christian sects do oppose abortion rights. I’ve never thought, upon seeing someone wearing a cross, “s/he must oppose abortion rights.” However, it’s something to be aware of. And yes, I stand by “something to be aware of.” If I don’t wear hose with a skirt, I might offend people with my bare legs. That’s something to be aware of, and a little burdensome. If my suit is too tight, or my top is too low, I might offend someone. The fact that I don’t cover my hear might offend someone’s religion. This is MY choice and I am making it, but I am aware of it. I don’t think putting religious jewellery in the class of things that you should be aware of is a problem.

          Also, no one was saying that “the cross symbolizes all of those things” Rather, to some people who have been the target of such hate and vitriol in their everyday lives, and the hate was spewed from behind the protection of a cross, it might have a personal impact. Perhaps you should be speaking to the people who are associating those things with your religious symbol rather than the people who see it and are reminded of their daily struggles.

          • “I’ve never thought, upon seeing someone wearing a cross, ‘s/he must oppose abortion rights.’ ”

            Really? Because that’s exactly what I think when I see someone wearing a cross or a crucifix, and it’s honestly one of the things that makes me feel negatively towards Christians of all types – regardless of their personal beliefs. I think that if you, personally, support LGBT marriage and/or abortion and your religion doesn’t, and you still choose to display a symbol supporting that religion, then you’re not really “living your beliefs” are you?

          • AS: what? Who are you to decide that someone who wears a cross and also does not believe the government should be involved in reproductive decisions is not following their beliefs? I hope that you are not a lawyer because you would not be a very good one.

          • anonymous :

            Taylor, can you please tone down the personal attacks? Most people are just trying to express their opinions, and you are repeatedly personally attacking the poster.

          • ? It looked to me that AS was personally attacking self-proclaimed Christians if they don’t buy everything the church says hook, line, and sinker. It is none of her business.

  22. Note the banner ad at the top of this page–placed there by Google, not by Kat.

  23. I don’t care one way or other about people wearing religious jewellery.

    As long as you are not in your face about yor religious symbol, do not proseletize etc, a small token of your faith is fine with me.

    I want to get a small “OM” symbol – not in english, but in sanskrit script to denote my Hindu faith.

  24. I am not religious (lapsed Catholic, I guess!), and there are some things about working in Texas that bother me – that co-workers want to say grace at the table, for example, because I always feel slightly excluded or hypocritical.

    That said, I don’t think there’s any problem with someone wearing religious jewelry, as long as it isn’t being used as a way to start conversation about religion and proselytize- which is not something I’ve ever experienced. I barely even notice it most of the time – and many of my friends who wear religious jewelry are not Christian, and I think it not only helps them display an important part of their lives, but also adds some cultural diversity. honestly, I don’t think I’d be bothered if another attorney kept a Bible or Quran or [insert name of religious book here] in his or her office, as long as it wasn’t made a focal point.

    Though I do agree that the jewelry should be tasteful and not look like a giant advertisement!

    • I agree with you about working in the Bible Belt. I am nonreligious and live in the deep South, where nearly everyone is Christian and assumes everyone else is too. I think it is frequently more easily understood if you are Jewish or Hindu than if you are not religious at all. I often feel slightly uncomfortable with outward displays of religion (like saying a blessing before a meal) that are the norm here but people might think twice about in more diverse areas. (I have actually had a complete stranger take my hand and pray out loud for me after meeting me at an alumni dinner. Awkward!) However, I have no problem with people wearing small and tasteful religious symbols, as long as it is not ostentatious and as long as the wearer does not prosetelyze.

  25. Magdeline :

    I have a funny, somewhat-related story.

    In college, I went to the campus health center for my annual gyno exam. My usual nurse practitioner was out sick, so the nurse asked me if I would mind having a different nurse practitioner or doctor examine me. I agreed.

    The man who came in and performed the examination on me was wearing a tie with a Crucifix (not cross) print all over it!!! I couldn’t believe that a man who is asking unmarried college girls questions about numbers of sexual partners and writing birth control prescriptions would actually wear that to perform gyno. examinations!

    • Magdeline :

      Similar to this:

      (Also, I think small tokens of faith are fine and I would have thought nothing of it. This was a bit over the top though!)

  26. It doesn’t bother me, but I wouldn’t wear any myself, for client- and also partner-facing reasons (my town is divided into historically jewish and historically christian firms, so I wouldn’t want to wear a religious symbol that was different from the partners’ religious preference).

  27. Anonymous :

    After my sister’s death and a very rocky divorce when I was pre-teens, I was a very spiritual person (mostly Wicca) and frequently wore a pentacle around a satin-y ribbon/cord. It wasn’t inverted or anything, but especially at that age I had a lot of people (including adults) ask very ignorant and insulting questions (like if I worshipped the devil or howled at the full moon, among many). And eventually I lengthened the cord and actually tucked the pentacle under my shirts and dresses.
    Point being, I think stars of Davids, crosses, hands of Fatima, even Ankhs are accepted because they are so common and are understood. Unfortunately there are many symbols that aren’t so well known and have stigmas surrounding them, so they usually have to be worn with caution.
    I would be least comfortable seeing someone wear a crucifix, even if there isn’t much detail the image of a man dying/dead on a cross makes my stomach churn.

    • southern anon :

      I once, in all honesty, had someone say to me “oh, so you are Jewish!” upon discovering that I don’t believe in god.

      I really have no point beyond the fact that ignorance abounds, and we have to live in a world where people hate others based on religious beliefs, be they true or perceived.

      It seems safer to keep your beliefs to yourself in the professional world lest you unintentionally give someone the wrong opinion of yourself. Let your (presumably good, honest) behavior show the world what you stand for, not your jewelry.

  28. 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?

    • At some point, we all need to have lines in our lives that define who we are. If you are doing daily devotional reading in the privacy of your office, and it has not impact on me or others, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. It might cross my mind whether the depth of your religious views would prevent you from connecting with others from differing religions. More important to me would be your behavior and actions. The presence of a devotional is not offensive, to my mind.

    • Anonymous :

      It’s personal, personally yours, no problem in your personal work space, kept to yourself.

    • Yet Another Anon :

      Is it super obvious? And placed so people walking in can see it? I’d think that’s in-your face. I

      I posted above about the partner who has the “Know Jesus, Know Peace/No Jesus, No Peace” picture in his office.

      I’d tuck it into the bookshelf or desk, rather than place it front & center. On the other hand, if it’s not something someone walking into your office would ever see, I think that’s perfectly cool.

    • I think the act of doing devotional reading at work is not offensive, but I might question the location of where you store these items. The description of them being on a credenza, makes me think they’re somewhat prominent and might even be considered to be on display. I would probably be fairly uncomfortable walking in to a co-workers office to find a bible displayed prominently. I would even more probably not hire the services of a professional who had done so. I’m not sure why, maybe it would make me think that that person would be consulting those books during the course of their day to day practices, which except for certain circumstances I would find inappropriate. That said, turning them around so the binding and cover weren’t visible would probably be enough to never raise concern.

    • anonymous :

      I’d keep it on a shelf. You have no duty to hide it, but ^ about prominent displays of religion.

    • If your Bible & devotional materials are behind your desk and not where anyone wandering into your office would immediately see it, I think it’s fine. one of the people in my office keeps religious pamphlets on their coffee table, which I think is less fine.

    • Hi – thanx to all. I was the original poster of this question and I appreciate the feedback. to answer the questions, the credenza behind my desk is where I keep all sorts of books – not decorative items. i don’t believe anyone would consider it “on display.” Also, as to clients seeing it, we don’t every have client to our offices, we use the conference rooms.

