supreme court

Photo by Phil Roeder

The United States Supreme Court will not be hearing Sylvia Spencer et al v. World Vision, the controversial case of three World Vision employees who were fired for not believing in Jesus as God or the Trinity as required by World Vision’s company policies. World Vision won the appeal in 2010 in front of the Ninth Circuit, and that decision stands.

In the World Vision case, all sides agreed that the nature of the firings were religious, but the fired employees argued that World Vision was not truly religious since its work was humanitarian rather than religious, and not significantly different from groups like the Red Cross.

So what about jobs that do not involve religious work at all, such as a shipping worker or a web developer? The Court says [PDF],

The nature of the Employees’ duties is irrelevant to our analysis. If World Vision qualifies for the exemption, it is entitled to terminate employees for exclusively religious reasons, without respect to the nature of their duties.

What does this mean for people like me who are closet atheists in other Christian companies? It means I need to find a new job or risk being fired. I already knew this, but I think it’s getting to the point where I can’t put it off much longer. Despite the poor economy, I’ve got to get out of here.

According to the decision, firing someone based on religious beliefs is not limited to places of worship or schools.  As cited in the court’s decision (pages 7-8), here are nine factors considered in determining whether an entity qualifies for religious exemption.

  1. whether the entity operates for a profit,
  2. whether it produces a secular product,
  3. whether the entity’s articles of incorporation or other pertinent documents state a religious purpose,
  4. whether it is owned, affiliated with or financially supported by a formally religious entity such as a church or synagogue,
  5. whether a formally religious entity participates in the management, for instance by having representatives on the board of
  6. whether the entity holds itself out to the public as secular or sectarian,
  7. whether the entity regularly includes prayer or other forms of worship in its activities,
  8. whether it includes religious instruction in its curriculum, to the extent it is an educational institution, and
  9. whether its membership is made up by coreligionists.

You can read the Ninth Circuit’s Sylvia Spencer et al v. World Vision decision here [PDF].


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9 thoughts on “Religious Firing Decision Stands, and I Revamp My Resume”

Disillusioned Drew · October 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Ooo… we need to think of some cool entreprenuerial (sp?) venture. World domination?

Travis · October 4, 2011 at 3:21 am

Could you please not use scribd on a publicly available document. it is ridiculous that I should be asked to pay a monthly fee to download a document that I can get freely directly from the court.

Other than that. Thank you for sharing this story. I had been following the case for a while.

    Godless Girl · October 4, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I did not know scribd was a subscription site. It’s the easiest way to embed documents on my blog. I’ll update the post with a PDF link.

Sheila · October 9, 2011 at 5:31 am

Oh my! I didn’t know that about World Vision. Hmmmmm. Interesting! I guess I shouldn’t go looking to work for them.

Lee · October 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I am curious to know if secular companies are free to fire people for being religious.

And since I already believe all religion is a scam, I obviously feel there should be no “religious exemption”. Either I can fire religious people or they can’t fire non-religious people. ANd take away their tax exemptions too but that’s another rant.

    Mildred Ratched · October 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Lee, I agree with you. I know I’ve worked at a few places in my lifetime where I wish the zealots had been fired. I just don’t believe religion has any place in the workforce unless you are employed by a religion affiliated company (like the government LOL).

Po · October 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm

That is a bizarre and frightening situation. However, surely a scientific company, or any company could fire all the Christians or other religious people because of the company’s atheistic ethos and religious beliefs?

Jim Jones · October 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Presumably one can decline to donate to World Vision with a clear conscience on the grounds of their religiosity.

fredt · October 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Did they ask at hiring?
If they failed to ask, they committed wrongful hiring. At least lack of due diligence during hiring.
God are just concepts. Anyone can believe anything, any concept, but believing does not make it right or true.

Comments are closed.

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