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Prayer at Work: What is Appropriate?

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Whether or not you agree, the courts have ruled that organized prayer doesn’t belong in the classroom.

But what about the workplace?

Some employers actively encourage open prayer, while others actively discourage it.

You’ll find Christian Brothers Automotive in the first category. Twice a week, employees come together to share in prayer.

“It draws employees together, it gives you a bond,” says Lew Ten Have, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. “It gives you a caring for the company, for each other, and I think that's all positive.”

After all, Christian Brothers was founded in 1982 by two fellows from the same church (hence the name). And Christian values are explicitly woven into the mission statement.

Ten Have says the prayer groups are strictly voluntary.

“I think if you were to ask our employees, nobody feels pressured to and it's something they want to do.”

But organized prayer, even if it’s not compulsory, can also divide the workforce into those who do and those who don’t, according to Zachary Moore.

“If you're a part of the team, you're a part of the team and what your religious affiliation is shouldn't matter,” says Dr. Moore, who is executive director of the Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas. “There's a time and a place for religious activity but not at the workplace, unless you're a pastor.”

Or perhaps a Christian trial attorney, as Robert Simmons calls his law practice.

With his small firm at a crossroads, Simmons got down on his knees. And hours later, he says, a young law grad strolled through his door.

“Right about then I'm thinking, ‘Well you know, you just got through praying and asking God to give you an answer about what you should do about your practice,’” recalls Simmons. “And so from that point forward Mr. Fletcher came to work for us. We've been working together ever since, so that's 31 years.”

You can’t tell Simmons that prayer doesn’t work, but you won’t convince Zachary Moore that it does.

“I would challenge anyone who thinks prayer actually works: spend a week praying to a Magic 8 Ball,” says Moore.

On the other end of the spectrum from Christian Brothers Automotive are companies that frown on public displays of religion.

In that environment, says Dr. L. James Bankston, believers can stay true to their faith without jeopardizing your job.

“No one can keep you from praying,” says Bankston, with St. Paul's United Methodist Church. “You can always on break time or at lunchtime commit yourself to offering a prayer, to reading the scripture some.”

Bottom line: it can be tricky to balance the rights and responsibilities of a diverse group of people sharing the same workspace.

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