Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dentist Faces Discrimination Lawsuit for Christian Music and Prayer Meetings

The media has jumped on a recent case involving a dentist who is being sued for harassing staff by constantly playing Christian music. Can employees really sue for an employer playing Christian music? Frankly, I think it would be a tough case to win for a lot of reasons.

Christian metal band, Stryper, from their To Hell with the
Devil Tour in 1986 (CC License).
Assuming we're talking about a hostile work environment claim, then the music must be subjectively offensive (actually offensive to the employee), objectively offensive (offensive to a reasonable person under the circumstances), and severe or pervasive enough to alter the working conditions and create an abusive or hostile environment. Can Christian music alone meet that standard? We'd need to know more about the situation - the volume, the lyrics, the location, the particular reasons the employees claim it was so offensive, etc. If we're talking about something mundane, like "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" then forget about it. If it's a constant barrage of deafening music with lyrics like, "worship Jesus or you'll spend eternity burning in hell you worthless heathen"... well, then the case becomes a little stronger.

It's definitely worth noting that the former employees also claim they were forced to participate in prayer sessions. That's an obvious no-no. The employer denies the allegation.

For a good video, check out this 2-3 minute video from the Saddleback Church (I know, I know... to be honest, I didn't expect an even-handed analysis either, but it's actually pretty objective): Is an employee or employer allowed to play Christian music or display Christian materials in their workspace?

HT: My friend Mike Chittenden emailed this one to me.