Have you ever worked for a religious organization?

My surgery last week was done in a Catholic hospital. I didn’t choose it. It just happened to be one of the hospitals my surgeon uses. His office is in a secular medical building not affiliated with the hospital. 

It was a good experience. The nurses and staff were very nice, and most importantly, the surgery was successful. Nobody pushed religion or prayer on me, but there was a rosary hanging over the registration desk and a wooden cross over the doorway of my pre-op room. It’s a smaller hospital but fairly busy. It is one of several Catholic hospitals in the city.

I’m just wondering about the staff at the hospital that go there to work day in and day out; do they really think about the religious values of their employer? Do you think that’s important to them? Or is it just a job like any other job? Is religion ever pushed on the employees?

I’m curious. I just don’t know much about it.

To be honest, I applied for a marketing position at a religious organization right after college. I thought I could just go in and do my job and not think about it. The main thing was getting a paycheck. I had an interview but wasn’t offered the position. Looking back I’m glad I didn’t get it. My husband was like, what were you thinking? I think I was just desperate.

I’m sure there are many people like me – desperate for a paycheck – but do you think employees at religious organizations really care about their organization’s values? 

Have you ever worked for a religious organization? Was religion pushed on you? Was it just a paycheck? I would love to hear some experiences.


  1. Katydid says

    In the early 1990s, I worked for a year at a nonprofit company whose mission was secular: they managed credentials for realtors. I don’t believe the board was religious–or, better to say their religious beliefs never came up (then again we only saw any of them once in the year I was there). However, 48 out of 50 of the employees belonged to an evangelical church (with an attached church school that they all had attended). Had I known that at the interview, I wouldn’t have taken the job.

    It was an absolutely miserable place to work. The gossip and the sabotaging each others’ work and the mean games they played on each other was terrible. They used to gang up on each other and have “interventions” where they prayed over the victim and told them they were required to go to bible study. They used to pick scapegoats and ostracize them until they were broken, then move on to another scapegoat. This was all during work hours, and they made no effort to keep any of it private from me and the other non-evangelical employee. Every Friday morning the boss brought in 2 dozen bagels (48 bagels for 50 people…) and we’d all have to stand around as he went into an endless prayer to Jesus, asking for his enemies to be smited, etc. etc.

    They hated Catholics, they hated Jews, they hated Methodists, they hated everyone.

    They mostly left me alone because I was there to do the IT work and none of them were smart enough to turn on their computers (seriously, one of my jobs every morning was to go around and press all the Start buttons). They kept trying to find out my religion so they could categorize me, but I wouldn’t tell them.

  2. Katydid says

    The last comment I made was too long already. In my IT career, I’ve worked for a variety of companies. The big ones were fine, religion-wise, but I also worked for small companies, and if the owner was religious (or thought he was), you knew immediately that he’d be a sleazy used car salesman, milking his employees for benefits.

    Just one example of the kind of stuff that happened all the time: about 5 months after joining a company that bragged in orientation about its “servant leadership” (when you hear these words, RUN!) and having the health and dental insurance taken from my paychecks, I had a routine dental cleaning with the dentist I’d gone to for 20 years. I got to the dentist and the front desk person informed me they couldn’t confirm my dental coverage with the company I was paying for. I called the HR person (the boss’s wife) and she assured me that it took a year of paying premiums to get coverage. (For non-Americans: this is not true.)

    Then she told me that the company “works with this dentist all the time” and that I should just go for the cleaning and pay for it myself and I’d be reimbursed by the insurance company later.

    What was really happening was the company was taking out money from our paychecks and documenting it as our share of the insurance…and keeping the money themselves.

    Something similar happened at another company I worked for run by a self-proclaimed Christian. Do you think they get a handbook on sleazy business practices?

  3. mordred says

    No idea how this looks in other countries, but here in Germany most organizations hiring social workers belong to one of the two big churches, so if you want to work in that field you have to be a member of the church or your options are limited.

    While I do know some people working for church run organizations who are believers I also know quite a few who just do their job and snooze through the occasional sermon delivered at a meeting. One person I know left the Catholic church when she was younger but needed to rejoin a church for a new job so she become Protestant – that church’s office was closer.

    My only direct contact was during my civilian service year where I worked for a church run social service. For this job no one asked me about a church membership and no one mentioned Jesus while I was there. Even the priest who was responsible for the civilian service guys only talked to me about work related stuff.

  4. lanir says

    From what I understand religious organizations have been buying up hospitals for decades. It was part of an attempt to limit abortion access before someone on that side realized they could just pull some shenanigans and pack the supreme court with people who can’t think straight.

    It has sort of worked for them. I live in Illinois which has a history of mostly getting this right. And even a history of underground movements when that wasn’t quite enough. But I don’t know that there’s anywhere near me where someone could get an abortion performed at a hospital. They’re all religiously affiliated and while that doesn’t seem to mean anything in day to day care, it does mean that policy is determined by someone with fantasies about saving imaginary infants. So the policy has to support that fantasy life.

    As far as I can tell they otherwise operate like any secular healthcare provider would but my only exposure to the internal culture is a cousin who works as a nurse and working for someone who used to do marketing for a religiously affiliated hospital. My cousin seemed fine with the experience but the other person was a scumbag. He arbitrarily cut my pay and hours at one point while threatening me and at one point I had to talk him out of firing a pregnant person. Not sure what he said to her but she worked from home starting 3 days after giving birth, so I suspect something illegal happened.

  5. says

    I live 3 miles from a Catholic Hospital and about 9 miles from non religious hospitals. And while I’m sure the Catholic hospital is full of nice competent people, I would be scared if something went wrong and my end of life decisions would not be made according to MY morality or my Wife’s morality but the hospital’s “morality”.
    I worked as a psychiatric consultant in nursing homes and once had a patient who refused a feeding tube because she needed one for her ALS deterioration.
    The head of the nursing home said that such a refusal could not be allowed so she would have to move to a different nursing home. She did, but when a few other patients heard about this, they left as well.

    So again, getting care at a Catholic hospital might be just fine for 90% of situations, the fact that it might not be fine for that other 10% would be a deal breaker for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *