Two Approaches toward Religious Tolerance in the Workplace

Article excerpt

An interface banner representing different faiths such as Muslim, Hinduism and Buddhism hangs at the historically Protestant Hillcrest chapel.

Years ago this may have seemed unheard of, but Ron Nofziger, director of chaplains at Hillcrest Medical Center, said the anchor of a hospital is to avoid harm - even with spiritual care.

"People know immediately when someone imposes their faith and how intrusive and insulting and how harmful that can be," he said. "People cohabitate with each other and the challenge is moving beyond tolerance to dialogue respect and cooperation."

With a growing diverse population, religion and the workplace is a topic that can generate a wide variety of views. Some work force professionals see religion as constantly present while others feel it's a private matter.

Nofziger said religious diversity in the workplace has been a critical issue not just in health care but in other sectors across the country. In the last 50 years, different faith groups have made a presence and continue to diversify the community.

For 35 years Nofziger has been chaplain at Hillcrest. He provides support and comfort to the hospital, but stresses that he does not try and convert patients.

"People here as patients are often concerned, if not scared, anxious and very vulnerable," he said. "To take advantage of someone in a vulnerable situation around our faith and belief is unprofessional, unethical and immoral."

Hillcrest is a non-sectarian hospital, and Nofziger said that philosophy extends to the entire staff. He said no one is asked to do something that would impose on one's religion or theology. Christian holidays are not made into a grand celebration but celebrated in a respectful matter.

"With a Catholic hospital it's a whole different story, they really emphasize Christmas, which is fine for them," he said. "But here at Hillcrest we need to be respectful about all the faiths. …