      I think I am satisfied that people will not think it is offensive . . . as far as partners not working with me because I am religious, I have been an attorney for six years and have a pretty solid career and will make partner relatively soon — I don’t believe being a Christian has negatively affected it. If so, I’m okay with that.

      • I would be put off by seeing the religious materials on your credenza, even with other non-religious books. I am an atheist and I would be walking on eggshells around you. It’s hardly surprising that a member of the dominant religion, such as yourself, would not have observed any negative consequences of displaying that religion at work over the course of 6 years. Atheists tend to be very aware of the unpopularity of atheism and are highly unlikely to express their discomfort when exposed to religious views at work or elsewhere. So you can rest assured that even though you might be alienating atheist co-workers, those co-workers won’t say anything, because that’s how atheists get by.

        • Consider moving to NYC, where atheists are the dominant religion and would probably be making fun of the person with the bible behind her back.

        • Sounds a lot like a persecution complex to me.

        • this is the original poster. I am at a large firm in NYC and I believe I am the only evangelical Christian in my office. I am also the only open republican (I think there are a few closet republicans!!! ha). I have had spirited discussions with coworkers about my “narrow minded” beliefs (their words, not mine), and do not believe it negatively affected my career not because I am the “dominant” religion, but because of my attitude and the attitude of my coworkers. There are many faiths (even athiest) in my office, and each does not seem shy about vocalizing their “faith.” Perhaps they are just more comfortable in themselves? I believe the opposite of you — it seems that Christians are more and more timid in their beliefs because they are so scared of offending, but other belief systems demonstrate theirs openly and demand (rightfully) tolerance.

          But you have given me reason to ask a few of the nonchristians in my office whether they found this offensive, so thank you for raising my awareness level!

          • It’s wonderful that you have an office environment where you feel comfortable expressing your political and religious views, but I would be careful of making generalizations such as “it seems that Christians are more and more timid in their beliefs because they are so scared of offending [others], but other belief systems demonstrate theirs openly . . . .” I think we could engage in an endless showing of examples which both support and detract from this position.

          • Please keep your bible on your credenza or your desk even, so when I walk into your office and see that you are an evangleical christian, I can run in the opposite direction with my money!

        • DietCoke1 :

          You seem to have a bit of a chip on your shoulder about happening to glance over a religious book on someone’s desk or a star of David on someone’s neck. Maybe you’ve experienced some geographical prejudice towards being athiest, but I have to wonder whether you project defensiveness in a way that makes you seem more intolerant of people who are religious than religious people are of you. I’m just not understanding why a subtle and personal symbol of faith is offensive to you if it is actually discreet and not being pushed on you.

  29. Threadjack – I need to take my daughter to a mid-week doctor’s apptmt that is going to take a long time – estimated at 2 to 2 and a half hours, in the middle of the work day. Do I tell my partners (all male and either childless or 50+) that I need to be out for a doctor’s apptmt for my daughter, I have an “appointment” (without elaborating), or just leave and tell my legal assistant my whereabouts? I don’t want to give the impression that I am frequently out for doctor’s apptmts as I’m already going to lots of apptmts these days because I’m pregnant.

    • I say, tell them you have an appointment, don’t get overly specific, let them assume it’s related to your pregnancy if they so choose, and tell your legal assistant where you are if you trust him or her and something happens where you need to be reached.

      I feel, though I am not in the legal profession (I’m assuming you are, though you don’t say) I am a professional. The expectation is that I get my work done and do my work product well. If I need to take an hour (or 2, or 3) on a particular day to take care of something personal, I expect to be able to do it, because I for SURE take personal time to do professional work on a regular basis.

      • Oh and PS: I hope your daughter’s okay. A long doctor’s appointment is never a good thing. When I was writing this, I was getting all defensive for you — I know we’ve had the long and sometimes contentious debate about whether people with kids get special treatment, and I’m not at all trying to start that. I just hope that whatever you do, you’re able to focus on your daughter when you are there.

    • I tend to keep the details of personal appointments to myself – I was told by a mentor (woman manager in a firm dominated by men) that the less details you give, the less they can judge about you and hold against you — sounds a little bitter/jaded, but served her well, and has worked for me.

      • I was told the exact same thing by a male mentor — the less you say, the less they judge.

    • I would just say you have a “meeting” and tell your assistant when to expect you back/how to reach you (no need to specify where you’re going unless you want). Do your partners typically keep track of your whereabouts? If something comes up the morning of the appointment that would lead people to look for you while you’re out (since you have your daughter with you, I suspect you won’t be monitoring email), you could give more details on an individual basis.

    • I would also suggest keeping details to a minimum or, if you have to be more specific, maybe say you have to take your daughter to an appointment? I’m neither pregnant nor in poor health but I happened to have a few doctor’s appointments recently – enough that I started wondering if anyone noticed/thought anything of them… and when I left early one day last week for a non-doctor’s appointment appointment (a CLE event), I made a point to tell my boss (who is male) exactly where I was going. I know my heightened sensitivity comes from being female and young-ish in an office where almost all of the other professional-level employees are older and male (although all of the support staff is female). I’m certain that when my boss disappears for a few hours in the middle of the day he isn’t worrying “hope they don’t think I’m knocked up and making work a secondary priority” simply because he has to take care of something that can’t be handled outside of 9-5. If your partners are reasonable people, and if you get your work done one way or another, the fact that you left work for your daughter’s doctor’s appointment won’t matter… but I understand worrying that it will.

    • I agree with all the other comments about keeping the details to a minimum. Now, when I have any kind of personal appointment, doctor, dentist, school function, I just docket it as an Appointment Out of the Office. I let my secretary know that anyone who needs me can call on my cell, and that’s it.

    • Also, why would you tell your “legal assistant” (ie paralegal) and not your assistant (ie secretary)? It seems weird to me. Just curious.

      • Different firms have different terminology. “Legal assistant” would mean secretary at mine. Paralegals are only ever called paralegals by us.

      • Thanks for all of the helpful comments. Yes, we call our secretaries “legal assistants” here. Also, fyi, it’s not that serious – it involves allergy testing so that’s why the apptmt will take a long time. I’m tempted to make my DH go in place since no one at his work cares about his whereabouts, ever, whereas my office is right next to my partners’ offices.

  30. I’m honestly surprised by the responses here – I think it is as wrong to suppress expressions of religion as it is to require them. As long as it is a peson’s personal expression, and it isn’t bumping into my space – i.e., the person isn’t telling me that their religion is better/I am burning in hell – I don’t see how it can be offensive. Obviously, many mileages vary here.

    All religions contain a wide range of beliefs and behavior, and no two people of the “same” religion have the same beliefs – I can’t imagine looking at someone with a cross and thinking “Oh, they probably believe in the Westboro Baptist Church”, or looking at someone wearing a hijab and thinking they probably agree with the Taliban. A rush to judgment from any POV on the spectrum is never a good idea.

    • It sounds to me like most of the people worried about the jewelry being exclusive are basing their opinions on assumptions and stereotypes about what they assume that the people wearing the jewelry would be thinking (about them). It’s just as judgmental as what they are accusing others of doing.

  31. It’s certainly not ‘wrong’ to wear religious jewelry. However the purpose of professional clothes is to send a message, usually just “I am a professional.” (and a lot of other connected messages, such as “I can afford this,” etc.) You’re conforming to the standards in clothing, therefore you can/will conform to the standards of the job (in theory).

    If you wear religious jewelry (or any other signaling thing) you’re sending a different message — “I am a Christian professional” or “I am a Buddhist professional,” etc. Most people have stereotypes and misconceptions about religion. Why make your professional image vulnerable to “other peoples’ problems”? If you want to do that (ie, be at the mercy of other’s stereotypes), go for it….

