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Hiring Economists at Religious Schools:

Wheaton College economics professor P.J. Hill presents an interesting conundrum on St. Maximos' Hut.

The American Economic Association (AEA) is the nation's leading association of economists. The AEA maintains "Job Openings for Economists" (JOE), which is where most academic openings for economists are posted. According to the AEA: "All members of the American Economic Association have a professional obligation to list their job openings in JOE." Wheaton is looking to hire a tenure track economics professor, and several members of the Wheaton economics faculty are AEA members, but it's not clear they can post their opening on the JOE.

The problem is that Wheaton College is an explicitly Christian school that, as Prof. Hill explains, "requires a commitment of faith from all its employees." (See here.) AEA policy, on the other hand, bars JOE listings that suggest religious discrimination:

"Listings that indicate discrimination on the basis of religion are not permitted even if the employer is eligible to discriminate on the basis of religion under Sec. 703(e) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
And there's the rub. As Prof. Hill explains:
Wheaton does fall in that category; we are legally allowed to impose religious standards as conditions of employment. Our job advertisement contains an explicit statement about our faith position and the requirement that employees adhere to that commitment. . . .

We would like to fulfill our professional obligations,and would also like to make known our job opening to as wide an audience as possible. But evidently the AEA regards colleges that require a religious commitment "beyond the pale" in terms of acceptable conditions of employment.

What to do? Wheaton certainly is not going to change its religious orientation (and, as I understand it, nothing Wheaton does violates federal anti-discrimination law). Wheaton could advertise the opening in other ways, but this would not fulfill the AEA obligation to post on JOE. It could post a "neutral" listing about the opening on JOE, leaving out any mention of Wheaton's Christian orientation, but this could mislead potential applicants causing them (and Wheaton) to waste time and resources in the hiring process, so I am not sure whose interest that serves.

Prof. Hill has another thought:

I would argue that private institutions, like Wheaton College,which wish to organize their educational mission around a particular world view (in our case the Christian faith) should have every right to do so. I find it interesting that the American Economics Association either believes such discrimination immoral, or that it leads to the production of bad economics. I suspect it is the former. But I question whether it is wise to rule out commitments to eternal verities as an appropriate criteria for organizing one's life and one's association with others. We live in a world with numerous claims about what constitutes truth. A society that allows individuals and organizations to make particular truth claims and to organize themselves around such claims is a much healthier (and diverse) one than a society that rules out such claims as organizing principles. I would much prefer a world where private organizations could choose their belief structure and then be allowed to impose those on anyone who chose to join them.
Yes, the AEA is itself a private institution. And, yes, the AEA has the same right as Wheaton to organize itself around certain principles — and exclude those who disagree. But that does not mean the AEA should do so, and it does not mean that, in doing so, the AEA is best serving the interests of its members. I'd be interested to know what readers think.

UPDATE: One-time VC guest blogger Andrew Morriss has a follow-up post at St. Maximos' Hut. It reminds us that, at least at some schools, faculty have obligations outside of the classroom. In this context, a professor's willingness to endorse a religious instituion's mission could be quite relevant. I would be remiss if I didn't note former VC contributor Jacob Levy's excellent contribution to the comment thread that views the AEA policy in a more sympathetic light. Read them both.

SECOND UPDATE: While I am not sure there is something that could be called "Christian Economics," there is such a thing as "Islamic Economics," as Andrew Morriss notes here. Also, at Mirror of Justice, Rob Vischer applies the notion of subsidiarity to the question of association and discrimination in the academy.

Sam Heldman (mail):
Why do you pose the question as to what AEA "should" do, and take the college's decision as a given? Why not, in other words, make a blog post asking people for their views as to whether the college "should" have the discriminatory rule that it has?

