If Sylvia Spencer took a job at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, no one would ask her what her religious beliefs are. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of Americans would be horrified to think that such a consideration could affect her employment prospects for a position providing publicly funded social services.
HHS officials should ascertain her qualifications for the task at hand, and that would be it.
But Spencer didn’t apply for a post at HHS; she took a job at World Vision, an evangelical Christian relief agency that took in $344 million in public funds in 2009 – 29 percent of its total income. And because Spencer’s religious beliefs don’t line up exactly the way World Vision requires, she has been fired.
According to an account in Christianity Today, Spencer and other employees who lost their jobs at World Vision for religious reasons are fighting their firing in court. It’s now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Here’s hoping that Spencer and Co. win their lawsuit. Religious discrimination has no place in social services paid for in whole or in part by the U.S. government. If World Vision wants to impose a religious test for employment, it ought to rely on the donations of the faithful, not the forced contributions of the American taxpayer.
Americans United has been coordinating a coalition of religious, civil rights, civil liberties and other advocacy groups who are insisting that federal policy reflect non-discrimination and church-state separation. So far, President Barack Obama has not responded to our appeals.
The George W. Bush-era policies allowing “faith-based” job bias in publicly funded programs are still in place.
We still hope for change. I’m sure Sylvia Spencer does too. How about it, Mr. President?