    • But you’re always at the mercy of other people’s stereotypes. The moment I meet a client, it becomes obvious that I’m a blonde, Southern professional. If someone chooses to stereotype me based on these characteristics, that’s their problem, not mine. If someone wants to throw a hissy because I’m wearing a small, tasteful religious symbol, we probably weren’t a good fit for a client-professional relationship anyway.

      • THIS.

      • I agree. I have a lot of clients of various faiths, and none has ever seemed to take offense at a small silver cross on a chain. And if they did, you’re right, probably not a good fit anyway.

    • Agree to a point :

      Much of the discussion on this site revolves around the impact that one’s clothing choices have in the workplace. It works both ways in that how we present ourselves influences how others think of us and how we make others feel. Choosing to wear religious jewelry may have an impact on how others view you and/or how they feel around you. The general tenor of the discussion here tends to view as an imperative to consider the effect of your clothing choices on your “audience”, be it partners, bosses, clients, peers, etc. The message of some here seems to be that it’s a personal choice and who cares how others view it or are affected by it. I find it curious that this discussion on the topic of religion is really all over the place and inconsistent with past discussions, and many posters may be speaking from an emotional place, rather than a rational one, and for the most part proves the point of the posters who state that overt and optional religious symbols are not appropriate for the workplace. I’m kind of on the fence about it personally, I respect that a religious/observant person is such 24/7 even at work, but this whole thread is a strong argument for the anti-symbol posters. I’m not sure how one can say that “I use religious jewelry as a coded message to identify others of my faith” and then deny that there could be a feeling of exclusion on the part of others.

      • Agree with you SO MUCH.

      • “I’m not sure how one can say that “I use religious jewelry as a coded message to identify others of my faith” and then deny that there could be a feeling of exclusion on the part of others.”

        I don’t deny that others may feel excluded by my expression of faith, although I don’t understand that belief one bit. I’m saying I don’t care. This isn’t like wearing a low-cut dress to the office and not understanding why people are offended. If you believe, as I do, that religious devotion and adherence to belief is the key to spiritual salvation in the present life, and communion with God in the afterlife, then letting other people dictate what you will and will not do to show your faith is not an option. I don’t care if other people “feel excluded” by my religious symbol. That’s their problem, not mine. Just like if someone has a problem with my sexual orientation, ethnic group, the fact that I have a child, or the fact that I like purple, that is their problem, not mine. Religion is a protected class under U.S. civil rights law, and I would strongly urge people to remember that if they’re considering telling someone that they’re “offended” by their religious “display.” It’s not at all the same as wearing open-toe shoes in an office where open-toe shoes are frowned upon and it baffles me that anyone would equate the two things. Or suggest that because someone might be “offended” that a religious person should not wear an obvious religious symbol. Would you also suggest someone with dark skin lighten it because there are people who might be “offended” by dark skin? Or that someone with kinky hair straighten their hair so they don’t “offend” anyone? I think that’s more an equivalent analogy.

        • thank you.

        • I don’t think your examples are really comprables. The question is not whether people should ever hide any immutable characteristics. None of the debate concerns whether someone should not wear a religious headcovering or other garb required by their faith. The question is should you wear religious jewelry NOT required by your faith, just because you want to, at work. In other words, should you do something entirely optional when it may potentially make others feel uncomfortable?
          A lot of these responses — pro and con — seem to be coming from very emotional places. The idea of religious jewelry worn as jewelry is, frankly, in my opinion often a bit at odds with the religious tenets underlying the symbols (Jesus Christ died, brutally, on the cross, and people think that a white gold & diamond cross, however small, can actually be tasteful??) . . . Anyway, without going off on a tangent — if you’re wearing jewelry personal to you, there are many ways to do so tastefully and discreetly (e.g., on a longer chain under your shirt). If it’s really about being pious, that should satisfy.

  32. I have several small silver crosses I wear frequently. I was collecting them for a while, and at one point, I wore one every day, although not as frequently now. I never gave it a second thought. I don’t really think of them as religious statements, although they mean something to me. I think they are pretty. It never occurred to me that anyone would be offended. Certainly, I would never be offended, and likely would not notice, if someone else in my office wore a non-Christian reliqious symbol as a piece of jewelry.

  33. I think people who feel uncomfortable when exposed to a small gold cross or star of David, or whatever, need learn to be a little more tolerant of other people’s beliefs.

  34. I wish I lived in a town that had stores that waited until after Halloween to pull out the Christmas displays and music . . . .

  35. I have no problem with people wearing small, tasteful religious jewelry to work. I don’t, as I’m not religious at all, but I grew up in the South, where crosses are abundant, and I never gave it much thought. That being said, I suspect that had someone been wearing something outside the main stream (someone mentioned pentacles earlier), other people might have been bothered. It’s a double standard and not fair at all, but it’s a case of knowing your audience…

    On the other hand, there are plenty of religious symbols that I would have no idea were religious. One of my friends had a very gorgeous filigree hamsa necklace that I loved and really wanted something similar too–it took me a while to figure out that some consider it a religious symbol.

  36. I have a necklace with a silver mezuzah (very small). Only those who are fellow members of the tribe would know what it was; everyone else would just see it as a necklace with a silver drop.

    • I have a mezuzah on my apartment door! It was gift from your tribe, and I really like having it.
      I’ve had a couple of Big Firm jobs in my career, and quite a few partners have also had mezuzahs on their office doors.

    • WHY do people keep thinking that only jewish people know what jewish things are?

      • B/c most non-Jews didn’t go to Brandeis, and just like I wouldn’t know the Bahai nine-pointed star from any other star if I didn’t have a best friend who is a Bahai, neither do they know Jewish symbology. Ci, you are an exception, not the rule.

        • Not everyone went to Brandeis, but neither did all Jews…and some of those Jewish folks even made non-Jewish friends.

          • Which is awesome… but I still would argue that the majority of non-Jews don’t have a particularly impressive/detailed grasp on Jewish symbology – and why would they? It’s absurd to assume otherwise – just like it’s absurd to assume that non-Christians like Christmas music ‘because it’s seasonal’

        • Shayna you wouldn’t feel offended at all if someone said they wanted a secret club of catholics at work? Your analogy of assuming that no one knows what a jewish symbol is not analogous to assuming non-Christians like Christmas music, its actually more analogous to assume that non-Christians won’t be bothered by it because they don’t know it has to do with Christmas. You’re assuming that even if people are the type to be bothered by a cross, they are too ignorant to know about other religions and cultures, so they won’t be offended by a “secret” symbol. It comes off so patronizing.

  37. Personally this annoys me. I realize it’s common in some parts of the country, but I don’t like it. Keep it to yourself people. You don’t know who you are interacting with and what they might think. Not everyone is Christian or whatever you might be, and it just doesn’t help a situation to put it out there uninvited at work. I can’t stand religious zealots so if I see a display in the workplace I can’t help wonder if they are judgie, annoying types. Do you really want to color your first impressions like so? I live in Seattle where religiousity is kept to a minimum, and I like it here. I understand that some areas almost everyone is Christian and expresses it but still there could be someone in your workplace who isn’t and you might be making them uncomfortable.

    • Is this a serious post? Perhaps you should get to know someone first rather than assume that they are a “judgie, annoying type” based on a piece of jewelry. Do you automatically decide that a person must be unintelligent just because she is blonde? Overly emotional just because she if female? Honestly, based on the content of your post, I don’t think that it is religious jewelry that annoys you . . . It sound like religion itself bothers you.

      • Yet Another Anon :

        It’s like this, if I see someone with a fraternity pin, I assume that they prefer people from their own fraternity. If I see someone with a religious symbol….

