by Jorge Gomez • 6 min read
Woke corporate culture continues to wreak havoc on religious employees. The evidence keeps growing, as it seems that nearly every week there’s a new headline of another company caving to radical woke ideology and firing someone because of their faith.
The Christian Post reported that Nelli Parisenkova, a childcare teacher in California, is suing her former employer. The lawsuit claims she was fired for refusing on religious grounds to read books to children that featured same-sex couples:
“Like many Christians, she has a sincere religious belief that marriage is a sacred covenant divinely instituted by God to be a lifelong union between one man and one woman. She further believes that it would be sinful for her to personally promote any messages that are contrary to her beliefs regarding this sacred covenant of marriage.”
The suit lays out the case: Parisenkova worked at Bright Horizons—an international childcare organization with hundreds of locations and more than 26,000 employees—for four years and was aware of the books at the location. She had not been forced to read them based an informal accommodation request. However, the director of the location became aware of Parisenkova’s Christian beliefs and took exception. Parisenkova formally requested a religious accommodation, but Bright Horizons responded by categorically denying her application. She was then terminated from her position.
A marked increase in workplace discrimination cases in recent years makes it clear that woke corporate culture poses a serious threat to millions of people of faith. In a recent article, our team detailed the major and potentially landmark cases First Liberty is fighting right now to help defend religious employees and stop the wave of illegal discrimination. This means that defending religious liberty in the marketplace and at work is perhaps one of the most critical legal battlefronts today.
To be clear, not every company brazenly discriminates against or fires employees based on their religion. Studies show that some of America’s most influential companies are making an attempt to promote religious diversity and accommodate people of various faiths and beliefs.
But there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
The Religious Freedom and Business Foundation’s Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Index found that only 40% of Fortune 500 companies mention or refer to religion on their diversity page of their website. This suggests that more than half of our nation’s most powerful companies are not prioritizing religion as part of their diversity initiatives. Only 37 of Fortune 500 companies (less than 10%) offer faith-based employee resource groups to help give religious employees an official voice in the company.
A new survey commissioned by Deseret News found American workers are generally supportive of efforts to help religious employees bring their “whole selves” to the office. But more than a third of people of faith (38%)—including a majority (54%) of top leaders and decision-makers—said they’d kept their religion hidden at work at some point. Americans said this secrecy comes because they’re concerned about “possible tension with colleagues” and “social exclusion.”
Here’s what’s not secret: toxic cancel culture has a particular disdain for religious people who express and want to work in accordance with their beliefs. When companies’ policies effectively reduce religion to a second-class status and don’t treat it equally as other protected classes, it only makes the problem worse. Woke ideology will not hesitate to destroy the careers, jobs and livelihood of religious Americans who don’t conform to the popular orthodoxy.
If corporate America is truly going to live up to its ideals of “diversity and inclusion,” it should do better in accommodating religious employees. Many companies who’ve gone woke should understand that the workplace is not the “wokeplace.” They have a legal obligation not to discriminate against workers on the basis of religion. Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, companies cannot retaliate against employees because of their religious perspectives.
The law states that businesses cannot discharge employees on the basis of their religious convictions. Employers must accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees when it does not pose an undue hardship on the employer. Additionally, the law provides that employers may not create a hostile work environment on the basis of religion and must protect employees from anti-religious harassment.
(To learn more about your legal rights, we encourage you to download this free resource: Religious Liberty at Work Q&A. Additionally, you can read this important article from First Liberty attorney Becky Dummermuth titled Marketplace Q&A: What Rights Do Religious Employees Have in the Workplace?)
Woke madness is aggressively spreading across the country. Although corporations claim they are allegedly promoting “diversity, equity and inclusion,” there appear to be fewer safe spaces and less toleration for religion. Not only is it wrong for woke corporations to mistreat and discriminate against religious Americans, it’s also illegal. America’s marketplace should not be a place where people of faith are told that they need not apply. Purging the workforce of religious Americans makes a mockery of our laws and contradicts our country’s historic commitment to religious liberty. Bottom line, religious discrimination is bad business.