Religion Equals Sex?

The following Internal Revenue Service Memorandum shows once again how many in the government have confused "freedom from religion" with"freedom of religion."

In this case, the government seems also to confuse the role of religious symbols such as Crosses or Stars of David with "sexually-suggestive" items.

Along with the full text of the original IRS Memorandum we provide a copy of a letter from the IRS received by Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK), after he wrote to the agency to inquire about their policy.

Internal Revenue Service Memorandum

Date: Feb 07 1995

To: All Representatives of the District Director
Laguna Nigel District

From: Assistant District Director
Laguna Nigel District

Subject: Workplace Restrictions on Display of Religious Items

Federal regulations protect employees against unlawful discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability. The recent holiday season prompted some employees to inquire about the District's policy regarding the display of religious items in the workplace.

The display of religious items in the workplace where there is potential viewing by co-employees or taxpayers of different faiths is prohibited, since such displays can be considered "intrusive" according to court ruling (Brown v. Polk County Iowa). The Court concluded this limitation on an individual's conduct is not a violation of First Amendment rights since the individual is still free to hold personal religious beliefs.

Employees wishing to bring personal religious items within their work area should keep the items in an enclosed space within their work station, available for their personal review only. These restrictions apply year-round, although most questions arise during the holiday season.

We will review this memorandum at the end of November 1995. Please forward it to managers at your post of duty to ensure consistency and compliance. If you need additional information please contact your EEO specialist at [number].

Internal Revenue Service
District Director

Department of the Treasury
PO Box 30207
Laguna Nigel, CA 92607-0207

The honorable Ernest J. Istook
Member of Congress
119 Cannon Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Istook:

This is in response to your inquiry of May 18, 1995. Your inquiry expressed concern for employee religious rights in the Laguna Nigel District. Your concerns arose from an internal memorandum dated February 7, 1995.

This memorandum was sent to the head management of each of our posts of duty. The memo was sent to the head management of each of our posts of duty. The memo was the result of several informal and two EEO complaints concerning alleged violation of employees' rights based on religion.

Basically, the various complaints concerned displayed of religious articles in the work place which offended persons of differing religious beliefs.

Our policy has always been that items which could be considered intrusive (such as religious symbols, sexually suggestive cartoons or calendars) should not be displayed in the work area.

Employees are not being denied access to religious items, rather, they are being asked to keep these personal items in desk drawers or other non-public areas.

We have made religious accommodations for employees in this District, such as, changing tour of duty for employees who need to reach home prior to sundown; allowing a group who wanted to read the Bible to reserve a conference room so they would not infringe on others; and altering wording of oaths and affidavits to accommodate religious beliefs.

Our memorandum of February 7, 1995, was to insure all employees and taxpayers are comfortable in a work environment free from any form of unlawful discrimination.

We hope this information clarifies our position.


Jesse A. Cota
District Director

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