        This is based in large part on 20 years experience. People do prefer their own, sometimes overtly, sometimes without thinking. As someone else pointed out, I am judged based on my appearance, my accent, my performance. I do not see the need to add my religious beliefs to that list. And given a choice, I would prefer to remove appearance and accent. (Maybe that’s why I do so much of my work for clients across the country, mostly via email.)

        • Regarding “people do prefer their own”:

          For the record, my two best friends are Jewish and Atheist. I am Christian (and an active one at that).

        • Why does it mean that “they prefer people from their own fraternity” and not that they are simply proud of the fraternity that they belong to?

          I don’t prefer Christians ( believe me, I know @$$holes of every persuasion), but I am happy to be one.

    • No offense, but you sound like the “judgie” type, not the other way around.

      • What LA said. Another reason why I will never move to Seattle. Or New York City, based on what’s been said on this thread.

        • So now we’re adding yet another layer of judginess re people from Seattle?

          • And NY?
            It really is remarkable how this discussion is devolving.
            NYC is about the most tolerant place ever. You could be a satan worshiper or pray to Mr. Rogers and no one would care.
            I would only wish the rest of the world (and country) were as open minded.

    • Anon for this :

      I live in Seattle as well and I’m embarrassed by your close-mindedness and your misguided attempt to speak on behalf of all Seattlites. Seattle, as you know, is a diverse place and I have witnessed more tolerance for diversity in race and sexual orientation and acceptance of freedom of expression (maybe a quarterof our office staff have visible tattoos) here than anywhere else I’ve lived. I am positive that people at my work wouldn’t mind if I wore a cross, had a tattooed cross on my arm, or even a bible on my shelf, just as I really don’t mind rainbow flags, fraternity rings, framed photos from the Masters golf tournament, etc. To each his own.

      • anonymous :

        she didn’t say she was speaking on behalf of all seattlites. she said religious stuff is kept to a minimum in seattle. and it’s true. a study recently came out saying seattle is the least religious town in the country.

  38. Just to add a note on this- if I was looking to hire a consultant or such (I work for a major corporation) and a candidate wore religious jewelry to any interaction we had, I’d probably not hire them if there was an equally good candidate without out. Why? 1- I’d worry that if I sent them out to represent my global company they’d make others uncomfortable 2- I’d worry that they’d be an annoying coworker who might lack an appropriate filter and not understand the diversity of people they work with. Maybe unfair, but that’s how I feel. Work is just not the place for it. Too many unpleasant experiences with colleagues assuming I’m Christian when I’m not over the last decade-plus. It’s so awkward- you don’t want to speak up against them, but then are forced to nod in apparent consent, which is firmly against my views. Anyway. You might be harmless, but lots of your brethren aren’t, so you risk lumping yourself in with the annoying ones. While it might help you in the south or such, it can definitely hurt your career in a more global setting.

    • Just so you know, your “hypothetical” hiring scenario is an Title VII/EEOC violation and is an illegal hiring practice. This is taken directly from the EEOC’s website:

      What Discriminatory Practices are Prohibited By These Laws?

      Employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities, or based on myths or assumptions about an individual’s genetic information; and
      denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.

      • another anon :

        Dear Anon,

        The OP could obviously justify her dilike for the candidate (outwardly) in another manner and totally sidestep any illegal hiring practices. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying it’s the real world! Sad, but true.

        • Oh, I get that. I just wanted her to know that what she is doing is wrong.

      • I am glad someone pointed this out.

    • I’m with you, Sara, and I’m also from Seattle. Just from the emotional responses on here, anyone can tell that displaying even the smallest, most tasteful symbol has a great risk of alienating someone. Why would one open herself up to that in a professional situation? When I know someone is religious, any religion, I frankly lose a little respect for that person. I think “irrational and narrow-minded”. And the whole concept of a god and religion seems so completely weird to me, I automatically feel distanced from someone who is religious. And this is coming from someone who wanted to be an Episcopalian priest when she grew up.

      • I’m with B and Sara on the religious symbols and, even though I know it’s an illegal hiring practice, on the hiring thing. I’m an atheist, though culturally Jewish, and I find people wearing obvious religious symbols alienating. If this is “closed-minded,” then so be it. I come from the east coast (where most people I knew were not overtly religious), and now live in the midwest where people seem to wear their religion on their sleeve. I find it distasteful.

        And, FYI, I find it distasteful when people wear ANY type of “clubby” pin or adornment, including frat/sorority, phi beta kappa, etc. Religious jewelry just takes it to another level because I dislike the way religious people seem to think that I should abandon atheism and begin believing their “way”.

        • I agree with you. Also, not only do I find “clubby” apparel distasteful, I even extend that feeling to obviously branded things. EG, a purse covered in logos or one of those Tiffany key necklaces that everyone can immediately recognize as Tiffany. Now, granted, I also give people the benefit of the doubt and figure, hey, maybe s/he isn’t trying to give the message I am getting from that apparel, but still, my initial reaction is a mental wince.

      • I’m sure you’re going to get seriously, seriously flamed for saying all that, but Steven Hawking’s new book and I also find religion to be irrational. It’s so interesting and confusing how religion is a much more important part of life to most Americans than most Europeans.

      • When I find out that someone loses respect for the intelligence of someone who is religious, then I think that person pathetic and sad.

        • I gotta say I’m fine with that. But if it makes you feel better, you can always pray for me.

          • B? Why would I pray. .. .? Oh! I get it. You are so narrow-minded that you assumed that because I do not appreciate your bigotry that I must be Christian. No, see, honey, I live in America where I was taught to tolerate and even appreciate the diversity around me in terms of culture and religion. It is really sad that you, AS and Sara have separated yourselves from others with a misplaced sense of superiority. :(

        • Your comments here haven’t been at all persuasive – just nasty observations.

  39. I wouldn’t think twice about someone wearing religious jewelry at work, nor would I think twice about someone wearing a required expression of religion (e.g. head covering), and I really don’t understand the distinction. Mandatory or not, they’re both religious expressions ultimately worn by choice and have the same effect on your “audience.”

  40. L from Oz :

    I’ve been the lone Jew in a lot of places, including cities where the historical implications of being Jewish are…challenging. (I’ve had colleagues commute twice weekly to places which are only on the map because they had large concentration camps.) As a result, I’m extremely wary about wearing anything religious, not because I’m worried about discrimination etc, but because it embarasses other people hugely in certain situations – they’re very understanding, usually, but there’s no need to give average twenty/thirty something colleagues genocidal guilt over lunch. Besides, I hate having to explain why I’m there, that it’s really OK etc, so I prefer not to raise the subject.

    I also train potential public servants, and while my own state doesn’t have major restrictions on religious displays, others in the country do (no headscarves, for one, which would be a problem for at least some of my students), and I don’t want to be hypocritical.

    However, at home, where there were large communities of most major religions, and a much more ‘anything goes’ attitude to display and clothing, I would happily wear somethign small. So I suppose the moral is: know your audience!

  41. Some of us practice religions whose symbols we can’t wear, lest we be subject to discrimination. I see that the vast majority of the posters who are talking about religious symbols keep referencing Christian and Jewish symbols primarily.

    There are places in this country where you risk your professional livelihood if you let people know you’re Muslim. There are many, many places in this country where you will not get a job if you wear a pentagram, or if people know you practice an African diaspora religion.

    When I see a cross on somebody’s neck in a professional context, it frustrates me. The individual wearing it is showing a privilege which goes along with being a member of a mainstream/majority faith, and it’s something I will probably never get to do in my professional life. I don’t necessarily think that such people are being out-and-out mean or nasty, but I do think they’re utterly clueless about the social context and how their little cross necklace represents a wide gulf in privilege and social acceptance.

    Similarly, I think most of the posters in this thread are clueless. If somebody ever asked me, “Would it be okay to wear religious jewelry at work?” my first question would have to be, “Well, which religion?”

