Saturday, April 2, 2011

Stand Up and Be Counted

Our firm recently interviewed a young job applicant whose resume states that he is a member of the Christian Legal Society. A Google search reveals that the CLS is a student club that requires its members to sign a Statement of Faith that, among other things, rejects homosexuality as inconsistent with Christian values. The CLS sued Hastings Law School, claiming that it was entitled to funding and recognition despite its discriminatory policies.

Presumably, this applicant would not have applied to our firm if he had known that one of the partners is openly gay. Or perhaps he would have simply removed that item from his resume. But no matter, because what he actually did was present a resume identifying himself as a member of the CLS. Needless to say, he did not get the job.

The majority of the members of our firm felt that the best course of action was to simply allow the applicant to go through the interview process, and later tell him that we would not be offering him a job, with no explanation. I disagreed.

This man needs to know that his membership in a group like the CLS has real consequences. Specifically, if he chooses to belong to an organization that espouses hate towards gays, gay people will not hire him. That may not change his views on gay rights, but at least he will understand that his views have consequences in the real world. And he will understand that gays are not just outcasts who can be attacked at will, but rather include people who matter to him -- in this case, someone he wanted to give him a job. Next time, it could be a friend or family member who is afraid to come out of the closet in light of his views.

Telling a single job applicant that he cannot have a single job because of his membership in an anti-gay group is not going to change the world. No single event of this kind matters. But if everybody ignores things like membership in the CLS, then the members will rightly think that nobody really cares. They will think their views are acceptable to all. But they are not, nor should they be. Anyone with a conscience has a moral obligation to speak up in situations such as this. There is no need to be rude or disparaging; in fact, that would be counter productive, but the message must be delivered clearly: you are not welcome here because you are a member of a hate group.

Some of my friends and colleges have asked whether telling the applicant why he was rejected could expose our firm to liability. I believe that the answer is "no." No gay person has a legal obligation to hire someone who is openly hostile to gays, nor does a Black man have to hire a racist. The fact that the CLS is also a religious organization is utterly irrelevant. We did not deny him a job because he is a Christian, nor is his Christianity in any way relevant to our thinking. If he had been a member of a non-religious skinhead gang, for example, my position would be exactly the same. Whereas, if he were a member of a normal Christian group, the topic would not be relevant to our hiring decision. It is the hate, not the religion, that disqualifies him. You say you hate me, I won't hire you. It is as simple as that.

And, if I am wrong and the laws of this State compel me to hire a man that hates me simply because his hate comes from or is cloaked in religion, then perhaps it is time for me to stop paying taxes and leave this State.