Equal Employment loses it? St. Anthony, pray for them!

The story of an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) training session gone wobbly is making the rounds of conservative Catholic blogs, and it ought to be an instant classic in anybody's "What Were They Thinking" folder.Shelley, a certified archivist who works at a state university in Texas (she doesn't say which), writes at the Catholic blog she co-authors with her sister, "Of Sound Mind and Spirit," that as she was undergoing the university's biennial training sessions (re-education camp) on various workplace matters, she saw this eye-popping slde in the EEO discussion of an example of "religious harassment":eeocslide_1090Joe Carter at First Things has the text (between understandable sputters):

Khalilah is a Muslim, and Janice is a Catholic. One day, Khalilah loses her favorite ring. Janice grabs Khalilahs hands, bows her head, and starts praying to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. Khalilah pulls her hands back and reminds Janice that she is a Muslim. Janice gets upset, tells Khalilah that she will never find her ring because she is a heathen, and storms off. Over the next couple of weeks, Janice stops by Khalilahs desk over and over again to ask if she found her ring. When Khalilah said that she had not, Janice would smirk and tell her it is because she refuses to pray to St. Anthony. As a new employee, Khalilah is scared to mention anything to her supervisor, because she knows her supervisor is also Catholic.

Shelley says she was "stunned":

"I didnt know what to think. First of all, Ive never met anyone, Catholic, Christian, or otherwise who would grab someones hands and begin praying out loud in the workplace. The scenario continues with the Catholic becoming upset, treating this new employee rudely, and disintegrates into being downright hateful. What this person is described doing would be considered against the very tenets of the Catholic Faith. Its completely implausible!"

Maybe somebody confused Catholics with who...? This would be funny if it weren't, well, not. And it's about as dumb as a box of rocks, which is really offensive. Perhaps it is reassuring to think that someone out there knows who St. Anthony is, and that Catholics are so strongly associated with the veneration of saints?Meh. Take it away Shelley:

"By creating this implausible scenario, the trainers did exactly what theyre trying to educate people from doing. They used an offensive stereotype about Catholics, implying we would be the type of people to blatantly intimidate or harass another faith. Under the guise of educating people, the trainers actually become the ones who offend."

Touche'. Some of course will trumpet it as another example of discrimination against believers. I suspect ignorance is the operative dynamic -- and that's not exactly reassuring.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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