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Austin Cline

Christian Values: Harass Library Assistant Over Religion

By February 6, 2009

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In Virginia, the Blacksburg Middle School is being accused of religious discrimination by former media aid assistant Judith Scott. According to Scott, she came under regular pressure to participate in Christian activities, both inside and outside the school, and when she refused she was then subjected to religious harassment by her Christian supervisor. Scott also says that after complaining her contract was not renewed, constituting a dismissal for refusing to conform to expected religious behavior.
Ms. Scott was asked by her supervisor whether that unnamed person could "pray for her" and she complied out of a sense of pressure. She later declined to attend a religious conference with faculty members and was deluged by them with Christian-themed DVDs and audiotapes upon their return.

"The suit alleges that the supervisor would dim the library's lights, hold prayer meetings, 'anoint' the premises and 'lay hands' on those present. The supervisor would also leave 'praise' sticky notes and daily Bible verses around for Scott to see."

The Times goes on to describe the pressure put on Scott to practice Christianity in what became a hostile work environment. It never explains whether Ms. Scott is a nonbeliever or a believer of a different faith. But she clearly put up with a huge amount of religious harassment before she filed her lawsuit.

She took her case first to the assistant school board superintendent and was offered a transfer to another facility. But she stood her ground and said she wanted to continue working as a media aid assistant right where she was, as she had done nothing wrong. That takes guts! When her contract ended and it was not renewed, she claimed she was, in essence, fired in retaliation for her complaints.

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Scott's legal complaint says that she was told by her supervisor that she felt "righteous anger" towards Scott. This was before Scott filed a formal complaint with the school administration but after she had been rejecting the supervisor's regular "religious overtures." So the supervisor's "righteous anger" must have been produced by Scott's refusal to accept the supervisor's religion and then objecting when the supervisor kept pushing her religion on Scott.

What sort of person does it take to experience any sort of anger, much less "righteous" anger, at the refusal of another to submit to that person's religious beliefs, never mind object to constantly having them imposed? Although this sounds extreme, I'm not sure how uncommon it ultimately is — it seems to me that a lot of the behavior and political belief of Christian Nationalists might be more readily understood if we assume that there is at least some "righteous anger" at the refusal of other Americans to simply submit to Christianity and accept conservative evangelical Christianity as 100% right on everything.

Sandhya Bathija comments:

Scott’s experience gives us a glimpse into what America would be like if our country’s laws did not keep church and state separate. Though Scott is probably not the only public school employee who has experienced this type of harassment, it’s good to know there are people like her who know that there is something that can, and should, be done to stop it.

Source: Americans United

I agree that Scott probably isn't the only person in public schools or even other government institutions who has experienced religious pressure and/or harassment. It's just too implausible that her supervisor is a unique or unusual Christian, but this means that there is an unknown number of cases where the victim has not come forward to complain publicly about how they have been treated. I'm not sure how many motives there are for not speaking out aside from fear — fear of losing a job, fear of community retaliation, etc.

Have you ever experienced anything like this personally or seen such behavior around you?

February 7, 2009 at 2:03 am
(1) fauxrs says:

I’ve never experienced anything on the level described in the article. However I lived in Roanoke Virginia (20 or so miles North of Blacksburg) and I can attest to the level of religious belief in the area.

I never encountered any pressure at my workplace, leastways not from anyone in authority as I held a management position. There was ample pressure external to work through friends and acquaintances who often invited me to church or to participate in saying “grace” during dinner parties.

To be fair, while the region is quite religious I cannot claim to have even heard of anything quite like this during my six years in Roanoke. That almost certainly doesnt mean that it doesnt happen.

February 7, 2009 at 7:12 am
(2) ChristianDave says:

Hmmm…usually its us Christians copping it from the non-Christians at work!

February 7, 2009 at 7:46 am
(3) Pujjuut says:

that is seriously fu(ked up…

February 7, 2009 at 10:05 am
(4) sornord says:

Isn’t just Virginia (my home state.) Even in Florida (my adopted home state) two ladies came around to my parents house while I was in the driveway WORKING UNDER A CAR(!) asking if they could talk to me about God. I told them I was a non-believer and their eyes got big and their faces went blank as if I was Jeffrey Dahmer crawling out from under the car to eat them!

February 7, 2009 at 9:48 pm
(5) neverspeak says:

When I was in Basic Training at Lackland AFB, TX, every Sunday morning, trainees had two options: either attend a religious service (to the military’s credit, they had services for a large variety of religions), or stay in the barracks and wax the floors, and no, the drill sargeant was not above having the floor waxed every single weekend. I didn’t even realize how unfair this was at the time, and it wasn’t too much of a burden because we weren’t forced to participate (we could sit quietly throughout whatever service we chose to attend, and we all preferred that to standing at attention for half an hour straight) but reading about the pressure from Christians at the various military academies brought it all back.

February 7, 2009 at 10:45 pm
(6) MikeC says:

I was born in Radford, Virginia (a 5-10 minute drive from Blacksburg).

I moved to Roanoke, Virginia [Yo Fauxrs! Star City Alum!] in 1985 and have been here since.

I spend a lot of time in Blacksburg, attending Virginia Tech football and basketball games, and helping with upkeep of my late grandmother’s house there.

This is a very Christian area, but never in my life have I heard of something this appalling!

I also can’t believe it didn’t make the front page here, I hadn’t even heard of this until I saw Austin’s blog today (2-7).

The Blacksburg school board WILL be hearing from me.

February 9, 2009 at 6:09 am
(7) Zayla says:

ChristianDave………Do you honestly believe that more oppressive behavior is exhibited by atheists toward christians than the other way around? Before you answer, please take a step back, be objective and think about it.

