Christian employees at Google are expressing concern that the company included an anti-Christian performer in its lineup of company-promoted pride month events and frustration with Google’s long failure to officially respond to complaints.
Promoted by a vice president in a company email, the event was listed on a company event calendar until after a media inquiry on Wednesday, June 21. Christian Googlers are troubled that their employer would promote a performance that features openly anti-Christian themes.
The event, scheduled for June 27, is hosted by a drag performer who goes by the stage name Peaches Christ. As the name indicates, the performer openly mocks Christians. The event will be held at Beaux SF, a San Francisco lounge that regularly features strippers.
Named a “saint” by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Peaches’ past events include emceeing this year’s annual “Hunky Jesus” contest, hosted by the Sisters on Easter Sunday — the holiest day in the Christian calendar. In addition, for over a decade, Peaches hosted a “Midnight Mass” event, playing off an obvious reference to solemn worship services.
Chilling Effect on Religious Expression
Michael Harrington, a software engineer, said he has enjoyed working at Google for over five years. He praised the company’s culture of open discussion, debate, and criticism, but said he feels the company’s decision to include the June 27 event and promote it to employees crosses “an uncrossable line.”
“I joined Google to be an engineer, not an activist,” he said.
But he feels the situation is having “a reverse chilling effect, an emboldening effect that is, on willingness to attack Christians in the workplace in general.”
Harrington is among many Googlers to have filed a formal complaint with PeopleOps over the past three weeks. The only response they received was an acknowledgment of the complaint and assurance it would be investigated.
Staff software engineer Tom Turney drafted a petition dated June 14 which, to date, has obtained several hundred signatures while circulating around the company. The petition explains that the event is deeply offensive to Christian employees. It requests that the event be canceled and a public apology be offered by the organizers and promoters.
It also outlines ways in which the event violates Google protocol. Among its objections, the petition discusses the event’s violation of company policy on “inclusiveness” and “appropriateness.”
According to this policy, company activities are required to be “inclusive” and maintain a “positive work environment.” It goes on to state that “team events that result in certain team members feeling isolated could violate these policies and, potentially, applicable laws.”
Google policy also prohibits activities that include “adult entertainment (including overt, sexually explicit activity …) where one can pay for sexual activity irrespective of whether the participants are using their own money or company funds.”
Clearly, this explicitly sexualized event and its executive promotion are not creating a “positive work environment” at Google.
Furthermore, the petition highlights that mockery of religion can be considered harassment under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As Harrington observed, the promotion of this event may have already led to some employees feeling harassed.
The Inter Belief Network — the employee resource group that provides a voice to Google employees of religious or belief-related communities — hasn’t taken action on this glaring issue. This suggests that a chilling effect may already be in operation — Googlers with religious beliefs appear afraid to protest a clearly belief-demeaning event.
Google Shifts Calendar, Not Support
While the overtly offensive nature of an event featuring a performer mocking thousands of employees’ religious beliefs should be obvious, Google isn’t apologizing for its decision to include and promote the event.
When asked whether the company would respond to employee complaints and cancel the event or apologize for promoting it, a spokesman responded:
We’ve long been very proud to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community. Our Pride celebrations have regularly featured drag artists for many years, including several this year. This particular event was booked without going through our standard events process. While the event organizers have shifted the official Google event onsite, the performance will go on at the planned venue — and it’s open to the public, so employees can still attend.
The event was then removed from the calendar and replaced. However, the new company onsite social event scheduled for June 27 will take place well before the lounge event, which remains “open to the public.” Later that evening following the removal of the event, a response was finally sent to employees who had filed official complaints, communicating the information in the spokesman’s statement above.
It seems as if Christian Googlers will receive no apology. Rather, the strip lounge drag event mocking their beliefs will be promoted quietly instead of officially.
There are a variety of ways the company could choose to recognize pride month — indeed, it has sponsored and promoted several pride-centered causes throughout June already. However, rather than simply celebrating its LGBT employees, Google has crossed the line into discrimination against its Christian employees.
Surely, this type of anti-religious mockery is beneath one of the most prestigious corporations in our country. But it appears that is not the case.
UPDATE: Google responded to the author after publication with the statement below.
“Your story incorrectly states there was a company email sent and a company site where the event was listed. The scope and scale are being overstated here — this was not a company-wide communication or calendar/site. The email was sent to one department’s employee resource group and the event was posted on one department’s calendar of pride activities.”