    • Are you similarly frustrated when you see a nice handbag on someone’s arm or see them pull into the parking garage in a fancy new car? These are symbols of privilege too. Do you consider these people “utterly clueless”?

      • Speaking only for myself, I don’t, but I do think people who talk about fancy handbags and cars without demonstrating an awareness that they’re something only a few people can afford to own are clueless. I think S makes a very good point that only thinking about, for instance, Christian religious symbols and how they’re received is similarly clueless.

      • Anon, I think the poster means a different type of privilege than monetary. The OP is likely referring to the type of privilege we have without being aware of it if we are white or male or upper class or able-bodied. And, IMO, the OP is correct: displaying a cross or a Star of David is a mark of privilege because those religions are generally accepted throughout the world (though I’d argue that the Star of David is less acceptable in many areas, including parts of the US).

    • So because you don’t feel “comfortable” expressing your faith, no one else should get to do it either? I’m sorry that you’re in the minority, religion-wise, where you are, but I don’t see why that means those in the majority should have to censor their jewelry so you don’t feel uncomfortable. The fact that the majority exists is not a personal affront to you.

      • It’s respectful to try and put your colleagues at ease, though.

      • First off, talking about my not being “comfortable” because I’m in the “minority” “where” I am is a total non-sequitur – my religious faith is a minority -everywhere- and I’m not talking about simply having minority status, but being actively discriminated against; way to try to downplay the seriousness of what I was talking about, though.

        More to the point, where did I even remotely suggest that people’s jewelry should be “censored”? I was only pointing out the larger social context of wearing such things. I’m not saying anyone should be at all obligated to remove religious jewelry, but you have to accept that neither is anyone else obligated to pretend that the choice to wear optional jewelry has no larger social context. We do not exist in a vacuum.

        We’re having a discussion about how sometimes a small group of people might somewhat negatively view a person who has a cross, or may even choose another professional with whom to do business (*gasp* The bias!). If the original reader had posted about wanting to wear certain OTHER religious symbols, Kat in her answer could’ve cited numerous court decisions regarding whether businesses could fire somebody based solely on the wearing of the symbols. She probably could’ve combed through US news articles finding instances where people were beaten because they were wearing such symbols, or had their children taken away from them because of their adherence to that faith.

        I ask that people keep this in perspective, and keep in mind what other people are experiencing, and all of a sudden I’m trying to oppress Christians with my evil wicked censorship and my outlandish sense of “personal affront”.


        • Electric Slide :

          Thanks, by the way. A large part of my opinions on this (which seem to match up mostly with yours) come from 1) my experience, which is only vaguely comparable, of being the target of a majority faith, and 2) my lovely and diverse friends, who are mostly not Christians and have some stunning stories of what has happened when they try to celebrate their faith openly, and how being part of a permanent minority of many sorts is a difficult journey.

          I have always tried to be mindful of the effect of outward signs of my faith and the resulting unconscious privilege as a result, and seeing your post reminds me yet again.

    • The people who won’t hire you because you wear a pentagram, or a cross, or a star are the same people who won’t hire you because of your sex, weight, or ethnicity.

      • Yeah, they’re bad people, but oftentimes they’re powerful ones.

        • I think we are missing the point of this post . . . there will ALWAYS be a small sect of people that are offended by EVERY choice we make. There are male partners who have complained that I wear pants everyday. so what. There are people offended that I drive a prius. so what. there are people who are offended by __________ insert anything. The point of this post is whether it is GENERALLY acceptable to the MAJORITY of people to wear ANY religious jewelry. If I made choices based on whether it might offend ONE person, I would make no choice on anything in the world.

          • Well, I think that is the point actually. In much of the United States, wearing a cross necklace IS something that only a few people are likely to be really offended by and you can say “screw the haters”. In the same places, however, wearing, for instance, a necklace that says “Allah” in calligraphy can get you loads of prejudice and discriminatory behavior that’s much more broadly based. Not always and not from everyone, but it’s something people of minority religious faiths that are often persecuted really do have to be aware of. That doesn’t mean Christians shouldn’t wear a cross, but it does mean that they should be aware of the dichotomy.

        • Yes, so it is our job to try to help them accept others not bow to their bigotry.

          • I mean, in theory I think this is great. But it’s also something that’s a lot easier to say when you’re not the person facing immediate and significant discrimination. It’s easy to stand up to your bigoted boss when you know that the majority of listeners will be on your side and you’ll likely easily find or another job, or if you have enough money not to care. It’s a lot harder when you know other employers in your region are just as likely to discriminate against you because of your religion as your current boss, and when the economy sucks, and when you have a family to support, etc. And things being what they are, people who aren’t Christian are likely to face the latter situation – at least in terms of it being likely a new employer won’t be any better – a lot more often than people who are. Which is just something to think about when you’re comparing the kinds of religious discrimination people face and the privilege involved.

    • I think this is a valuable comment.

  42. aquarienne :

    The bottom lines are these:

    If a man doesn’t want to become a father, he should take steps to ensure he is protected when he has sex.

    If a woman doesn’t want to become a mother, she should take steps ensure she is protected when she has sex.

    Everything else is chatter.

  43. I never wear a visible religious symbol to court, because when I am there, I am not merely “me”, but am primarily a representative of the people (prosecutor). That said, if I am seeking the services of a professional, unless my “issue” is one which someone’s religious beliefs would impact, I couldn’t give a rat’s _$$ whether that professional wears a cross/crucifix, Star of David, pentagram, or other religious symbol.

  44. I’ve always felt religious symbols were like any other symbols. I wouldn’t stop wearing my wedding band because being married made my single colleagues uncomfortable and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to hide a symbol that has meaning to them for fear it would make someone uncomfortable either. I think anything tasteful and elegant is completely work appropriate.

    • Well said. I completely agree.

    • This. As long as people don’t try to preach or convert others, it shouldn’t matter. We had a senior manager who invited people (of different religions) home for Christmas dinner and people felt obliged to go there. Afterwards, he put on a video showing how a former drug addict found salvation through Jesus AND had the guests share their views on “What Jesus means to me”. Many found it weird/offensive etc depending on their outlook.

      Pity it wasn’t in the US where they could have sued or reported him:)

  45. There has been much focus on how others perceive the jewelry or other symbol of one’s religion. In my opinion, that is not the point. Instead, the believer of a, b, or c religion has chosen to wear the item that is associated with that religion as a visible reminder to her of what she believes. One purpose of that symbol is to help you refocus throughout the day on the tenents of the religion (i.e. you are fixing your hair and see it in the mirror, reminding you of what you believe). The fact that what is hanging from the necklace tells you something about the person in your office gives you a piece of information about that person. It does not tell you all about you need to know about who they are and what they believe.

  46. Once a Mormon Girl :

    I think it’s very interesting that none of the cross wearers are posting in from Utah – a land of religious jewelry. No Mormon’s don’t wear crosses ever (it a sign of Christ’s death not his resurrection, in our way of thinking). But both men and women do wear CTR (Choose The Right) and Return With Honor rings. As well as a women who wear necklaces: traditional Christian ones like mustard seeds under glass and Mormon specific ones like the ones earned for completing levels of the Young Women’s program. Also, there are necklaces/tie tacks given out to girls and boys who complete their Gospel in Action requirements at age 12 (a bit like learning the catechism, I guess). Also men may carry key rings that contain vials of consecrated oil for providing blessings. Most of theses things are only recognizable to other Mormons.

    Mormon’s I’ve known (as well as myself) are generally very uncomfortable around crosses. Though I suspect the Church’s attempts at mainstreaming will lessen that feeling.

