The REVEAL Library:
Workplace Proselytizing by the San Francisco Church of Christ

by Catherine A. Hampton <>

The Incident

On Tuesday, June 23, 1998, a few minutes before noon I walked over to the employee cafeteria at work to get some lunch. As I was going through the checkout line, I noticed some postcard-sized announcement cards by the cash register. Since they looked like the official announcements which Marriott (the cafeteria management company) or my employer, Varian Associates, occasionally place in that location, I didn't think much of it.

When I looked closer, though, I realized that they were invitations to visit the San Francisco Church of Christ, which is holding a special congregation-wide meeting at the Shoreline Amphitheater this coming Sunday. (The Shoreline Amphitheater is a large, outdoor arena which frequently hosts big-name concerts and music festivals in the San Francisco Bay area.)

I was in some shock -- in three and a half years at Varian I had never encountered anyone proselytizing, let alone this blatantly. I took the two cards at the cash register, and on the way out checked the other two cash registers. Both also had two cards placed in the location where official announcements are usually put. Here are scans of the front and back of the invitation.

Front of SFCOC Invitation

Back of SFCOC Invitation

As usual, I carried my lunch back to my desk. As I was eating, I thought about this for a while, and decided that it should be reported to someone. I checked with a coworker and showed her the announcement, not telling her I knew who the church was or anything about it. She was horrified, stated that this was extremely unprofessional conduct, and told me that she felt I should talk to Human Resources.

So I did. Fortunately the HR person who hired me three years ago, and who now is second-in-command in the department, was free. I gave her one of the invitations and told her where I'd found it. She was very unhappy and told me it violated Varian's rules to proselytize or distribute invitations to church, or even a non-profit activity.

She then commented that I seemed a bit shaken up, and asked me why this upset me so badly. So I took a deep breath and told her -- I gave her a capsule of my ten years in the movement, a short run-down on how the ICC operates, and told her where to find out more.

I guess I'm "out of the closet" with a vengeance now. <wry grin>

When she looked more closely at the invitation, she pointed out that the color scheme and layout of the front looked surprisingly similar to the scheme Varian is using for it's "50'th Anniversary" banners and posters, which also include a rainbow background with light or hollow lettering on top. She was right about the similarity, although I told her I'd seen similar types of materials from ICC sources before, and thought the similarity with current Varian material might have been a coincidence.

She promised to make security aware of the incident, and to ask them to pick up and discard any other cards they found. I gather they'll also be trying to determine who put the cards there.

Some Questions for the ICC

Now, I'd like a few answers from members of the ICC, and particularly of the San Francisco Church of Christ:

  1. Is it acceptable to proselytize on the job?

  1. Is it acceptable to proselytize when your company's workplace rules of conduct specifically forbid it?

  1. Do you feel that it is deceptive to design an announcement so that it appears to be official, and then place it in a location where only official work-related notices are ever put?

In my opinion, this was a serious breach of manners and ethics in the workplace, as well as a violation of the rules where I work.

©1998 by Catherine Hampton <>. All rights reserved.

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