A statement of faith

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Discussion by: GlenNeuro
Is it legal for an employer to ask you to sign a statement of faith?

I recently started a new part time job whilst studying for my Bsc (Hons) Neuropsychology. Before being a student I was a soldier and as such haven’t had much experience signing contracts for other jobs. In most cases I’ve only ever worked on an ad-hoc basis for the University or taught and lectured on various public engagement schemes and so most of my activities were covered under the University.

My new job is as an eating disorder clinician in which I am to give information, support and guidance to patients on a self employed basis. My employer, already known to me through past work is agreeable and professional. They have presented me with a contract part of which is a “statement of faith”. I would like to know if anyone else has come across such a thing and how they dealt with it. The statement reads;

“We Believe there is one God, who exists forever in Three Persons – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. That Jesus Christ is our personal saviour. He had a virgin birth, led a sinless life, performed many miracles and died on our behalf. He was resurrected and ascended to his Father and will come again. In the healing power and ministry of the Holy Spirit. That the Bible is the infallible, authorative Word of God. That man was created in Gods image but that through sin we need to receive Gods mercy through the redemptive power of Jesus. Our salvation comes through repentance towards God and faith in Jesus. That the Church is the manifestation in spiritual unity of all believers in Jesus.”

Company name is a non-denominational organisation and does not restrict access of its services to anyone of a particular faith group. All committee members are required to endorse our statement of faith along with group leaders. Our steering group which informs our committee and all other volunteers are not required to endorse our statement of faith but are asked to be sympathetic and understanding of the Christian ethos of the organisation. Company name also endorses the statement of faith of company name Evangelical Network company name Care and the Association of Christian Counsellors (copies available on request).

Do you endorse this statement of faith? YES / NO

If you do not endorse this statement of faith, are you understanding and sympathetic to the Christian ethos of this organisation YES / NO”

27 COMMENTS

  1. I had to sign something like this once. After reading the first paragraph, I thought to myself, “Well bloody good for you”.

    Lucky for me, I didn’t have to affirm anything other than the fact that I had read the statement. This may be because that company hired a lot of non-Christian workers – many of their computer people were Hindus. On the other hand, it may have been because the company knew the law better than yours does.

    • In reply to #1 by vbaculum:

      My previous post was kind of impulsive. I think your case is a case of establishing from the start who the boss is. We give you a job (to the Hindus), but don’t expect to advance in this organization. We dislike your presence here, but my Christian compatriots ask for too much money and they work 9 to 5. As for the original poster, if you join them, just beware! They are fanatics. They know they are at the border of legality or beyond and they still do it. Why? Because God’s law is above human law.

    • In reply to #1 by vbaculum:

      Lucky for me, I didn’t have to affirm anything other than the fact that I had read the statement. This may be because that company hired a lot of non-Christian workers – many of their computer people were Hindus. On the other hand, it may have been because the company knew the law better than yours does.

      I went to a contract lawyer in the end and they told me that it was void as my performance as a clinician was in no way predicated on my endorsement of a faith which is of course true.

  2. Wow! I can’t believe that it is. I do not see how they can possibly claim to be “non-denominational”. What “church” are they referring to? How could a deist, theist, Buddhist, Unitarian Universalist, Jew, experience this as a non-denominational environment? Does that statement make you feel like you might not fit in well, not have a fair chance of advancement or fair performance evaluations, or just wouldn’t be quite as welcome if they knew who you really are? It is weird that you worked for them before but weren’t asked to sign this thing, is it a new policy?

    FIRST: You ought not lie on a job application or any other contractual document. If you do and they can link this post of yours or some other equally revealing facts about your true beliefs back to you, then they can fire you for cause, and for a cause that is far worse than being incompetent or late for work too often.

    What they’ve done is quite insidious. They did not put this on their job application because it’s probably illegal. It seems like it would be illegal to ask you, much less try to make you sign a contract after you’ve become an employee. As best as I know, there are more innocuous questions that are inappropriate or illegal to ask an employee. It is extremely coercive and puts you in a difficult position. This is being presented to you as a condition of continued employment? What in the world has this got to do with your job?

    SECOND: I think you ought to get a (preferably free) legal opinion. They must have had some lawyers pass on this but it sure smells bad. One place you might try is The Freedom From Religion Foundation; here’s a link to the Legal page at their website http://ffrf.org/legal.

    Referring to wikipedia, there is Non-denominational (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-denominational); they sure as hell are NOT this.

    There is Non-denominational Christianity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nondenominational Christianity) which is probably what they are. So they have misidentified themselves, hah! (Maybe there could be some fun in this somewhere) is something that might make for some unexpected fun.) This is not what I thought it would be; It does not seem to encompass things like Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregational, Mormon, Jehovahs Witness, others (that is, all the ones whose names the non-cognescenti will recognize), because those are all “denominations”, so it is not even what I thought it would be before looking it up. The wiki article warns not to confuse this with Ecumenism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecumenism) or Interdenominationalism ()http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interfaith_dialog).

