Saturday, September 04, 2010

Firing Based on Religion: A Right or Wrongheaded?

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that World Vision can hire and fire employees based on their religious beliefs. Three former employees, terminated for their beliefs, had filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination. Having worked for World Vision for two years, here's my take.

World Vision has a right to maintain their organization according to their purpose, which is to render the poor humanitarian aid motivated by Christian faith. Other Christian and non-Christian organizations have that same right. But is the narrow way they define Christian faith accurate?

World Vision argues if they don't screen their employees for their Christian commitment, the organization would not be pursuing their mandate, to help the poor (regardless of the faith of the poor) as followers of Christ.

Here's a couple considerations. World Vision and other Christian organizations like them only follow this policy within the U.S. and other predominantly Christian countries. In Muslim countries, for example, they are forced to hire local non-Christians since there are too few believers. Why doesn't this prevent them from pursuing their mandate?

Other Christian organizations, like Habitat for Humanity and Mercy Corps (this organization's founders were evangelicals), maintain their Christian identity without requiring their employees to be believers. If these organizations can do it, why not World Vision? Is there something wrong with an organization that purports to give aid indiscriminately but has discriminatory hiring policies?

Then there's the terminated employees themselves, two of which worked for World Vision for ten years. Turns out they are still Christians, they just don't see eye to eye on the deity of Christ and the Trinity. World Vision's statement of faith, which new hires have to sign on, is based on conservative interpretations of the Bible (including the infallibility of the Bible). Two questions: (1) Why don't they allow people to differ if they still consider themselves Christians? and (2) Shouldn't employees have the same freedom of religion as all U.S. citizens, the freedom to change their religious values without fear of losing their job? (as long as those values don't undermine the core purpose of the organization--which in this case, they surely do not. I don't see how a worker's stand on the Trinity or the deity of Christ will harm relief and development efforts).

Conclusion: World Vision has a right to run their religious-motivated organization as they see fit, but I believe their hiring and firing policy is wrongheaded. When their daily operations of humanitarian aid does not require each worker to have an orthodox faith (as they define it), why not let people of all faiths and no faith take part? As Jesus said, "whoever is not against us, is for us." If the employees weren't undermining the mission of World Vision, allow them their freedom of belief. World Vision needs to rethink their policy.


Ciss B said...

In Muslim countries, for example, they are forced to hire local non-Christians since there are too few believers. Why doesn't this prevent them from pursuing their mandate?

I like your reasoning! Here in the states the "Christian" community is often too the extreme of what is considered politically correct in their organizations...sadly.

Anonymous said...

Jesus and the disciples were Jews, not Christians. Didn't seem to stop them from not only pursuing the mandate, but defining it...