Optimism for the Supreme Court
By Frank Wright, Ph.D., President & CEO
October 7, 2011
It is heartening to see wise decisions being made by the U.S. Supreme Court, including their decision this week to not hear a case involving NRB member World Vision. In Washington, DC, the “back-story” is always important, whether it involves a legal case, a piece of legislation, or an individual running for political office. This circumstance is no exception.
The case revolved around three individuals employed by World Vision, each of whom submitted statements detailing their relationship with Jesus Christ when they were hired. Each also acknowledged a legal willingness to agree with and comply with World Vision’s “Statement of Faith, Core Values, and Mission Statement.” Yet in 2006, it became known that all three employees “denied the deity of Jesus Christ and disavowed the doctrine of the Trinity,” as defined by World Vision documents to which they had previously indicated compliance. World Vision fired all three employees, who then sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging discrimination.
This was an incredibly significant case because the heart and soul of religious freedom is the element of free exercise – not just on the part of those who are employed by an organization, but the religious free exercise of the organization itself. To demonstrate the importance of this principle, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of World Vision to exercise a hiring and firing policy adhering to its core mission. And when Sylvia Spencer v. World Vision, Inc. was appealed to the Supreme Court, the High Court rightly refused to take the case, allowing the 9th Circuit decision to stand.
As the President & CEO of an organization rooted and grounded in Christianity, I can tell you that First Amendment free exercise is imperative in the selection of ministry leaders and staff. Some of our nation’s lower courts have argued that religious organizations can and should be forced to hire employees that do not subscribe to the core values of those faith-based organizations. Each time such a confused decision is made, it strikes a blow against both reason and freedom. We applaud the Supreme Court’s approval of the important First Amendment principle that an organization that is religious at its core cannot divorce its hiring and firing practices from its faith, and we remain cautiously optimistic that this jurisprudential argument will continue to hold sway.
[United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Sylvia Spencer v. World Vision, Inc.]The President's Column was prepared with the valuable research and writing assistance of Laurel A. MacLeod.
Key House Committee Touts Ideas for Deficit Reduction
By Laurel MacLeod, Director of Communications
Yesterday, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) released a progress report describing his committee’s “key activities” from January through September of this year. In detailing the work of the full committee and all six subcommittees, the report pays particular attention to “jobs-focused accomplishments” represented by 100 hearings and 24 different pieces of legislation that “preserve American jobs, bolster the economy, and protect individual freedoms.”
“Time and again, we advanced bills through this committee and the full House that will protect jobs needlessly put at risk and help to create new ones,” said the Committee’s explanation of the report. “We exercised rigorous oversight to root out waste, fraud, and abuse and ensure government is held accountable. And we have taken meaningful steps to restore fiscal discipline, proposing significant deficit reduction and working to reduce the size and scope of the federal bureaucracy.”
Click here to read the Third Quarter Report of this important House of Representatives committee.
The Inside Story: Key Government Issues for Christian Communicators
>> Key House Committee Touts Ideas for Deficit Reduction
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