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Reflections on working for a Christian nonprofit in the wake of World Vision’s hire/fire religion decision

I must admit that my reaction to this decision is strongly based on the fact that I served at a religious organization as an Americorps member for two years where I was occasionally singled out for not being “Christian enough”.

According to the Huffington Post, World Vision just won a decision allowing them to hire and fire people based on their religion. Since they are a “religious corporation” (which I find to be a total oxymoron), they are apparently exempt from religious discrimination laws that affect most other organizations and corporations. Go fig.

I’m honestly a little torn on this.

On one hand, does it make sense that World Vision should be allowed to only hire Christian employees since they are severely Evangelical in the doctrine that they believe and base their work on? Absolutely, and not for the reasons that you think. I could care less how a corporation feels about someone’s religion. I think that this decision will protect people who follow other Christian doctrine or aren’t Christian at all from being ostracized and discriminated against once they are working at these extreme Christian organizations. Being the odd man out in any situation isn’t fun. It’s even less fun when you’re the odd man out in a group of non-judgmental comrades who backhandedly judge you for your lifestyle. I can imagine that being employed by World Vision while not following the doctrine that they do can be tough. Trust me. It’s no fun being invited to a meeting only because they want someone there with a “non-Christian” opinion, when you’re only being labeled as a non-believer because you don’t go to church. (Yeah, that really happened.)

On the other hand, discrimination is wrong. Period. No one should be able to tell anyone that they can’t work or be somewhere based on their religion, gender, age, orientation, race, etc. It’s just not right. So what happens when a Christian, church attending homosexual person applies for a job at World Vision, or one of these other “religious corporations”? In some cases it’s really hard to tell what someone’s sexual orientation is in the same way that it’s often hard to identify someone’s religion. What would happen if World Vision hired a gay Evangelical? Would they go back to the courts and try to get approval to fire them because of their sexual orientation too, just because it didn’t fit in with their viewpoints?

Why is it that we’re almost mandated to be tolerant of things like ignorance, deceit, classism and hate, but we’re allowed to be totally judgmental and intolerant of things like sexual orientation, race and religion, as long as we’re backed by some group, like the Christian faith or the government? #justsaying

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Discussion

One thought on “Reflections on working for a Christian nonprofit in the wake of World Vision’s hire/fire religion decision

  1. The fact is, no employer is value free. Conservative Christian or liberal Christian, religious or secular, all corporations and organizations hire according to how well a potential employee fits with the mission and values of the employer.

    For example, someone from World Vision would not be welcome at an organization like the ACLU because he/she is anti-abortion. I think that explicit use of the word “religious” makes people cringe, but I think that this conversation is ultimately about values. People always point to religious groups as being discriminatory, but aren’t secular/progressive organizations often equally “discriminatory” towards people who subscribe to more traditional beliefs/value systems?

    Furthermore, I would echo the point you already raised: why would someone who is fundamentally at odds with the mission and values of an organization like World Vision want to work for them?

    Posted by Nelson | August 30, 2010, 12:07 pm

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