HOW MANY RELIEF WORKERS CAN DANCE ON THE HEAD OF A PIN? - World Vision wins its employment discrimination case, but the Muslims are still trying to get their community center built. As a society, we need to stop trying to find zero sum answers to difficult decisions on how to separate church and state.
Disclosure: The author is an Atheist.
There’s usually chirping when religion and hiring practices bump against each other and Monday’s Ninth Circuit decision in favor of Christian humanitarian organization World Vision is a case in point.
The 2-1 decision came from a suit contending that World Vision had discriminated by firing three employees who had been with them for 10 years and who didn’t, “believe in the divinity of Jesus or the doctrine of the Trinity.”
The court found that since World Vision is a religious organization, it can hire and fire because its employees directly work within the purview of its ministry and the bulk of its monies go to humanitarian aid, not proselytizing.
A Profound Sense of Religious Mission
In World View’s case, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote that, “World Vision has met its burden of showing that the ‘general picture’ of the organization is primarily religious. World Vision is a nonprofit organization whose humanitarian relief efforts flow from a profound sense of religious mission.”
In other words, World Vision’s “religious” side and its “humanitarian relief” side are one and the same. Although why the three employees would join the organization knowing that and why the organization kept them around for 10 years before firing them is a bit of a mystery.
But then, what isn’t these days?
This case is fundamentally different from one a few years back in which Pat Robertson, and what was then known as his CBN University, ran afoul of discrimination laws.
CBNU operated a hotel that did not deny non-Christians guest rooms, but did hire and fire staff based on religious beliefs. They also had similar problems hiring and firing technicians and others working for what was then the Christian Broadcasting Network in non-religious jobs.
In their case, the court found that Robertson ran the hotel and TV network primarily to make money. Most of the money was used for investments in everything from South African diamond mines to stock, but some of it was used to support various religious and charitable pursuits. They lost the suit and eventually divested the hotel and university from Robertson’s personal empire.
Religious and employment discrimination is sometimes a tough thing. Minor differences between how money is collected and spent can have a profound impact on specific cases. It’s easy to take a one-size fits all approach and either say no discrimination or no paid staff. However, when these split hairs mean the freedom to practice religion, it’s a harder decision.
All too often, people on both sides – religious and Atheist – want to make religious freedom an all or nothing proposition. Those simplistic reactions do nothing to help either side of the argument and fuel an ever-growing schism between Americans.
Today’s Park51 controversy is a great example. Some want Muslims stopped from building a community center (in fact, some even want them out of the country all together). Others see no reason to stop anything. Still others would be happy if all religions just went away, which I admit is sometimes a tempting, though hypothetical, thought.
All those joining the argument deserve to be heard and all of them have good points to make, but at the end, Park51 is a simple, local zoning case run amok. “Discussion” fell apart long ago and devolved into an ersatz hysteria on both sides.
Enough talking. Let’s just get on with things and stop dancing on the head of a theological pin. Ben Franklin said something about an entirely different topic, but that fits this subject in America today, “We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.
Let’s get back to hanging together on something. This whining is giving me a headache.