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Why Religious Hiring

What is Religious Hiring?

Here are some examples of religious hiring. A mosque does not hire a Christian as imam. An Islamic financial institution requires of low-level staff only that they be respectful of Muslim customs and beliefs but insists that account executives and top management be committed to Islamic teachings about money, loans, and charity. A theologically conservative Protestant counseling agency requires all of the staff—they all are exemplars of the agency’s commitments—to affirm historic Christian doctrines and conduct expectations. A theologically liberal Protestant counseling agency, on the other hand, insists that its marriage counselors believe same-sex marriages to be the equivalent of traditional marriages.

Why Insist on Religion

Why insist on religion? In these and many other instances of religious hiring, the organizations are sure that religion—certain religious beliefs, adhering to certain religion-based standards of conduct—is a strongly relevant employment qualification. As the saying goes: “Personnel is policy”—what an organization seeks to do and is able to do depends heavily on the values as well as skills of the staff. A Jewish nonprofit needs to be certain that its leaders will not, deliberately or inadvertently, depart from Jewish ethical values. Moreover, religious organizations not uncommonly desire to have a workplace that reflects and reinforces the respective organization’s religious beliefs. Employees ought to manifest the religion’s values and practices, for example, compassion and service, to each other, to clients, and to the broader public. 

These are not outlandish hopes, practices, and intentions. PETA, the prominent animal rights organization, requires staff involved in public-facing positions such as advocacy leaders, fundraisers, and media spokespersons to be vegan 24-7:  they ought to model the key values of the organization and be so committed to the organization’s mission that they will not lead it astray. Similarly, the office of a Republican Senator will not hire Democrats, nor will a Democratic Senator put advocates of GOP policies on her staff. 

Hiring according to religion (and also according to philosophy or ideology) is legal. Religious staffing is specifically protected in civil rights employment law and also by court-created legal doctrine.

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