World Relief Grief: Publicly Funded Ministry's Christians-Only Hiring Policy Begets Heartache and Harm, as Debate over Obama Inaction on 'Faith-Based' Bias Escalates

By Conn, Joseph L. | Church & State, May 2010 | Go to article overview

World Relief Grief: Publicly Funded Ministry's Christians-Only Hiring Policy Begets Heartache and Harm, as Debate over Obama Inaction on 'Faith-Based' Bias Escalates


Conn, Joseph L., Church & State


Saad Mohammad Ali had every reason to think he was going to be hired for an Arabic-speaking caseworker position in World Relief's refugee resettlement program in Seattle, Wash.

The 42-year-old man is a former interpreter for the U.S. government in Iraq, he speaks English well and he is anxious to help other Iraqi refugees like himself learn to adjust to life here. He had already done that kind of work for six months as a World Relief volunteer.

To make his employment prospects even brighter, a World Relief manager had suggested that he apply for the position.

But Mohammad Ali's hopes were dashed a few days later when the manager called to say the Muslim father of three was not eligible. World Relief could not hire him, she said, because he is not a Christian.

"I've heard over and over again that in the U.S. discrimination in any form is not accepted," he told The Seattle Times. "So it was a disappointment."

But Mohammad Ali's understanding of American law is wrong. "Faith-based" social service agencies in the United States can, and do, discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion, even if they get the majority of their funding from the government.

Under federal policies implemented by President George W. Bush in 2001--and left in place today by President Barack Obama - publicly subsidized religious charities are free to hire only those who profess specific religious beliefs and live in accordance with religious doctrine.

World Relief, the agency that rejected Mohammad Ali, is the social service arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. According to media reports, it gets about two-thirds of its $50 million budget from federal and state governments. But despite that massive public aid, job applicants must be Christians, sign statements of faith and obtain letters of recommendation from their ministers.

The ministry's hiring stance, which has only recently been formalized, first came to public light in March when The Seattle Times ran its article about Mohammad Ali's plight. But organizational leaders said the Christians-only employment policy has been in place informally for a number of years.

Some World Relief workers are angry about what they see as a draconian and un-Christian change.

According to the Chicago Tribune, there was an exodus of staff members in the Chicago office because they objected to the overt religious discrimination and other alterations in World Relief's character that it might portend.

Candace Embling, director of the Chicago office for five years, left. And so did Trisha Teofilo, a legal specialist. Others are apparently planning to leave as well.

"As a Christian, I feel it is my duty to advocate for the most vulnerable," Teofilo told the Tribune. "I believe Jesus would not promote a policy of discrimination."

Teofilo also worries about the effect on the refugees the agency deals with.

"I really feel for the refugee clients who have no choice," she told the newspaper. "If they are victims of religious persecution and they're being resettled through an agency staffed by all Christians who may or may not understand their plight, I think that is unjust."

World Relief's top brass claims the job bias is legal under federal law because religious groups are exempt from federal civil rights laws that ban religious discrimination. Supporters of the policy also point to executive orders and a Department of Justice memo issued during Bush's presidential tenure that specifically allow such bias.

"It's legal, but it's ridiculously wrong and un-Christian," Delia See-burg told the Tribune. Seeburg, director of immigrant legal services in World Relief's Chicago office, is looking for work elsewhere.

Mohammed Zeitoun, a Muslim who works for World Relief as an employment counselor, took the same stance.

"To ask us to change who we are, it's not right, not in the country of the United States of America--the land of the free," Zeitoun told the Tribune. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

World Relief Grief: Publicly Funded Ministry's Christians-Only Hiring Policy Begets Heartache and Harm, as Debate over Obama Inaction on 'Faith-Based' Bias Escalates
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.