The Ferndale Education Association provides "special consideration" for hiring "non-Christians."
Is this legal?
Is it discriminating against those who "are" of the Christian faith?
It seems rather hypocritical for a school district to give such a directive in hiring instructions that also include the standard "no discrimination clause" that states no employee can be discriminated against based on their religion.
Rana Elmir with the ACLU says there's "nothing wrong with encouraging people of diverse faiths to apply" for positions in public education.
But Richard Thompson with the Thomas More Law Center says, "Why would they be discriminating against people for their religious beliefs? It's outrageous."
What's going on?
The Ferndale Education Association is a division of the Michigan Education Association.
This contract ran from 2011 to 2012. It was then extended to 2017.
The Michigan State Constitution says a state employer "shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to any individual or groups on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."
Yet a directive to administrators in the Ferndale schools says, "Special consideration shall be given to women and/or minorities defined as Native American, Asian American, Latino, African American and those of the non-Christian faith."
That's pretty clear. "Give preferential treatment to the following..."
Why would they do this?
Rana Elmir with the ACLU says, "There is nothing wrong with encouraging people from diverse faiths to apply for a position."
But this is not an "encouragement" to people of non Christian faith to apply for a position. It is directive to give "special consideration" to anyone who is "not" a Christian.
Does this suggest that Christians must hide their faith if they want to get the job?
Elmir says no, "In fact doing so recognizes that our classrooms and communities are diverse."
She is advocating that diversity trumps legality. And what about fairness?
It's understandable that Superintendent Gary Meier, Board President Jim O'Donnell and MEA UniServe director Troy Scott are not returning multiple calls to their offices.
Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor said, "Why would they be discriminating against Christians? They are not supposed to be discriminating against people for their religious beliefs. It's outrageous. And I believe it's unconstitutional."
The Detroit News is reporting that since this story broke, the school district has removed the discriminating language.
The school is saying the language was included a number of years ago and they were not aware of it.
But everyone is not buying the explanation. Detroit lawyer Bruce Miller says he was shocked when he read about this. He says, "Most of these kinds of contracts are created from carefully crafted and legally screened boiler plate language."
He says, "What's surprising is how it got there."
It is surprising. And its difficult to believe that it was "just there" and the school used it over and over and over without any legal review.
One thing is sure. Someone, at some point, put that language in the contract. And even if it arguably does not represent the position of the school district, it clearly represents the position of someone who has considerable influence and access to public education.
Is the public school district that out of touch with what they are directing administration to do in hiring?
The school district has sent out multiple email and press notices over the past few days affirming that they "do," underscore "do" comply with non discrimination laws.
Superintendent Gary Meier has announced that he is retiring and will vacate his office by June 30.
State Representative Tim Kelly (R) has called on the Michigan State Board of Education to investigate the school district and the Michigan Education Association.
Was this mere oversight?
But someone, at some point, put those words in that directive. Words do not grow in files.
This is why we always advocate vigilance. And work to keep people of faith informed and involved.
Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Informed. Be Pro-Active. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.