A teachers union contract for a public school system in Oakland County, Mich. claims religious non-discrimination, yet gives “special consideration” to applicants of “the non-Christian faith.”
Article 2.6 of the Ferndale public schools teachers union contract provides that “There shall be no discrimination by the F.E.A. [Ferndale Education Association] or the Board toward any employee(s) because if race, creed, religion … except where age, sex or physical requirements constitute a bona fide occupational qualification….”
In addition to the plain language of the contract, Michigan statutory and constitutional law both expressly prohibit discrimination based on religious belief, according to EAG News.
However, Article 10.3, which covers filling vacant positions, provides that when there are two or more applicants of equal qualifications for the same position, preference should be given to “those of the non-Christian faith.” Here’s the exact language of that provision:
Should there be two (2) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications for the position and one (1) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications is a current employee, the current employee with the greatest seniority shall be assigned. Special consideration shall be given to women and/or minority defined as: Native American, Asian American, Latino, African American and those of the non-Christian faith. However, in all appointments to vacant positions, the Board’s decision shall be final.
“This just strikes me as so un-American that they can put in open language for people to see that they are going to be discriminating against Christians,” said Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, according to EAG. “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.”
Perhaps the answer can be found in the large Muslim influx in Southeast Michigan, which includes Oakland County.
“The Arab American community is represented in 82 out of 83 counties in Michigan, with more than 80% of the state’s population residing in the three Detroit metro counties of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne. Roughly one third of the city of Dearborn claims some Arab heritage,” according to the Arab American Institute.
In addition, Dearborn in neighboring Wayne County, is home to the largest mosque in the United States.
Whatever the reason, Thompson also wonders how the school district could even identify a Christian without asking some very improper questions.
“Now, they are going to ask people, ‘Are you a Christian?’ ” Thompson said. “Are people going to hide their faith so they can get a promotion? There is a subtle persecution [here] of Christians.”
Whether the contract is legal or not can’t be answered on its face “because it comes down to how it is implemented,” according to an official at the American Civil Liberties Union Michigan chapter.
“There’s nothing wrong with encouraging people from diverse faiths to apply for a position. In fact, doing so recognizes that our classrooms and communities are diverse,” Rana Elmir, the chapter’s deputy director said. “However, public schools themselves should not be in the business of promoting particular religious beliefs or religious activities over others and they should protect children from being coerced to accept religious or anti-religious beliefs.”
EAG added that approximately 60 percent of union contracts for Michigan public schools include one or more illegal provisions, according to a recent Mackinac Center for Public Policy study.
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