Friday, June 13, 2014

What the Heck is "Onionhead?"

I generally consider myself pretty savvy about new religious movements, but I had no idea that this one even existed. Three former employees of a health care company in New York have filed suit claiming that they were discriminated against after criticizing and refusing to take part in practices of the "Onionhead" religion that had infiltrated their workplace.

The suit identifies a cost containment official, “Denali,” as the leader of Onionhead practices at the company. Former employees Elizabeth Ontaneda, Francine Pennisi, and Faith Pabon said Denali retaliated against them when they balked at attending one-on-one sessions with her to discuss “divine plans” and “moral codes.”

Pennisi said she spoke out against Onionhead at a company meeting, suggesting the practices violated her Catholic beliefs, and she claims she was moved from her office and replaced by Denali with a large statue of Buddha. The suit claims Denali blamed “demons” for Ontaneda’s and Pennisi’s resistance to Onionhead.

All three women were demoted and later fired, the suit claims. Denali Jordan, who identified herself as an independent consultant to the company, denied Onionhead was a religion.

That's funny, it sure sounds like one! It talks about divine plans and demons, and includes prayer circles and thanking God. A little more research turned up that basically, "Onionhead" is a sort of New Age theosophy-light type religious system that has some overlap with the self-help market. It clearly fits the definition of a religion, as it consists of a codified set of beliefs that pertain to spiritual forces and the like.

The organization's website is incredibly hokey and filled with New Age platitudes and self-help acronyms, but it also seems that they do some good charity work. And maybe I'm reading their materials wrong, but it sounds like the founders of the system would be appalled at employees being demoted and fired over acceptance of its principles. From the site:

We call upon schools, churches and aligned nonprofit organizations to work with us closely to help children and adults re-connect to their feelings. Our goal is to see our tools and materials distributed to each and every person who needs them, no matter the age or circumstance. Through this mandate, we firmly believe we will see a decrease in violence, suicide, depression, addiction and we will see an increase in love, respect, honor, peace and happiness.

It sounds like either this is complete nonsense, or the people pushing this stuff at the company don't understand it. Demoting and then firing employees who disagree with your religious beliefs is pretty much diametrically opposed to the principles of "love, respect, honor, peace and happiness."

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1 comment:

ian said...

It may be of interest to know that the inhabitants of Berne (the Swiss capital) are commonly referred to as "Onionheads" in the local Barndütsch dialect (Tzibelegrin)