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-Do Christian Schools Have a Right to Hire Only Christian Teachers?

by Dr. D ~ February 3rd, 2013

Calvary Chapel's logo

                                  (Calvary Chapel’s logo: Wikipedia)

Do Christian schools have a right in America to hire only Christian teachers that adhere to a particular doctrinal standard? The Obama administration doesn’t think so as they demonstrated in an earlier court case against a Christian school but in that case the US Supreme Court unanimously supported that right.

Now here’s another case involving teachers in a Christian school who do not want to be forced to confirm their Christian faith and sued the school when they were fired. Now the school has counter-sued the teachers. Here’s the story from the Christian Post:

A Christian school in Southern California has recently filed its own lawsuit against two of its former teachers who had sued the school for being fired after refusing to provide proof of their Christian faith.

The Little Oaks School in Thousand Oaks filed a lawsuit in federal court last Wednesday, claiming its right to hire teachers who subscribe to the school’s Christian belief, arguing that its hiring practice is protected by civil rights laws at both the state and federal levels.

The teachers, Lynda Serrano and Mary Ellen Guevara, however, claim they are protected from religious discrimination being exercised by the school under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act that applies to for-profit religious groups. The school is recognized as a for-profit entity owned by Calvary Chapel of Thousand Oaks.

<Read the whole article>

Response: Another challenge to religious freedom in America and in this case in California. The school was purchased by Calvary Chapel in 2009 and turned into a Christian school. The conflict arose when two of the teachers working at the school during the transition refused to submit to answering questions about their faith and were subsequently fired.

The question raised by the case is this- Do Christian organizations have the right to choose their own leaders and in this case teachers even if it is an allied ministry that makes a profit? Or does California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibiting discrimination supersede the religious rights of the organization?

The earlier case cited above involved a teacher who was also a licensed minister so an open and shut case as far as SCOTUS was concerned. This case will be far more important in terms of establishing whether we still have freedom of religion in this country or in the state of California. This case revolves around the question of whether Christian allied organizations and ministries and in this case schools still have the right to hire leaders and teachers that conform to their particular religious standards. If not then our religious liberties are now severely curtailed.              *Top

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4 Responses to -Do Christian Schools Have a Right to Hire Only Christian Teachers?

  1. Discordian

    You have a right to do anything you wish to do, so long as you don’t violate the rights of others Any government “law” which penalizes you for acting according to your rights is not a law: it is an instrument of bloody tyranny, which is CRIME.

    If someone (a non-Christian teacher, in this case) complains that you violate their rights by not giving them a job, they are either mistaken due to government brain-washing, or they lie and have malicious designs to deprive you of your rights by using CRIMINAL GOVERNMENT as their weapon. Or they are stupid and unthinking. They can start their own damn school; they DO have a right to do that.

    By the way, I am a teacher who would pointedly refuse to say I believed some version of faith if I did not, in fact, believe it. I was recently hired by a Christian school who judged me by character and accomplishments, rather than by catechism.

    However, I have applied to schools which DID require a “profession of faith” for employment. Since I was not comfortable with that, I LOOKED SOMEWHERE ELSE for a job. Perhaps that’s too complicated for the new “dependent American” citizen to grasp.

  2. Dr. Bonczek

    It’s discrimination, an invasion of privacy. And, poor pedagogy.

  3. Dr. D

    Thanks for your thoughts Dr.Bonczek,
    In the context of public education your observations would be true. However, a private faith based school is an entirely different situation. The whole point in this case is to provide an alternative private education and pedagogy based upon a specific religious world view.

    Apply this thought to administrators of a private Muslim school based upon the teachings of Islam. One would expect them to restrict their employees and particularly their teachers to those who are faithful followers of their religion and it naturally could be claimed that they ‘discriminated’ against Christian and secular folks in the process. But that is the nature and context of private religious education.

    In this case, the school is striving to provide a evangelical Christian environment and expects all of their employees to adhere and support a conservative Biblical world view. If at some point that kind of ‘discrimination’ is no longer deemed to be ‘legal’ then private religious schools would be no different than public ones and religious education would cease to exist.

    As a minister I am used to the fact that I am accountable for my personal beliefs and lifestyle to the church in which I serve. That has always been the case with those in the ministry and on a couple of occasions I have had to change churches and denominations over my closely held beliefs. Some churches actually require their ministers and leaders to affirm their theological beliefs and adherence to certain lifestyle standards yearly. This is also required and expected in many private religious schools.

  4. Brian

    Dr. Bonczek:

    The First Amendment to the US Constitution reads:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    I would ask you to focus on two of those passages (and, while the religion clause is definitely implicated here, I am going to ignore it!). First, people have the right to peaceably assemble. This means forming organizations to advance or further causes, beliefs or goals that are shared between those people who choose to assemble. In the context of a private or parochial school. it means a group of people assembled together to form an institution to further and to inculcate certain values, beliefs and ideas into their children. They can accomplish this mission by insisting that everyone involved in their organization agree to further this mission by teaching beliefs and values consistent with the goals of this organization. In the case of the California school, the school asked teachers to agree to a set of core Christian beliefs – two teachers refused, and were fired.

    I ask you, if a neo-Nazi wanted to teach at a yeshiva, would you require the school to hire him? If the school had already hired him, would it be required to retain him? My example is extreme, but the maxim is the same. The right to assemble means the right to associate with those with whom we wish to associate, but it does not mean that anyone can be forced to associate with those with whom they do not wish to associate.

    Speech is the second aspect of this analysis. People assemble together to make collective public statements of support for a position. Not all speech is verbal – by joining an organization that advocates a position or belief, one makes a statement. Similarly, by joining together to create a school which advances certain beliefs, they are making a collective statement – a form of speech. Requiring the school to employ teachers who do not share those goals inhibits the ability of these assembled people to make the public statement of their beliefs.

    Again, I as a rhetorical question: what if a Christian school is required to employ a teacher who does not share the beliefs and values of this school as a community, and that teacher then blatantly begins to teach from a perspective that is hostile and antithetical to the values of the school (and, keep in mind, the values of the school here is really the values and beliefs of the assembled people who are sending their children to the school).

    And what if this teacher makes public statements of his own (which I think you would agree, he has a right to do) which are antithetical to the school’s mission, and does so in his capacity as a teacher at the school? Imagine this teacher being interviewed on the nightly news saying “I am a teacher at the Little Oaks Church School” and then announcing beliefs and attitudes that are contrary to the school’s positions, but which could cause a viewer of that news broadcast to form a negative or different opinion about the school. Does the school, as an organization that was formed to further certain beliefs and goals, not have the right to expect its employees/representatives to publicly support and further those goals?

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