I don’t know about your personal work place, but you would have to work in the American Atheist Organization headquarters for that to be the case, and even then I would question it.

Please get back to me with some specific examples. I would be interested to hear the discrimination you experience. I’m being very sincere. Thanks.


February 9, 2009 at 4:11 pm
(8) Dean says:

Perhaps Dave is referring to non-True Christians ™ or maybe he works in a business that does a lot of work with countries that are predominantly non-Christian?

February 16, 2009 at 4:06 pm
(9) Drew says:

Xian Dave writes: “Hmmm…usually its us Christians copping it [harassment] from the non-Christians at work!”

Making up blatant lies like this makes you either delusional, or a liar. If you believe this actually happens to you, then you are delusional. Religion is not discriminated against, it is institutionalised, and accorded deference in almost all situations. If you think otherwise, you are incapable of evaluating it honestly in comparison with other things that people differ about, like politics or favourite sports teams.

If you are aware that this does not actually happen – ie, you are not delusional – then you know that you are lying by making this claim.

There is no third option, because this statement is clearly false. Religious people are not harrassed, anywhere in the western world. Those among them who are pushy and try to impose their own views on others are given far less “push-back” than would be the case if they were peddling their political or other views.

Religious belief is part delusion, and part dishonesty. I have no idea which part is the bigger one, because we’ll never get the religious to admit to lying; but the religious, and their religions, require both to remain in existence.

February 17, 2009 at 8:16 am
(10) Guy G says:

Drew: I’d say that someone overly religious would definitely get a lot of stick here (the UK), but it’d be incredibly strange for an atheist to get any hassle about it. It could be that ChristianDave is indeed a liar/imbecile/has a persecution complex, but you should probably re-evaluate what you mean by “western world” – we’re not all like the US.

February 18, 2009 at 5:28 pm
(11) Scott M. says:

There must be more Atheists in the Roanoke valley than we ever thought as I live in Salem!

Mike C., this story was covered in the Roanoke Times. Please see: http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/190106

As a personal note, I moved here from outside the state. Been here about 3 years. Everyone knows I’m an atheist at work and I’ve received absolutely no harassment for it. Of course, everyone knows I’d harass them right back. I was, and am, ashamed to have realized I was the most religiously prejudiced person in the department. This coming from an atheist who prides myself on my openness and liberalism.

A few details on the case can be found here:

May 20, 2009 at 2:22 pm
(12) David in Fresno says:

I fully agree with “Christian Dave” about harassment of Christians. I played Christian music on my radio in my private office at Fresno City College and was told by my supervisor to not do so. I complained about her and was fired in retaliation. California is a long way from Virginia but here on the “left coast” persecution of Christians is common. On the other hand I am extremely disappointed that no lawyer advertising in the local Christian Business Directory would take my case on a contingency basis. As a result I filed suit “in pro se”.

May 22, 2009 at 4:44 pm
(13) Marc says:

@(12) David in Fresno: A couple of comments David. First, it seems to me quite telling that you could not find a “christian lawyer” to take your case. Maybe even with the mutual religious based slant you had no case? Second, if you were playing the radio in a private office how did the supervisor hear it? Maybe you weren’t being completely “private” with your listening? Lastly, I have a jewish friend who was terminated from a public university because she continued to display religious based items in her publicly owned office. This was not aimed at christians as you say, obviously, she’s jewish. My instinct tells me there’s more to your story than you’re telling! You’ll note in the feature story that an individual whether atheist or otherwise, at least non-christian, was not fired because she wanted to proclaim her religious beliefs, but because she didn’t accept the religious proselytization. Show me a case of an atheist firing a xian because the xian didn’t wish to hear atheist proselytizing!

May 22, 2009 at 7:20 pm
(14) Drew says:

Guy (10).

I’m Canadian.

Here or the UK, I’m sure you’d agree that religion is priveleged, even though atheism tops 25% here and 50% there. Yes, the pushy religious get mocked, but I already pointed that out.

The Two Daves (one short of a trinity) are clearly unaware of what “harassment” actually means. It does NOT mean people pushing back when you impose your crap on them.

May 22, 2009 at 9:01 pm
(15) Tom Edgar says:

Down under I, a retired Photographer,(Atheist) will shortly be judging a Photographic Competition held in a Catholic Church Hall at the invitation of a Christian Scientist. Township is only 5,000 strong.
Guess we are a little more laid back in Oz.

Occasionally I have letters published in the local rag, but only when provoked by some holier than thou proselytiser, I have no problems there as the owner/editor is a PhD and fellow atheist. He, to his credit, never rejects religious observations neither does he restrict their statements in any way.

Through the same media I stopped dead SDA, Mormon and Jehovah’s visits. “What right do you think you have to be so ill mannered to come uninvited on to my property telling me my way of life is wrong and I should adopt yours?”…. “Jesus tells us to.”… “Then he was as ill mannered as you. I don’t come to your meeting places telling you that you are wrong. Give me the same courtesy”.

June 2, 2009 at 7:00 pm
(16) John Hanks says:

Injustice is injustice.

August 24, 2010 at 8:43 pm
(17) Margie says:

I was harrassed at my job by Christians, not as blatantly, but I was considered inferior to them and one finally asked if I was a Christian and I said no and they wouldn’t let me in the room to do my job, train me on anything, etc. I had to turn it in and I was let go. This was a government job in California.
I used to be a Christian of the same sort and Dave may have been taught in his church that christians are harrassed at work. We were taught this as well. In reality, employers usually ask Christian employees not to proseletyze to co-workers and customers, and that is considered harrassment by churches.

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