    But here’s the thing I wanted to point out: if you, dear cross-wearing sistren, went to Utah, you would be signaling that you are NOT part of the dominant religion. You would have to ask yourself, is it worth risking having people think I am Other and Strange? That they cannot trust my religious beliefs? That I am possibly hostile to everyone around me (Mormons, as a group, are still pretty upset about Missouri Executive Order 44, or the Mormon Extermination Order that supposed Christians wanted and signed.)

    One of my friends from school had other girls tell her that they would not play with her because she wore a cross necklace (this is admittedly not very Christian or Mormon of them, but children can be cruel). Would you wear a religious symbol and risk having your children treated badly by others?

    Would you feel bad when you realized your boss and most of the management team and your immediate supervisor not only all wear the same religious jewelry, but attend the same church and will always at some level exclude you (at least from the religious part of their lives)? Would you trust that they are not making business decisions based on their shared religion? And that those decisions might be against you because you don’t “fit in”?

    Perhaps you should try to imagine yourself in the position of someone who, like the atheist poster above, feels trapped and constrained by those who constantly remind them that they “don’t match.”

    I’ve had the opportunity to live in very religious places and the opportunity not to. I very proudly do not wear any religious jewelry. Because I want those around me to know me, not my religion. Because I want those around me not to question if I have ulterior motives. Because I don’t want to hurt your feelings or exclude you. Because I believe that being the odd person out is terrible, and being labeled part of a group I don’t always agree with is equally terrible.

    I try very hard not to judge, but I know there will come a moment, in every relationship I’ve ever had, where I will have to say (at the very least) that I was raised Mormon. And suddenly the conversation shifts and changes and people treat me differently. Sometimes they are genuinely nice and curious, but far more often they are accusatory (my LGBT friends and colleagues) or just confused. But I always get to decide when and where and can be sure that I never inadvertently offend anyone or let them assume things that aren’t true about me.

    And, of course, by not advertising my background I often know exactly which bigoted people to avoid.

    • Anonymous First-time Commenter :

      This. Empathy.

      I wear religious jewelry when I can tuck it out of sight. I tried wearing it in a visible manner in a very small office when all others in the office were of the same faith, but it still felt weird to me to do so.

      Also, I wear a specific Celtic knot, sometimes called a Trinity knot, because I like the fact that it has ties to more than one tradition.

      • Anonymous First-time Commenter :

        To clarify: I wear that necklace *outside* of the office.

    • I completely agree, OaMG. Everyone should think about what it would be like to walk in another’s shoes.

    • Another mormon (lapsed) here and I agree with a lot of what you say but it goes the other way as well – as does all bias. When I was 12 I had a classmate (of another religion) tell me I was going to hell after she looked at the necklace I wore that read “I am a child of God” and I told her I was Mormon. I did not live in Utah and was a tiny little minority of 1 in my school. Perhaps that is why I’ve never wanted to display my faith with jewelry (also, I think most Mormon jewelry is tacky). Of course, anytime someone asks where I went to school or where I am from the question “are you Mormon” isn’t too far behind so we don’t all have the privilege of waiting to reveal our faith when we are ready and I have had to both face ugly accusations and overcome ignorant assumptions and many times people later confide in how surprised they are to find I’m fun and “normal” – whatever that means. The lesson here for everyone: don’t judge others based on your own perceptions of their religious beliefs as displayed by a symbol. There are mormons I love and many I strongly dislike (same as any broad category of people – there are lawyers I love and many I really dislike). Oh, and my closest friends vary from sikh to atheist and somehow religion doesn’t impede our friendships.

    • Anon On This One :

      I think yours is a very thoughtful and relevant post. In my experience, most Mormons are not people of color so when I am in Utah, I am automatically tagged as non-Mormon and, if you are correct, trapped and constrained by those who constantly remind” me that I don’t match.

      My experience is that people know I am not Mormon but don’t automatically distrust me because of it, but get to know me and judge me on a personal basis. Perhaps I have too much faith in humankind, but I give others more credit than you do. I believe that I can wear my cross and still be part accepted and valued. People do treat me differently, but not worse. After-all, we are not in grade school anymore.

    • ANON TODAY :

      “Perhaps you should try to imagine yourself in the position of someone who, like the atheist poster above, feels trapped and constrained by those who constantly remind them that they “don’t match.””

      Your analogy is a bit off. According to your description of business as usual amongst Mormons in Utah, the majority (Mormons) don’t trust cross wearing Christians. That majority might, through their ACTIONS, even treat them differently ON PURPOSE.

      Me wearing a cross in front of an atheist is nothing like that. The act of wearing the cross is not intended to exclude anyone, unlike the actions of the Mormons you describe above where as you say they intend to treat outsiders in a different manner than their fellow Mormons. If the atheists feel like they “don’t match” because I wear a cross, then that’s their problem, not mine. If my actions toward that person are the same actions I have when dealing with someone of my own religion, I’ve done nothing to offend them based on my religion or their lack of.

      There is a big difference between someone actually treating you differently because of your religion (in your Mormon example) and someone feeling offended because another person displays their religion by wearing a cross or Star of David or whatever.

      And yes, I would risk feeling like an outsider and proudly wear my cross in Utah because I wouldn’t want to belong to the crowd that you describe. By not wearing it and trying to pass myself off as one of them just sounds wrong.

  47. This would be an interesting subject of one of Kat’s polls. I would love to see what the results would be.

  48. Chicago K :

    Well, I am a little late to the, uh, party here but will chime in anyway.

    Should religious jewelry be kept out of the office, and if so, why?

    If you are going to an interview/court, most of us agree that you want to look as neutral as possible and do your best to relate to the widest audience. Because of this, I would recommend leaving the jewelry at home (or out of visible sight) in these situations.

    We seem touchy to comparisons here, but I would compare it to wearing a wedding ring or large engagement ring in those situations. They are personal items that tend to make a statement about your personal life, values and beliefs. Some people will judge you on this statement (in a better or worse light – it goes both ways). It really comes down to if YOU personally care if you are judged for it and if YOU want to take the risk you will be projecting a belief that contrasts with the person you are trying to relate to.

    I think it’s fine to carry this same attitude into the regular office. If you don’t care that you might be projecting a different value/belief than those you work with, then go right ahead and wear the religious jewelry of your choice. Most professionals I’ve been around will be just that – professional about it. If they notice it, they’ll notice it and move on.

    Where I think it can get tricky is if you have a very client facing job (sales, or consulting or law) where you really need to build trust quickly and have to maintain a sort of impartial stance on your personal life in order to not only relate to your clients, but to not offend them. Let’s face it, no matter what your religion not everyone else on the planet follows it/agrees with it. You yourself might not even agree 100% with it – as most religious people I have met don’t, they have their own version of the greater religion. A religious article doesn’t convey the specifics of YOUR personal beliefs, only the generality encompassed by the religion it represents. So there is always a chance it can be misinterpreted or offensive to some.

    In those situations it’s especially important to know your audience and see how others are responding to you. If you have no trouble gathering clients and closing deals wearing your religious item, then you probably aren’t going to start breaking sales records if you take it off. But if you are a lawyer working with clients of a different faith and have trouble relating to them already, you could consider not wearing the item to see if it helps – if you are not opposed to taking the item off. If you are, then there is a myriad of other things you could work on to relate to people better – or you could just change your client base too. There are plenty of people who want to support a business that is X religion owned.

    So again, know your audience but when it comes down to it really it’s your choice.

  49. I am horrified by this entire conversation. So many ignorant hateful big0ts.

    • legalicious07 :

      I too am disturbed by this thread.

    • ANON TODAY :

      I can’t agree more. I’m completely shocked by the tone of some of these comments.

