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