Imagine that you’re looking on a job-listing Web service for a spot as a secretary. The site you’re browsing is a “One-Stop Career Center,” which is run by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. It’s paid for with funds from both the state and the U.S. Department of Labor.
You find a position that sounds as if it would be a perfect match for your skills. But in big letters, the listing says:
No Jews need apply. Buddhists not wanted. Muslims will be refused. Hindus are not acceptable. If you’re a Wiccan, forget about it. And don’t even think of contacting us if you’re an Atheist.Seems like that ought to be illegal in the U.S., right?
Well, guess again, buddy. You must not know about the Geneva College situation.
Geneva College in Beaver Falls is one of those schools with an Evangelical mission, and it proudly offers a Christian education (as opposed to a real one). The Geneva application asks students to list the name of their church and the names of both their pastor and youth pastor, as if one brain-washer in their lives were insufficient. Applicants are informed that they might be entitled to additional financial aid if one or both of their parents work as a Christian School employee, Missionary, Pastor, or Other full-time Christian worker. (Part-time Christians are, obviously, not eligible.)
Of course, America is a free country, and students— or, more likely, their parents — can pay for whatever indoctrination they’d like to support. All manure-shovelers are equal under the law.
However, Geneva wants to make certain that the propaganda is laid on as thick as possible. The school’s powers-that-be apparently feel that students might be tempted off god’s path if they have a conversation with a custodian or food-preparer who does not share the institution’s particular brand of superstition. That’s why every potential employee must demonstrate a commitment to Christianity.
The Pennsylvania job-seekers’ Web site heroically refused to permit Geneva College to list its employment openings. The U.S. Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, and various Pennsylvania officials decided that the college’s listings violated the Workforce Investment Act, the source of the federal funds. The WIA specifically outlaws discrimination based on various criteria, including religion.
Now, bear in mind that no one was suggesting the school should be denied its right to hire high-level administrative personnel or faculty who conform to Geneva’s stated purpose. The government was not telling them that they must employ rabbis, imams, or scientists to teach the Evangelism-doused classes. In fact, the federal law allows certain exceptions to its anti-discrimination requirement in cases where a candidate’s religion is an honest qualification. But we’re talking here about a hypothetical case of a lower-level employee, the kind of person who, in fact, is most likely to search for work using just such an online service as Pennsylvania offers.
The college filed suit, and was supported by — who else? — the Association of Faith-Based Organizations. Assisted by the nation’s holy hooligans, Geneva argued that it was being denied its constitutional right to freedom of religion. Why should it be precluded from using a publicly accessible Web site? Isn’t everyone in the U.S. entitled to the same civic benefits, regardless of his or her beliefs?
Once again, the theocrats succeeded in setting up a dichotomy between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. To bypass the costly and time-consuming litigation that would surely have ensued, the state of Pennsylvania agreed to allow Geneva to post its help-wanteds on the taxpayer-funded site. The rationale? The college is not, technically, a recipient of government monies.
So go back and read that boldface ad again. Although it will certainly be phrased in a vaguer, more deceitful way, that’s basically what it'll say. And our tax dollars — yours and mine — will pay for it.