    You probably did not want to know all this stuff about denominational-this-and-that and now that I do, I’d be just as happy if I didn’t, but at least we know more about what we’re talking about than they seem to.

  3. Company Name cannot claim it is non-denominational with a “Statement of Faith” like that. Do they even understand the common meaning of “non-denominational”?

    Of course, whether a requirement to sign a “Declaration of Faith” like this constitutes discrimination will depend on the law of the State in which Company Name operates or is registered. However, I would argue that, since Company Name has made non-logical and inconsistent statements regarding being a non-denominational organisation and yet, at the same time, requiring staff to sign a “Declaration of Faith” or be “sympathetic to the Christian ethos of the organisation” (discriminatory in itself, that), you would not be obliged to answer those questions. You might inform Company Name that you are unable to answer either of the questions given that they are inconsistent with Company Name’s statement on being a “Non-Denominational Organisation”.

  4. They are not your employer, as you say you are working on a self-employed basis. The contract is between two separate professional entities (them and you). Personally I would just ignore the statement of faith on the grounds that your business does not comment on social issues.
    Also, unless you are a committee member or volunteer then in their own words the statement does not apply to you.

  5. Ignore. If it’s part of a larger form, just omit picking YES or NO in the above questions. If it’s a stand-alone form, just omit to sign-and-return. If they want you to do the job, they’ll pay you anyway. It’s not part of your contract, is it?

    I’ve had similar-but-different situations with over-enthusiastic non-disclosure-agreements, which – if I’d signed – would have seen me agreeing basically that I would not attempt to obtain any work involving computers for 3 years after leaving the job. I mean, they were trying to protect their trade secrets, but their legal department had overdone it. As soon as I started, the other contractors chorused “don’t sign that” to me. None of them had, and I didn’t either.

    Personnel/legal department never tried to chase up on the forms, so in effect we were working without having signed any kind of NDA. Their loss, as at least one of the contractors jumped ship to a direct rival, taking with him everything he’d learned.

    Sorry for the diversion. But in short, unless they’re rabidly insane, they won’t press this form. Ignore, and only escalate (with legal opinion etc) if they start to look like they’re taking it seriously. Meanwhile keep your eyes open for an alternative.

    • In reply to #7 by OHooligan:

      Ignore. If it’s part of a larger form, just omit picking YES or NO in the above questions. If it’s a stand-alone form, just omit to sign-and-return. If they want you to do the job, they’ll pay you anyway. It’s not part of your contract, is it?

      I’ve had similar-but-different situations with over-enthusiastic non-disclosure-agreements, which – if I’d signed – would have seen me agreeing basically that I would not attempt to obtain any work involving computers for 3 years after leaving the job. I mean, they were trying to protect their trade secrets, but their legal department had overdone it. As soon as I started, the other contractors chorused “don’t sign that” to me. None of them had, and I didn’t either.

      Personnel/legal department never tried to chase up on the forms, so in effect we were working without having signed any kind of NDA. Their loss, as at least one of the contractors jumped ship to a direct rival, taking with him everything he’d learned.

      Sorry for the diversion. But in short, unless they’re rabidly insane, they won’t press this form. Ignore, and only escalate (with legal opinion etc) if they start to look like they’re taking it seriously. Meanwhile keep your eyes open for an alternative.

      I had an Anti-Bribery one to sign where I agreed not to accept gifts over the value of ukp20. I suggested the rephrased it so it added something like “…in the performance of my duties for the company (I was worried I wouldn’t be able to accept my christmas present from my mum). They declined to chnage it. I declined to sign it.

      Purely coinincidence I was made redundant a little while later.

      I’ve signed bits of paper that exempted me from the EU Working Time Directive (limiting hours you are allowed to work). This was of course purely “voluntary”.

  6. They don’t mess around. But yeah, I’d endorse the statement that they really do believe all that load of crazy.

    It’s all bollocks of course. Then becomes very vague. What’s the ‘Christian ethos’ exactly? Where’the ‘partially’ option?

    Legally, I don’t know. Would be interesting to find out, but maybe not good for your future prospects.

  7. If you live in the US, the applicable law is probably Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Typically it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion. There may be some exceptions for religous groups performing religous activities but I don’t believe an eating disorder clinician would fall into that category. I could be wrong, though.

    Check with legal counsel. Many will give a free initial consultation.

  8. “That man was created in Gods image but that through sin we need to receive Gods mercy through the redemptive power of Jesus.”

    This is a morally inadequate and potentially subversive stance for an organisation seeking to apply the redemptive power of science to ameliorate people’s ills.