As for me, I think that there is in fact a difference between discriminating against people because of their religious beliefs (which I think is a bad thing to do, and is what the school is doing) and not wanting to help give effect to that discrimination (which I think is a good thing to do, and is what the professional association is doing). Any fancy argument to the effect that there is no such difference is too fancy for its own good.
9.8.2005 8:59pm
AppSocREs (mail):
I beg to differ with Mr. Heldman.

Supporting certain religious principles is a fundamental mission of Wheaton College. A neccessary adjunct of the college's existence as a free association of like-minded persons is that it discriminate on the basis of religion.

To the best of my knowledge, supporting or discriminating against certain religious beliefs is not a neccessary adjunct for being interested in economics, the purported/apparent common interest underlying the AER's existence as a free association. Thus the AER's existence as a free association of persons interested in economics would not seem fundamentally to depend on excluding persons who are or are not themselves discriminating against others on the basis of religion.

Actually, of course, the AER has been highjacked by an extremely bigoted sect -- self-denominated "liberals". Members of this sect hold as one of their fundamental tenets that they must attack the interests of all those not adhering to every dogma of their cult. One of these dogmas is an utter contempt for organized Christian religions and to a slightly lesser degree all religious sentiment deriving from the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
9.8.2005 9:18pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Despite knowing nothing about who may or may not have "hijacked" the AEA, I tend to agree with AppSocRES. Wheaton's identity as a Christian school depends on its free association right to reserve positions of authority for like-minded thinkers.

My gut reaction is that the policy outlawing "religious discrimination" is itself discriminates against religious organizations by refusing to recognize that right of free association. That said, I doubt this is exactly the situation they had in mind when they made the job listing policy.

Curious situation. Thanks for bring it up.
9.8.2005 9:22pm
David Hecht (mail):
It seems to me that the proper analogy is to a professional association: to the extent that the AEA--which is, presumably, a professional organization--do they have the right to exercise their "gatekeeper" function in this way? If (say) the ABA refused to list lawyers in its directory based solely on their religious affiliation, would that be allowed to stand?

Here's another way to think about it: there are any number of HBCU/MIs (that's "Historically-Black Colleges, Universities, and Minority Institutions", in Governmentese) out there. If the AEA (or any other similar organization) refused to list job openings that said "Preferential consideration will be given to African-Americans", would that be allowed to stand (note: I am cognizant that the designation applies primarily to the student body of such institutions)?
9.8.2005 9:23pm
Sam Heldman (mail):
Is it really crucial to the college's mission and self-conception that the college refuse to hire (say) Jewish economics professors? Why? They might teach economics the wrong way? Or just because they're Jewish and the students shouldn't be around them?

To call the professional association's decision "discrimination against religious organizations" is cleverness at the expense of reality. If the professional association refused to permit job listings of schools that declared themselves to be officially affiliated with some church or another, but hired professors and admitted students on a non-discriminatory basis, then that would presumably constitute discrimination against religious organizations -- but there' s no hint of that, is there?

Oh well, Juan -- so far you have gotten what you surely expected given the nature of this site and its readers! I still wonder why you posed the question.
9.8.2005 9:30pm
Jay Kominek (mail) (www):
Has someone gone to the AEA and said, "Hey, guys, your professional obligations don't mesh with your rules when applied to hirings at religious schools"? Maybe they'll just say "oops" and adjust one or the other? After all, they were probably written at different times by different people.
9.8.2005 9:36pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
That's what I tend to think as well, Jay.
9.8.2005 9:42pm
anonymous coward:
Maybe a student or alum can enlighten: How (if at all) is the teaching of economics or mathematics or similar different at a Christian college like Wheaton?

What's the purpose, and the concrete effect, of requiring all professors to be Christians (fairly hardcore--Adam and Eve, Virgin Birth, bodily resurrection)?
9.8.2005 9:50pm
CliveStaples (mail):
I am a student at Wheaton College. To Mr. Heldman: Yes, it is central to Wheaton's "self-conception", as it were, to have Christian faculty; the college's motto is "Christo et Regno ejus", which means "Christ and His Kingdom"--a sentiment I imagine few Jewish professors would echo, no?

