Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Ministerial Exception" - A Solution to Legalized Discrimination

The Christian Science Monitor has cast its vote on whether churches are allowed to discriminate on the basis of faith. Their answer, not surprisingly, is "yes":
"On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears the case of a Christian schoolteacher fired in a dispute over a disability and church doctrine. The justices should be careful about allowing government to judge a faith's teachings when it is charged with discrimination."
(The fourth-grade teacher was fired because she took a disability leave, was asked to resign, and then filed a discrimination lawsuit rather that using the employer's Christ-based dispute-resolution process.)

The Monitor goes on to explain that some religions are so bizarre that their theology doesn't make sense unless you're a follower of that particular brand of religion. And it's none of the state's business, according to the Monitor. If these churches think they have to discriminate against certain employees for reasons that make no sense to anyone else, too bad for the employee.

Seriously, they say that.

I have a better solution. If a church wants to discriminate against an employee or job applicant, they can ... but they have to provide a written statement outlining exactly what theological principle was invoked. Something like this:
Dear _________,

Thank you for applying for a job with the Ecipalian Baptist Reformed Latter Day Church. Although you are highly qualified for our position, we regret that we can't offer you the job. We found a YouTube video of you playing a silver-plated flute at the Ecipalian Baptist Semi-Reformed Latter Day Church.

As you well know, there is no mention of silver-plated flutes in the Bible, and our Lord Jesus Christ certainly never used one in his ministry. Unlike the Ecipalian Baptist Semi-Reformed Latter Day Church, which allows silver-plated flutes, our church only allows wooden flutes in keeping with the true meaning of Scriptures.

We are deeply saddened by your fall from grace and will ask God to help you find His correct path when we pray next Sunday.

Yours truly,
John Q. Minister
This would do three things. First, it would force churches to admit that they were discriminating. Second, it would expose a lot of hypocrisy and genuine discrimination that is currently shielded by this unfair "ministerial exception." But most importantly, it would expose the church's theology to public scrutiny.

Or maybe we could just not allow churches to discriminate. They can only invoke faith when it's a genuine job requirement. It's OK to discriminate based on race for an actor, or on sex for an exotic dancer, and on faith for a preacher. Otherwise, you have to be fair.

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