    So…No… and… No. But

    You can rewrite their statement to specifically include the assertion that they fully understand that the causes of the eating disorders (or whatever) of clients/patients are purely organic/psychological in origin and that the religious disposition of the organisation will not affect in any way any of the medical or procedural activities you will be required or may reasonably wish to undertake, nor the advice given.

    Then sign as you see fit

  9. I guess most people could indicate yes to the second with a clear conscience. It is easy enough to be ‘understanding’ of the Christian ethos, after all it is not terribly complex or sophisticated, and the poor sods brainwashed from infancy probably deserve some sympathy.

  10. I really wish people who post these types of questions would include the country they are living in, as attitudes and laws vary greatly depending on what part of the world you are in.

    • I think it’s a safe assumption given the spelling of “saviour” that the country is not the U.S.

      In reply to #13 by The Truth, the light:

      I really wish people who post these types of questions would include the country they are living in, as attitudes and laws vary greatly depending on what part of the world you are in.

    1. What country are you living in?
    2. How important is this particular job to you?

    If you’re not on the verge of starving, I’d suggest to first send them an email simply asking if they think this statement is compatible with their non-denominational status. If they don’t retract this, simply send the statement and any other documents with a short letter explaining the situation to the authority overseeing non denominational charities and ask them if they think it is ok for a non-denominational charity to ask for a statement of faith and if not, to strip them of their charity status. (In the UK, a catholic charity has been ordered to provide adoption services for gay couples if they want to keep their status as charity.)

  11. There are around 40,000 recognized denominations of Christianity, the ethos of which are often contradictory and in conflict with this contract. In fact it would be difficult to find a rational belief set that is not very close to the doctrine of at least one Christian faith. So do you agree with Christianity? Probably, yes.

    But the second question describes the “Christian ethos of this organization.”. That said, if you disagree with any of the statement, and are unclear about any position of the organization you can check NO in both cases, whether or not you are an atheist. For all they know you may be Christian, but not their kind of Christian. (Say a Unitarian)

    But I’m pretty sure they cannot legally refuse to hire you on the basis that you refused to sign such a page. Whether that would be enforced in that town, I cannot say, because some regions of the US have deviated far from the once American values of religious freedom and equal opportunity. I think long-term employers’ market has given managers a sense of partiality, that they can refuse to hire for any reason. But I’m pretty sure that if employment there is contingent on such a waiver, they’re banking that you don’t have the money or the wherewithal to push it through our lengthy civil justice system.

  12. I further clarified this with my employer and thanks to everyone for their input. I entered the office and was quietly asked “Glen you know all that atheism stuff you post on twitter it’s quite worrying to our organisation”. I sat down and had a frank polite discussion with her along the lines of “I can’t sign this and I’m not legally obliged to and our supernatural beliefs or lack thereof shouldn’t come into whether or not I can perform this role”. I was although asked very politely if it was ok that I didn’t criticise the religious underpinnings of the charity whilst working which really has no relevance to my job anyway as I’m a clinician here to help people not a missionary of atheism which is what she seemed concerned about. We then had a wholesome and intellectual discussion on the entire notion of religion and faith in the workplace that ended in her asking if I’d mind talking about it socially sometime and she’d get her staff to look over the statement with regards to the inconsistencies. I feel happy now that my employer understands that I’m not the anti-christ and that professionalism and the patients is what is important to me. I’m from the UK by the way and the job is basically a stepping stone to gather experience in clinical work before progressing as a neuropsychologist.

  13. It looks like something paraphrased from my schools bulletin. It’s my senior year and even though school isn’t a job my parents forced me to go to a christian school where that statement of faith is a requirement for entrance. I had to lie through my teeth for my parent’s sake. So frustrating.

  14. Mate, sign anything that gets you the job, legally of course. Put yourself down as a Jedi or whatever.. it does not matter at all. Your mind is your own. They can’t own your mind… I do a lot of freelance work for religious people and I just don’t engage them in anything other than the job at hand. What anyone else believes as long as they play with their toys at their house and not mine, matters not to me.

  15. “If you do not endorse this statement of faith, are you understanding and sympathetic to the Christian ethos of this organisation YES / NO”

    No, I am not sympathetic to the Christian ethos, which evidently includes slaughtering thousands of Muslims in Bosnia.

  16. It is not a legal obligation for you to answer that. Nor for that matter is it legal at all to ask questions like that, if they make a decision on whether to hire you based on that information. Anti-discrimination laws attempt to prevent these cases. If you feel they made a decision based on that info, you are completely within your rights to take legal action against them.

  17. I wondered about that too when I read the statement of faith connected to the Ark Experience and The Creation Museum in the USA. (Answers in Genesis Have a read. It is a laugh.)

    Apparently, because they are registered under/as a part of their church, this is allowable in the USA.

    Religion gets a ‘bye’ on discriminatory hiring practices even if they are hiring for a Museum or an amusement park.

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