Man Denied Job Because He Isn't A Born-Again Christian, Lawsuit Says

Religious organizations are legally allowed to reject job applicants because of their religious beliefs. But even if Voss Lighting believes, as its website states, that its "biblical mission" is to sell lighting products, that doesn't make it a religious institution under U.S. law.

So when Voss allegedly refused to hire someone for not being a born-again Christian, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission entered the scene, and handed the company a lawsuit.

In early 2011, reports the Tulsa World, Edward Wolfe applied for an operations supervisor position at a Tulsa outlet of the Nebraska-based company, according to the EEOC.

During interviews for the job that Wolfe failed to get, two managers allegedly asked questions "both subtle and overt" about Wolfe's religious inclinations -- like the name of every church he'd attended over the past several years, when and where he was "saved," and whether he "would have a problem" arriving early to attend Bible study before the paid workday began.

One of the managers was clearly agitated by Wolfe's replies, reports the EEOC. A manager also allegedly said that most of Voss' employees were Southern Baptist, but it didn't matter what church you attended as long as you were "born-again."

On its website, Voss Lighting says its mission is to sell lighting products "so that we may 'tell' everyone we can about God's soul-saving, life-transforming gospel message as Jesus instructed believers to do." It then goes on to list various Biblical quotes, ending with Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men..."

The EEOC claims that Wolfe was denied the job because he wasn't Christian enough, which violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It filed its lawsuit in Oklahoma federal court. Voss Lighting denies the charge, saying in a written statement to the Tulsa World that the person who was given the job simply had more lighting experience, and that the company "looks forward to a judicial determination of the rights of the parties."

Although Voss Lighting apparently isn't claiming the right to discriminate on religious grounds, the issue of religious organizations' freedom to hire on that basis was raised recently at a Senate hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The measure would make it illegal to refuse to hire someone for being gay, bisexual or transgender.

"ENDA is just one more example of a growing trend where 'discrimination' laws collide head-on with fundamental rights of religious organizations," Craig Parshall, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, testified before the Senate committee.

ENDA, like all anti-discrimination laws, has a religious exemption built in, so that religious institutions are allowed to hire only individuals who share the faith of the organization. A lighting company isn't a religious institution, though, no matter how spiritually motivated it claims to be.




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Malcolm

Dave, that's not discrimination. If the company deals with a vast amount of Spanish speaking people, it only makes sense to hire Spanish speaking employees. Americans could get that job, if they could speak Spanish. I am American and I went to school and took 6 years of Spanish, just so I could get a job that required a bilingual salesman.

June 15 2012 at 7:06 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
lawbkstore

I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ

Gandhi

June 15 2012 at 3:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
clnlsandrs

I think businesses should have the right to dscriminate against anyone for any reason when it comes to choosing their employees! If we are indeed a pluralistic society then there we be a place for every type of person!

June 15 2012 at 3:17 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
BIG DAVE

here in santa maria there are a lot of jobs americans can't get because they don't speak spanish, that sounds like discrimination to me

June 15 2012 at 2:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to BIG DAVE's comment
Malcolm

Dave, that's not discrimination. If the company deals with a vast amount of Spanish speaking people, it only makes sense to hire Spanish speaking employees. Americans could get that job, if they could speak Spanish. I am American and I went to school and took 6 years of Spanish, just so I could get a job that required a bilingual salesman.

June 15 2012 at 7:04 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
MIKEY'S SCREEN

I really can't fathom thie term "Born Again" Christian. I was born, baptised, and raised Catholic (attended parachiol elementaryt and high school), married and raised children as Catholics (one is a priest). Been very faithful to my religion as well as my family has. Now......why do I have to be "born again?" I "accepted Christ" in the 2nd grade when I received Holy Communion and again in the 7th grade when I received Confirmation. Standing up in front of a lot of religious zealots to proclaim my acceptance is totally uncalled for.

June 15 2012 at 1:32 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
smart8001

Isn't there supposed to be a separation of church and watts?

June 15 2012 at 1:23 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
Cindy

This is un-American. We are a pluralist society and we all come from different religions, races, cultures.
I hope the company fails.

June 15 2012 at 1:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Cindy's comment
Dana

No dear, what is un-American as you put it, is for the US government to tell a private company or individual who they can and can't hire and why. That is un-American.

June 15 2012 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dana's comment
work.jmitchell

Exactly. I could see the company having to abide by these strict hiring regulations, if say for example their startup costs were funded in full by the government. That's really the only way though. The good news is that since we do live in a great country where opportunities really do exist for those who choose to look, instead of filing a law suite this guy could be opening his own lighting store right next door to try and drive the other one into the ground. But then that would require him putting forth the initial investment, taking the risk, and so on and so forth, much easier to take the money from the working man I guess....

September 05 2012 at 10:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
David

If the guy knew all these things before he applied, he should seek employment elsewhere, I think spirtiually workers have the right to work around the like!

June 15 2012 at 1:08 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
Dee

This is why people don't like Christians. This is a clear example of Chrisitans being extreme. If they were true Christians and if I'm not mistaken, didn't Jesus teach about not judging others and loving everyone? I am a Christian and am appalled by this. I'm so sick of these "extreme" Christians thinking it's ok to conduct themselves in a "holier than thou" mentality.

June 15 2012 at 1:07 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Bill

If you don't like brussel sprouts...does that mean that the super market does not have to hire you because their produce department has brussel sprouts for sale? A private company, not using any tax payer funds should have the right to hire anyone they choose! Just besure they don't ask for your age prior to any employment...that is age discrimination!

June 15 2012 at 1:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bill's comment
Aip Daily

And this is religious discrimination, it's just as bad.

June 15 2012 at 1:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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