The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld Christian-based aid organization World Vision’s practice of hiring – and retaining – only those who affirm the organization’s statement of faith.
Three former employees filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination when World Vision fired the employees after determining they no longer believed in the deity of Jesus Christ nor in the Trinity.
The legal issues in this case are many and complex:
- whether religious-based groups have the right to hire only those of their own faith
- whether religious-based nonprofits that receive government funds should be able to hire only those of their own faith when using government funds
- whether employees who are performing satisfactorily in a secular capacity should face the possibility of losing their job solely because of religious beliefs
Dissenting judge Marsha Berzon writes that Title VII “makes a narrow exemption for institutions devoted to prayer and religious instruction, but expanding that exemption to nonprofit organizations tips the balance “toward a society in which employers could self-declare as religious enclaves from which dissenters can be excluded despite their ability to do the assigned secular work as well as religiously acceptable employees.”
World Vision is a Federal Way organization; I drive past it when I go to visit my sister. I’ve had friends apply for work there unsuccessfully because of the religion issue.
My personal opinion? Even a private organization is subject to equal opportunity employment hiring law, unless the job specifically requires professional practice of a particular religious faith. A pastor or director of religious education? Sure, they must be Christian, and of the right make and model. But the church secretary and accountant? It shouldn’t matter one bit.
The same should apply to organizations like World Vision. If they’re hiring a missionary to spread a specific type of Christian gospel, then by all means, a Christian statement of faith is relevant. If they need an IT professional, a project manager, a logistics assistant, again, the faith issue shouldn’t matter, and under EEO law, should be an off limits topic. The use of federal funds should make that process even more rigorous.
I realize that’s an overly simplistic view of the world, and that the law is far more complicated than that. Still, I don’t want my tax dollars being spent on humanitarian support that come a side of proselytizing or prejudicial, discriminatory hiring practices – I’d prefer they went to strictly secular organizations instead.
You see, I don’t believe America is a Christian nation. (Sorry, Christian friends!) I passionately believe we’re a pluralistic nation that happens to have a Christian majority – which I am only marginally a part of – but we are also a nation with a strong commitment to freedom, tolerance and mutual respect.