    • Anonymous for this :

      I was greatly bothered for awhile. I almost considered not coming back to the blog. Then I meditated on it and I remembered something: Kat has a disproportionate number of people who read the blog who are very young, college age or slightly above. When I was 23 I thought I had all the answers too. And I was much, much more intolerant of other people and their differences, compared to how I am now. I think with age comes peace with yourself, and with self-acceptance comes a desire not to judge others. I remember as a young woman I had a very clear idea in my head about who someone was if they professed a certain belief, wore a certain symbol, or behaved a certain way. Almost every day I encounter people who challenge my entrenched beliefs. I count myself lucky to live in a place where there is great diversity of belief and I encounter people very different from myself by chance, on a near-daily basis. It has greatly broadened my horizons and taught me not to assume so much about people, before I know them. But that knowledge has been hard-won, over years. I don’t blame some of the people on this thread who don’t have the same life experience I do for not understanding someone else’s viewpoint. As you accumulate years of life you also accumulate mistakes, and I would hate to be judged for only my mistakes instead of being judged for the whole person I am. I also know some people have had negative experiences with faith, or representatives of a faith, and when they speak they are speaking from a place of pain and anger. That is their wound to heal, and only they can heal it. I can’t fault someone for being angry if they have been victimized.

      I have a faith that means a lot to me. I am strong in my faith. My husband, on the other hand, is an agnostic. I have friends who are Buddhists, atheists, evangelical Christians, Catholics, Bah’ai, and all kinds of other things. If you were to read this thread and extrapolate it to the real world, by rights I should be at constant loggerheads with everyone I know. But somehow we all get along. In the real world things are not as black-and-white as they have been made to appear here. I would like to think those expressing absolutist viewpoints – on either side of the issue – will eventually gain life experience and come to a broader view of humanity and its challenges. If not, most assuredly that is their loss. The universe is infinite, and filled with infinite possibility and wonder. We are the ones who close ourselves off to that expanse. Symbols don’t matter much in the scheme of things, which is that we are all connected by our “human-ness” and our shared experiences. Even though this thread disturbed me a lot, I am glad I read it because it has opened up new ideas to me. I won’t internalize all of them, but I know they are there. And more knowledge is never a bad thing.

      • This is an excellent point! So many of the posts seem to be coming from a place outside any real world experience in the workplace. In 15 years of practicing law I have worked for firms where all of the partners were Catholic (I’m not); where the two main partners were agnostics (I’m not); and where we had a mix. I have worked with adherents of many religions and with atheists. Frankly it has never been an issue. I always wear a small gold cross (it was a gift from my deceased grandfather) and if anyone thought it was an issue, nobody said anything, they hired me anyway and I still managed to be friendly with my non-Christian co-workers. Frankly the only time religion has been an issue is when I offered to cover appearances for some Jewish co-workers on High Holy Days.

      • “Then I meditated on it and I remembered something: Kat has a disproportionate number of people who read the blog who are very young, college age or slightly above. When I was 23 I thought I had all the answers too. And I was much, much more intolerant of other people and their differences, compared to how I am now. I think with age comes peace with yourself, and with self-acceptance comes a desire not to judge others. I remember as a young woman I had a very clear idea in my head about who someone was if they professed a certain belief, wore a certain symbol, or behaved a certain way. ”

        I’m a bit amused at the fact that you’re assuming people who feel uncomfortable around those wearing crosses are young and inexperienced. For some of us (at least for me) it’s been the other way around – I used to be completely comfortable in a Christian context until I got some “real world” experience being close friends with several lesbians, who had serious problems getting work despite having great resumes (and if the hiring recruiter or interviewer had a cross necklace, they could usually be guaranteed they wouldn’t get the job). And every cross necklace at one of my friend’s tables while she was waitressing at nights meant that person would leave her a tiny tip, or no tip, or even a religious tract (!). When my children and I go to marriage rights rallies, and there is a counter-protest, we see crosses there; when people protest against marriage rights or hate crime legislation in front of city halls or Congress, they display crosses; I have no doubt that when that Christian group goes and burns copies of the Quran, they will be displaying crosses; people who harass women outside of abortion clinics display crosses; the vast majority of people who consider themselves evangelical do not believe that my friends should have equal protection under the law, and they decorate their buildings and homes and bodies with crosses.

        Tell me, are you not wary around people who put the Confederate battle flag on their car? Or people who wear or post Nazi symbols? I’ve known members of both groups who were otherwise lovely people. I’m still going to be uncomfortable around anybody who publicly displays images like that.

        You might not see the cross as a symbol of hate and oppression. Some of us do, because that is the context in which we and our loved ones have experienced it. And there cannot be a Christian in this country who is not aware of what other members of that faith are doing, and who should realize that for many people a cross is linked with experiencing intimidation and threats.

        You talk about people making assumptions because they don’t have “real world” experience? Well, this is my real world experience – the people who have tried to harm my friends and family use crosses as a rallying symbol and as a method of intimidation. So, you tell me, what sort of interpretation do -you- think I should give to the symbol?

        Or should I just close my eyes and pretend I never saw it?

        You talk about people who have been victimized feeling “anger”, but I haven’t read anger in these comments. The don’t sound angry at the person wearing the cross, they’re wary about what that person might think and how that person might respond. They’re scared about what the person might do to them or their career, that they might be denied appropriate medical care, that their professional relationship might be hurt if the cross-wearer finds out they’re an atheist/pagan/whatever.

        And in this climate, where people are using the cross as a symbol of hate, that fear isn’t being judgmental or angry – it’s wisely practicing self-preservation.

        • I’m truly sorry for your friend’s experiences.
          As a Quaker, who firmly believes that all loving relationships should be nourished and protected, one of the reasons I wear a cross is to reclaim my identity as a Christian from the bigots. I want to be able to show both Christians and non-Christians a way of following Jesus who associated with outcasts, healed the centurion’s lover, and was certainly not ‘respectable’.
          I wear a cross as a sign against people who would throw me out of the church because of what I believe, who I am, or who I love.
          Some of the people wearing crosses are on your side. Too few as yet, but I’m working on it – and wearing the cross helps me to do that.

    • anonymous :

      I am especially disturbed at the people flying off the handle when someone is making a measured comment for the sake of discussion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion – from Jesus is the savior of the world to religion is evil. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make them intolerant or bigoted. It means they disagree with you. People are reading what they want to in posted comments, not necessarily what is there.

      • You are right. I’m not sure which, if any, of the comments were bigoted per se as claimed here. Some were emotional, but not bigoted. People are reading things into the comments, needing an excuse to get worked up?

  50. I don’t wear religious symbols at work but I also don’t hide my religious belief although I am of a minority religion and sometimes made to feel uncomfortable at work (inadvertently, thoughtless jokes, offhanded stereotypes, etc). I do openly discuss holidays, etc, and everyone who cares knows what religion I am, but I don’t need to wear a symbol to work to feel observant. I don’t think you need to or should hide who you are, but when you voluntarily wear a religious symbol at work that is not required, it does send a message to and affect others, rightly or wrongly. Sure go ahead and wear what you like, but if the question is whether it is professional or unprofessional, the answer is not professional. Whether it is actually unprofessional may depend on where you live, where you work, etc. Notice that no one here (that I saw) has said that wearing religious symbols is the *professional* option.

    Since we’re on the topic, wishing peace and joy to those who are celebrating holidays at this time of year!

  51. Of everything I read in these 246 comments, this line stuck out the most:

    “In other words, should you do something entirely optional when it may potentially make others feel uncomfortable?”

    Each of us does this EVERY SINGLE DAY, regardless of whether or not we realize it. Be it by our choice of faith (or no faith), politics, clothing choices, choosing to eat meat, choosing to drink alcohol, activities enjoyed outside of the workplace, etc. etc. – if I have to try not to make ANYONE uncomfortable, ever, then I’ll just as soon stay in bed because it is never going to happen.

