I am an employee at a law enforcement agency in a VERY Christian community. Being the only non-Christian working there, I stay quiet about it to avoid conflict. I came to work one evening (I work the midnight shift) to find a small display of tiny Gideon New Testaments at the window to the dispatch room, where the public comes to talk to me. I brought them inside. The next day they were back outside. I moved them again. The next day, they reappeared. I asked a coworker about it, and was told my boss, the sheriff of the county, had placed them there for the public to take. I mentioned that this was a government office and that it probably isn’t legal. I was told that the sheriff wanted them there and didn’t expect any complaints, because it was his office and he’d do as he pleased.
I continue removing the Bibles every night, and they are always there again the next day. I’m already ignoring the Ten Commandments framed on the wall. Should I ignore this, too? Am I being silly?
No, you are not being silly and I truly feel for you. This seems to not only be a violation of Separation of Church and State laws but also a form of discrimination. I am not sure if you are atheist or of a different religion than Christianity but I do feel that you have a right to a grievance regarding your workplace. Unfortunately, I am not a lawyer. I don’t know exactly what rights you have in this situation and I also don’t know how much you need your job. I say that because as you mentioned if you are working in extremely religious community you will most likely have a very hard time finding anyone who will take your side in this matter. Most people will have a, “What’s the harm?” Or, “The bible might help the criminal or the victims” attitude and you will have an almost impossible time winning that argument on your own. My advice would be to contact a lawyer that specializes in discrimination or Separation of Church and State issues and ask them what your rights actually are and how you can protect yourself. In the mean time, I would just continue to remove the books from your work area during your shift and if possible, consider transferring to a different location.
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