Does a Christian teacher have a right to "witness" to others on the job? I'd like your opinion on the following scenario. A friend of mine recently graduated from Bible college and interviewed for a job at a local preschool. One of the interviewers, being aware of her educational and religious background, expressed some concerns and asked her if she was absolutely certain that she could refrain from "proselytizing." My friend said yes. As for myself, I was absolutely furious when she told me this story. After thinking about it some more, I'm not sure how I would have responded in her position. Is it appropriate for employers to ask such questions? Doesn't this amount to religious discrimination? Do you think the administrators of this preschool have crossed a line?
There's a fundamental biblical principle that applies to the situation you've described. As far as they are able to do so without violating the dictates of conscience, Christians have a responsibility to obey the laws of the state. They are supposed to conduct themselves as caring and conscientious citizens, and cooperate with others, believers and non-believers alike, in the life of the larger community. Paul tells us so in Romans 12:18, Romans 13:1-7, and Philippians 2:14 &15. And in I Peter 2:11-17 the apostle says, "[Have] your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (verse 12).
What does all this mean for your friend? Simply this. If the preschool that interviewed her for a staff position is state-sponsored, or if it's owned and run by a private organization that has rules against religious proselytizing in the classroom, then it's part of her Christian witness to abide by those guidelines to the best of her ability. To do otherwise would be to bring shame upon the name of the Lord. This does not mean, of course, that she can't share her faith with adult friends, fellow teachers, and other co-workers in a non-classroom setting. For example, she is free to say anything she likes during her lunch break in the teacher's lounge.
Is this persecution? By complying with these guidelines has your friend become guilty of denying Christ and hindering the progress of the Gospel? Not at all. Remember, there are other ways she can let her light shine for Christ. She doesn't have to preach openly in the schoolroom. Her employer has no authority to tell her how to behave or what she can say to others about her faith on her own time. When they see the testimony of her life, the families she serves may want to know more about her. In that case, she can always look for opportunities to speak to them about Jesus within the context of a personal relationship outside of school. If, on the other hand, she should for any reason decide that she absolutely cannot teach preschoolers without talking to them about the Lord, perhaps she should look for a job at a Christian preschool.
If you'd like to discuss this issue at greater length with a member of our team, we want to invite you to call and speak with one of our staff counselors. They would be more than happy to discuss your questions with you over the phone. They may be reached for a free consultation Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). The Family Help Center staff member who answers the phone will arrange for a licensed counselor to call you back. One of them will be in touch just as soon as they're able.
How Now Shall We Live? (book)
Alliance Defending Freedom - Alliance Defending Freedom for Faith and Justice
Gateways To Better Education - Keeping the Faith In Public Schools
Christian Educators Association International - A Professional Association for Christians in Public and Private Schools