  52. Anon for this one too :

    I am really suprised that so many people are shocked at the notion of being judged on the basis of religion.

    Religious persecution is as practically as old as the human race. Just because we have laws to protect us against this in the United States doesn’t mean that EVERY PERSON you run into is going to be tollerant of your faith.

    All of these posts and this debate just goes to show you that.

  53. curious atheist :

    There have been many arguments in the “pro” column for wearing small items as a reminder of your faith. Do those of you who feel your faith so strongly really need a reminder? You say, I am Christian 24/7 so I will not remove my cross in order not to offend- yet you need to wear a necklace to remind you of what you believe?

    Seems to me that true faith would need no symbols- what is in your heart/soul/mind is what matters.

    • Curious atheist – can you please explain what is offensive about wearing something as an outward expression of faith (whether it is required by your faith or optional)?

      As a disclaimer, I’m not sure what I believe, although I do feel the presence of a power greater than me, I haven’t put a name to it and don’t have a “faith” in the traditional, label-able sense of the word. But I don’t take offense at anyone who wears any sort of expression of religious belief, and I’m somewhat flummoxed as to how this is incredibly offensive/off putting to so many, rather than simply “nah, not my cup of tea, so I’ll go on with my day”.

      • cranky old batt :

        Not to answer for anon but for me wearing reminder of a religion that has an ongoing history of actively killing people of other faiths is highly offensive to me.

        If religion is a protected class, why does that not include all religions? Because the rule was written by one religion only.

    • As an atheist, you don’t get it. I know, I used to be an atheist too. I found a faith that spoke to my heart and made sense to me, and now wearing a small reminder of that faith is comforting and soothing to me. When I was an atheist I didn’t get displays of faith either. You have to have faith for faith to make sense to you, I think.

    • I am fairly rootless in my faith and I don’t mean to speak for anyone else, but my take is that even the most genuinely, deeply devout can appreciate having a small token of their faith on hand to anchor them back to their belief system in a difficult moment. Temptation, anger, pettiness, gossip, etc. are daily struggles for all of us, and for some it is helpful to feel a little weight on their throat or wrist reminding them to take a breath and proceed in a way that fits with who they hope to be. It might not be useful for me or you, but I don’t think it’s a weakness of conviction to want a physical reminder of spiritual commitment.

      • ANON TODAY :

        This. Well said!

      • As a result of this discussion, I went out and bought myself a sterling silver Celtic Knot necklace. I am also searching in my faith and am unchurched at the moment, but I am far from my Catholic upbringing…more toward Unitarian or a general belief in a non-traditional god. But the Celtic Knot speaks to both my Irish roots and my quest for spirituality…it symbolizes eternal life and the protection from evil.

  54. I think as long as it is small and simple, there shouldn’t be a problem. I’d have more of a problem with hemlines that are too short or low-cut blouses that are far too revealing for the office.

  55. lawstudent :

    This is an interesting post – and series of comments!

    I worked on religious liberties cases during the last summer, and believe that government employees are free to wear religious jewelery. This includes public school teachers.

  56. Wow! This is a very interesting thread. I think what has struck me the hardest is that peoples alignment with a particular religion would make others feel excluded. This would never ever have occurred to me and I really appreciate what I have learnt from reading these comments. Personally I really don’t mind seeing tasteful symbols of others religious beliefs though it does irk me a bit that it was “strongly suggested” I not wear a symbol of my own non-mainstream beliefs.

  57. This probably won’t get read as this is an older post now but… was out of country on business this week and just came back to read follow up comments. Wow, this has created a lot of controversy, Kat! Thanks for bringing up such a salient topic as always. To me the number of heated comments proves the point that wearing jewelry to work is controversial and can have impacts on yourself and others.

    I fully understand and respect the commenters who disagreed with my earlier comments- being religious in this country is a very different experience than not being religious, thus we have very different views on this for rationale reasons. Part of the reason I made the ‘provocative’ hypothetical comments about how this could impact hiring (I’ve never actually made a hiring decision based on religion- I know it’s illegal) is to raise awareness about how this could affect you despite your fair desire to express your faiths at work. My company does business in the Middle East, China, etc. and our staff are from everywhere – wearing a cross in these contexts is far different than in a homogenous environment. It is a sensitive matter and it’s just a loaded thing to do whether you want it to be or not. If you want to be successful in business, you study the norms of the country you are going to so as not to make glaring cultural offenses- context matters, ladies, just being realistic here, if you remove the emotional level and think objectively this should make sense. If you were trying to close a deal in the Middle East, the week of 9/11 and cross-burning thing, do you really think wearing a cross is a good idea, rather than keeping things focused on the business and developing personal relationships? That is an extreme example (though real in my company), but it’s all a matter of degree that can be extrapolated downward. That administrative assistant might have beliefs you don’t know about, or the boss.

    my point about seattle was that it IS tolerant of diverse ways of life and i feel comfortable here, part of feeling comfortable is NOT feeling constantly alienated by the majority which I did on the east coast sometimes.

    ps on my flight back into the country last night, a us airline in first class put a little bible quote on my dinner tray. it was yet another reminder that i am a minority in this country. as usual, i didn’t like it, but also didn’t especially care. was a bit surprised by the practice though. but for the Christians- it is so often put in the face of the rest of us uninvited- it does feel exclusionary. if you haven’t been in a minority group of some sort- gay, ethnicity, etc. this may be hard for you to understand, but if you ever do find yourself in such a situation you may become more sensitive to the impacts your actions have on those around you.

    • cranky old batt :

      What a brilliant comment. Thank you for a sensitive and balanced perspective.

  58. I have worn crosses at work. I have worn them as necklaces that are readily seen on me. The only thing I have heard are compliments usually. If someone asks me about my crosses, I explain that I buried my late mother in a cross and as a memorial to her, I buy a new cross pendant every year. All of my jobs have been cool about a person wearing a cross or a Star of David.

  59. This is a difficult thing because the religion you display, as many commenters have noted, can have profoundly different implications to different people. In the small, everybody-knows-everybody’s-business town where I grew up, crosses were nothing–everyone wore them, and it wouldn’t even have occurred to people not to wear them. When I wore a pentacle, though, it was Big Deal, so big that I regularly got stopped and asked about it and not very subtly judged. (Sometimes without even an attempt at subtlety: just “You know you’re going to Hell, right?” And that was before I came out.)

    So seeing a cross will have a very different meaning to another Christian–oh, look, someone like me–or to someone who simply isn’t particularly religious–oh, look, somebody who’s more into Jesus than I am–than it will to someone like me. To me, seeing a cross means I start flashing back to years of psychological torture at the hands of my smug classmates who wore their crosses proudly while ignoring whatever Bible verses they felt like, mostly the judge-not-lest-ye-be-judged one (Matt 7:21, if memory serves). It may or may not be fair–the person I’m dealing with is almost always perfectly pleasant and polite–but that’s what it reminds me of. Growing up in a town where taking religion to a bigoted extreme was normal. It makes my heart rate go up, I start sweating, I get anxious. Like I said, maybe not fair. But it wasn’t fair that, as the only out queer person in my grade and at times in my high school, I got harassed, threatened, and, on one memorable occasion, spit on, either. And, in all honesty, the people I encounter who wear crosses are more likely than the people who aren’t wearing crosses to be awkward with me if my queerness or feminism or non-Christianity comes up in the conversation. “Pleasant” isn’t the same thing as “friendly.”

    • cranky old batt :

      The pentacle and labrys stay home after being openly ridiculed in the workplace for not being the same religion as everyone else.

      Excellent observation about pleasantry actually being polite hostility.

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