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Relax Employment Law for Religious Organisations

2 Comments 21st July 2010

Any organisation has the right to expect its employees to believe in what it's doing. If you're interviewing to join Microsoft, you can't expect much success if you state at interview that Windows is rubbish and you're Apple 'til you die. Indeed political organisations have the right to discriminate, employment-wise, against supporters of some other party. This is reasonable.

However; with some exceptions, religious organisations (mosques, temples, churches, charities) may not discriminate in favour of those who practice the relevant religion. This has resulted in some charities closing and others losing the very faith-based ethos which made it "work" in the first place. A Christian charity, which does hugely valued work among adults with learning difficulties, recently lost a long and expensive legal process after attempting to dismiss two people who had renounced their Christian faith (this despite their having joined the organisation with full understanding of the need for Christian faith in their roles).

There are a few roles for which an organisation can legally claim a Genuine Occupational Requirement that the postholder has the same personal faith as the organisation. But there may be other positions which cannot presently attract such a Genuine Occupational Requirement despite being key to the organisation.

While I accept it's hard for a secular society to officially "understand" religious faith, I would ask that, concerning employment,  religious charities have the freedom to discriminate on religious grounds, in the same way that political parties enjoy the freedom to discriminate on the basis of political conviction.

I am a Christian. This proposal is intended to provide greater freedom for all faith-based organisations. Indeed, it might also help self-consciously atheist or humanist organisations. Thanks for reading.



Why does this matter?

This idea is important because it would restore some commonsense to the field of faith-based employment; commonsense which the commercial and political world already enjoys.

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2 Responses to Relax Employment Law for Religious Organisations

  1. David Lawes says:

    This makes enormous sense. How can an organisation whose very purpose was inspired by specific religious beliefs maintain that when a very important part of that organisation, its employees, do not hold those same beliefs?

  2. writer says:

    What if a charity takes British taxpayers’ money – from people of all faiths and none – through the foreign aid budget, but refuses to employ British taxpayers unless they share their religion… is that OK? What is the job of a humanitarian organisation – doing good – or proselytizing? And if you limit your talent pool to your believers – isn’t that a despicable disservice to perpetrate on the people who need your help? Please take a look at Christian Aid – they seek out the very best talent they can find to fight poverty. It doesn’t stop them expressing and celebrating their faith. And I don’t know if you’d noticed but the world has a wee issue with depraved religious bigots slaughtering people who don’t share their faith. If you segregate people of different faiths at work, if you stop them getting to know each other and respect each other – surely you’re not so different from the guys with the guns – just a different shade?

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