Q: What’s the best way to respond to someone who thinks it’s “funny” to always comment on a show of faith in the workplace (like prayer before a meal)? I don’t want to create tension but I feel I should respond.
The tension is already there, because this person’s comments are making you (and perhaps others) uncomfortable. You’re right to respond. Find a moment when you can talk calmly and without interruption. Try a neutral approach like, “I heard your comment when I was praying before lunch today, and I was just wondering why you might have said that.” It’s possible that this person really hasn’t thought about the ramifications. He or she might simply be a jokester who makes light of everything, or might be someone who – consciously or unconsciously – has a hostile attitude towards religion. Just calling attention to it might give your colleague an opportunity to recognize and correct inappropriate behavior.
On the other hand, if the comments continue or escalate to harassment, it would be wise to discuss the situation with the human resources manager. Your colleague has the responsibility to respect your religious beliefs, just as you have the responsibility to make sure that your religious expressions in the workplace conform to legal standards for expression and non-discrimination. Check out if it is even appropriate to pray in your workplace per your human resources manager.