Voices
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Bossed around

Expanding governmental dictates about hiring and firing no longer seem surprising

Issue: "Return to war?," May 5, 2012

It might have surprised you, a decade or two ago, to get news that WORLD magazine had been sued by a disgruntled employee who felt she had not been promoted to a supervisory role because she had just made it known to her friends that she was a practicing lesbian. But today, in the bizarre climate we occupy, you'd probably just say: "Had to happen, sooner or later."

My hypothetical, note well, is only that. It hasn't happened-yet.

But the leaders of Christian organizations everywhere are no longer thought of as paranoid when they worry out loud over whole lists of regulations, policies, and standards that would have startled their counterparts not very long ago. I've told friends repeatedly in recent months how grateful I am that I have virtually nothing to do any longer with the hiring and firing process here at WORLD.

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Hiring and firing issues, of course, are not the only flashpoints facing Christian organizations in these perilous days. But they do offer some of the most acute heartburn for those in charge. That's because, in one way or another, labor issues are related to so many of the big dollars that drive these organizations.

Just imagine, for example (and it doesn't take much imagination these days), that the Obama administration announced an executive order during the next few weeks to the end that no federal student aid (neither scholarships nor loans) would be available to any college that might discriminate in its hiring practices on the basis of sexual preference.

A number of Roman Catholic welfare agencies have had to shut down in recent months because they wouldn't kowtow to Obama administration dictates. What happens to the various Protestant relief groups when they refuse to knuckle under to new hiring regs? And more seriously, what happens to the people around the world they're helping now in such generous fashion?

Or suppose that WORLD magazine, because of the boundaries it observes in its hiring practices, loses its tax-exempt status and has to start paying both federal and state taxes on every subscription it sold to you readers. Would that extra strain on our budget mean we couldn't afford to send a reporter to Afghanistan next year?

But Washington, D.C., isn't the only problem. Imagine that the church where you're a member owns an adjoining lot or two, being held for eventual construction of a new sanctuary or classroom space. But the local tax appraisal office decides that it must follow a new county ordinance forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. Zap! Your church budget, already squeezed in these pinched times, finds itself owing a few thousand extra dollars just when it can afford it the least. And it's a few thousand extra dollars you'll owe every year from now on.

Or suppose some governmental unit, at any level, decides to play with a few definitions you have always taken for granted. "You can still discriminate," some bureaucrat tells you magnanimously, "when you're hiring people for your 'religious' tasks. Our prohibitions will hold for any of your 'secular' employees. And we get to decide what is 'religious' and what is 'secular.'"

Some folks assume that discussions like this are meant mostly to set the table for a diatribe against the Obama administration and its arrogant ways. And I'll agree that things of this sort have gotten steadily worse since early 2009-and promise to get even more intolerable if our current president is reelected this coming November.

But the fact is that we've been headed this way for a long time now-through the influence of liberal leaders, but even under so-called conservatives who should have known better. My main point here is that it's become such a way of life that nobody is surprised, even a little bit, when one more example is added to the list. If folks aren't even startled by the direction of their doomed culture, won't it be a pretty tough assignment to rouse them to action?

Email jbelz@worldmag.com

Listen to Joel Belz's commentary on being "bossed around" on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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