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Charity's Christian hiring policy panned

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NASHVILLE, March 31 (UPI) -- U.S. charity group World Relief is defending itself against critics who say it shouldn't get federal funds because it only hires Christians.

To get a job at World Relief, people have to prove they are Christians, sign a statement of Christian faith and get a letter of recommendation from their minister. Since the administration of President George W. Bush, it has been legal for religious non-profits to do that even if they receive federal funds. But it's not something that sits right with civil rights groups and even some religious groups such as the United Methodist Church, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Wednesday.

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"Our position is that if a charity receives government funds, they should play by the same rules as everyone else," said Ron Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society.

The Methodist group is part of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, which wants to see the Bush-era rules wiped out.

But World Relief and others say that would violate the First Amendment, giving government power over how religious non-profits operate. So far, the Obama administration has not moved to change the rules.

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The Rev. Brad Morris, executive director of World Relief's Nashville office, said any organization or corporation wants people "who will support their mission."

"It helps if we are all on the same page," he said.

World Relief receives about two-thirds of its $50 million budget from state and federal governments, The Tennessean said. The charity says it doesn't use that money to promote its religious tenets or require people they help have any particular religious beliefs.

"In our programs, we don't discriminate against anyone," Morris said. "We serve everyone the government sends to us. And that's what matters."

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