AU, Allies Urge Federal Appeals Court To Rehear Case Challenging Religiously Based Hiring Bias

Religious Groups That Accept Tax Funding Should Not Be Able To Fire Staff For Being The ‘Wrong’ Religion, Says AU’s Lynn

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and allied groups have asked a federal appellate court to reconsider a decision dealing with religious bias in hiring at publicly funded “faith-based” charities.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled recently that World Vision, an evangelical Christian relief agency, had the right to fire workers who hold views that conflict with the agency’s religious viewpoint.

The case was brought by three former employees in Washington state who are Christian, but do not subscribe to all the doctrinal points in World Vision’s statement of belief.

Americans United is concerned that the court did not give adequate consideration to the fact that World Vision received 29 percent of its 2009 budget of $1.2 billion from government sources.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, AU and allied organizations have asked the judges who decided Spencer v. World Vision, Inc. – or the entire 9th U.S. Circuit – to rehear the case to make it clear that allowing publicly funded groups like World Vision to discriminate in employment on religious grounds raises serious church-state issues.

“Religious groups have the right to impose theological requirements on staff in privately funded positions, but when tax money enters the picture, that must change,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “No one should be denied a taxpayer-funded job for being the ‘wrong’ religion. That makes a mockery of our nation’s commitment to eradicating discrimination.” 

In addition to Americans United, other groups joining the Sept. 17 friend-of-the-court brief include The Interfaith Alliance Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Humanist Association.

The brief was drafted by Bradley Meissner of the law firm DLA Piper and by Ayesha N. Khan, Americans United’s legal director. 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.