by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz

As some you know one of the things I do for a living is teach at the college level. Well, a couple of years ago I thought about applying for an adjunct faculty position at Indiana Wesleyan University. I thought it would be fun to teach in a new environment.

I met all their academic qualifications; however when I read the “fine print” some alarm bells went off that said the two of us might not be a good fit for each other.

IWU operates under the mantle of the Wesleyan Church. And it has certain guidelines its employees have to follow. And while I was totally cool with prohibitions against theft, lying and stealing, when you had to agree to no alcohol or tobacco consumption I said thanks, but no thanks.

And IWU is perfectly within its rights to do that. Where is all this going?

The Indiana Senate just passed legislation that would allow the state to contract with institutions like IWU to provide workforce development and other services. In the past it couldn’t.  This had some folks creaming that Indiana was legalizing discrimination.

That’s not entirely accurate.

If you recall from earlier postings, I have always said the law treats a religious employer differently than an employer who is religious. We make exemptions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for certain institutions to make employment decisions based on faith.  IWU, being under the mantle of the Wesleyan Church is one of them because it meets the criteria spelled out in federal law.

And I have no problem with that. When faith is essential to an organization carrying out its day-to-day mission, they should be entitled to hire people of their faith, when it is ancillary, that’s a different story.

This is why I am cool with IWU and their hiring practices. They have to and should remain true to their mission statement and they should not have to compromise their faith; even though I think they’re missing out on getting to work with the coolest whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking guy whoever taught, speech, political science and law.