World Vision is a humanitarian organization based on Christian values and, as part of their stated goal, they aim "to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God."  Its founder was an evangelical pastor who wanted to help orphans and other needy children.  Its articles of incorporation include doctrinal statements.

Is World Vision a church?  No, they don’t claim to be, and neither are they directly affiliated with any church or denomination.

So then; can World Vision claim the religious exemption to employee discrimination laws?  Can they require their employees to also be Christian and to represent the organization’s doctrinal stance?

That’s the question that came up before a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court, and they release a ruling yesterday in the case Spencer v. World Vision that says that, yes, they qualify for the religious exemption.  It was a 2-to-1 decision, and the dissenter seems to think that in order to be religious you have to have worship services or, at least, Bible study or preaching. 

Eugene Volokh does a yeoman’s work distilling the ruling down to 5 points.  It’s worth a look.  The 77-page full opinion is, well, optional. 

We were one vote away from suddenly having religious organizations that don’t hold services legally considered secular and losing their right to hire folks of the same beliefs.  In today’s judicial climate, I just hope we can hang on to it.

Filed under: ChristianityJudiciaryReligion

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