AMERICAN ATHEISTS DEMANDS INCLUSION IN EEOC RELIGIOUS HARASSMENT GUIDELINES HEARINGS FOR R

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AMERICAN ATHEISTS DEMANDS INCLUSION IN EEOC RELIGIOUS HARASSMENT GUIDELINES HEARINGS FOR RELEASE; 6 JUNE 1994 AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC., has demanded that its spokesperson be included in upcoming Senate hearings on "religious harassment guidelines" of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. The hearings are set for Wednesday, June 8, in front of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts and Administrative Practice. They have been called by the Subcommittee's chairman, Sen. Howell Heflin and will be held in the Dirkson Bldg, Room 226 at 2 P.M. on Wednesday, June 8. Sen. Helfin scheduled the hearings in response to objections to the guidelines by conservative Christian groups. These groups claim that guidelines against religious harassment would restrict religious freedom in the workplace. AMERICAN ATHEISTS has contacted Senator Heflin's office (Administrative Assistant, Greg Butrus) and the members (Kohl, Thurmond, Grassley, Cohen, and Metzenbaum) of the Senate Judi- ciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts and Administrative Practice in order to see that a representative of its organiza- tion is allowed to present the Atheist perspective on religious harassment. AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC. is a non-profit, non-political, educational organization dedicated to the complete and absolute separation of state and church and the protection of the civil rights of Atheists. Ms. Robin Murray-O'Hair, executive secretary of American Atheists Inc., would be the representative of the organization at the hearings. Jon Murray, the president of AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC., in demanding the right to contribute to the hearings, points out that Atheists are often the object of religious harassment in the workplace. Just one egregious example was a noose directed to the workplace of a board member of American Atheists with an attached note which said that the board member deserved to die. "By and large," Mr. Murray stated, "religious persons are the harassers; they are _not_ those being harassed. For Chris- tians to put up a pretext otherwise is a gross deceit. The work place needs to be free _from_ religion; not accommodating of it." (Attached: Short position paper of American Atheists Inc.) For further comments, contact: Jon G. Murray, President, American Atheists or Robin Murray- O'Hair, Executive Secretary at (512) 458-1244 or (512) 458-1271. ************************** SUMMARY OF THE POSITION OF AMERICAN ATHEISTS ON PROPOSED EEOC GUIDELINES ON HARASSMENT BASED ON RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, GENDER, NATIONAL ORIGIN, AGE, OR DISABILITY (58 FR 51266, October 1, 1993) Issued June 1994 For thirty years, Title VII has sought to protect Americans agsinst hostile working conditions and unfair treatment. Under its aegis, the United States has began to truly live up to its potential as a place where everyone can succeed to the best of his or her ability, regardless of birth or belief. It is now time to realize that religious or religion-based acts can create or contribute to hostile and unfair working conditions. The proposed EEOC guidelines begin to make this distinction clear. For that reason, American Atheists, with some reservations, supports the acceptance of the guidelines. Though they have been portrayed otherwise in sectarian media and religious fundraisers, the proposed EEOC guidelines on harassment do not create new rules, but are rather based on existing case law and previously accepted guidelines. They add nothing to the workplace law except clarification. Clearly prohibited in the guidelines is disparagement of em- ployees' religious beliefs or lack thereof. This American Atheists supports. The workplace should be for _work_ -- not for insulting, belittling, or harassing the private ideas of coworkers. American Atheists is, however, much concerned about the repeated emphasis in the guidelines that the positive expression of religious belief in the workplace is acceptable. An individual intent in "testifying" for Jesus or Jehovah may not realize that what he considers a "positive expression" of his belief is intimidating, badgering, and insulting to others in the workplace. The individual under constant pressure to convert is no less affected because the approach of the harassment is "positive." Nor will he or she feel comfortable in seeking a remedy from a supervisor who displays religious symbols in the workplace. The commonsensical solution is that common areas in the workplace should be free from religious symbols, and company events should be secular in nature. Employees should not be forced to listen to religious sermons or songs in the workplace, or to attend prayer or religious celebrations. They should have the right to "just say no" to offers of religious inducement. Founded in 1963 to work for the civil rights of Atheists (who represent nearly 10 percent of the population), American Atheists receives frequent complaints of the harassment and abuse of Atheists in the workplace. It supports the EEOC guidelines as an important first step in providing a recourse for Atheists and minorities who are the victims of both disparaging and so-called positive expressions of religion in the workplace. Simply put, no one should be allowed to use the workplace as missionary grounds. ISSUED BY AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC., 7215 CAMERON RD, AUSTIN, TX 78752-2973 *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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