Does a Pew Fit in Your Cubicle?

Those kinds of concerns have led one human resources group to offer stronger cautions toward these programs. "Employees are at work to work. Employees who have problems can be referred to an objective, third party for additional help," said Rebecca R. Hastings, commenting over e-mail for the Society for Human Resources Management.

"People of all types of beliefs, including non-belief, do come together in the workplace, and need to be able to work peaceably side by side," said Hastings. "Religion is grounded in deep values and beliefs that can clash at work if not handled with care … Introducing religion in an official staff capacity works against this goal."

An Ongoing Struggle

The struggle to find a comfortable place for religion in the workplace is not a new debate. Business has been questioning this topic for decades. "There used to be a time in America when factories would have pictures of Jesus on the wall, there's beautiful artwork," said Laura Nash, professor of corporate values and leadership at Harvard University.

Nash, who researches business ethics and has written about faith in the workplace, said she uncovered articles from the 1950s depicting "businessmen on their knees, people praying at work."

Such overt religious practices disappeared in the 1960s because of "diversity problems," according to Nash.

She noticed religion return in the 1990s as part of a larger shift in thinking among managers who began recognizing there are many factors that affect the performance of an employee. That included their health and fitness, so "smoking is up for grabs," said Nash, who noticed more offices running anti-smoking campaigns.

At the same time, several groups began more aggressively marketing the workplace chaplaincy programs and found clients. While Nash warns of the potential pitfalls of bringing chaplains to work, such as questioning what would happen if a manager refused to bring the pastor into a department, she was pleasantly surprised by what she found when studying the movement.

"Watching some of these groups in action -- what has struck me is so many of them are genuinely sincere," said Nash. "Trying to recover a sense of purpose of what they're doing at work, 'help me use this job and my work to make a difference in the world.'"

And others who promote bringing religion to work, like Crandall, will say it's in everyone's best interest as it provides a solid ethical framework for transactions. "I think a lot of the damage from the accounting scandals would not have happened if they had not had a disconnect between their faith and the workplace."

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