I found Prof. Hill's position quite persuasive.
9.8.2005 9:50pm
Sam Heldman (mail):
Clive, you didn't answer the question "why." If you can, I would honestly be interested. Is it something about the way that economics would be taught? Or is it separation of "us" from "them" for some different reason? I'm opposed to the separation of "us" from "them" along religious lines. Maybe you are not.
9.8.2005 10:09pm
fred (mail):
The AEA is a racist organization, too. It discriminates
on the basis of race. The AEA sponsors a summer program
for aspiring economists that does not admit caucasians.

link to AEA
9.8.2005 10:13pm
ABH:
I'm also a student at Wheaton College, and in response to the question of how the teaching of economics is different here, the college only hires Christian faculty because of its focus on academic development with an explicitly Evangelical world-view. In other words, all classes are centered on this perspective, which is why all of the faculty are committed to the statement of faith.

And, by the way, I have a class with P.J. Hill this semester, and he is absolutely incredible.
9.8.2005 10:15pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
What if instead of a religious college, this was a "White" college, where professors had to be white to apply? If a professional association refused to distribute job offers from them, would we be having this conversation?
9.8.2005 10:27pm
Juan Non-Volokh (mail) (www):
A few points in response to the comments thus far.


First, Wheaton describes its mission in the following terms:

Wheaton College exists to help build the church and improve society worldwide by promoting the development of whole and effective Christians through excellence in programs of Christian higher education.
If one accepts that it is legitimate for a religious institution to pursue this mission, it seems that it would be okay for them to only hire those who accept the mission.


Second, the AEA policy explicitly bars job listings that do not violate federal civil rights laws, so I don't think one can argue that the AEA was not aware of the effect its policy could have. Whereas federal law clear exceptions for religious institutions, the AEA explicitly chose not to accomodate those institutions in the same way.


Third, I doubt anyone (not even my friend Sam) believes that it is never appropriate for a religious institution to use religion as a hiring criteria -- surely a Catholic bible school could refuse to hire non-Catholics -- so the question is really where the line can or should be drawn.


Fourth, for whatever it's worth, I could not be hired at Wheaton College.

JNoV

9.8.2005 10:33pm
NYCer:
At a naive reading, I would imagine that restriction is the work of an attorney attempting to cover the AEA from discrimination suits. Of course, the case may be not at all what I assume.

For instance, I used to work at a nonprofit (that had nothign to do with women's advocacy or anything like that) where there was a strong desire to prefer, all else equal, women for employment, but we were strongly advised against actually saying so. Gender and religious discrimination are of course distinct, but I would imagine it is a similar dynamic.
9.8.2005 10:37pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Your analogy is ridiculous on its face, Glenn. We have a constitutional provision preventing racial discrimination like that, and likewise we have a constitutional provision PROTECTING against religious discrimination.

Saying that this is private action (assuming it exists anymore) doesn't really reduce the absurdity of your comparison.
9.8.2005 10:51pm
Kim Scarborough (mail) (www):
Mr. Bridgman:

The difference is that one does not choose whether or not to be white, but being Christian is a choice. Discriminating based on what you think is a very different thing from discriminating based on who you are.

This is also the problem with Mr. Heldman's argument, above. Saying that they refuse to hire Jewish people sounds bad, but it's a poor example because Jewish can refer to a religion and an ethnic group, the members of which are usually, but not always, the same people. If they were refusing to hire people who were ethnically Jewish, that would indeed be reprehensible. But I doubt very much that's the case. If noted economist Robert Zimmerman converts to Christianity, I'm sure he's welcome at Wheaton (even though he's still a Jew, much like Cat Stevens is still a Greek).
9.8.2005 10:52pm
Perseus (mail):
I doubt that the AEA is worried about discrimination lawsuits. The American Political Science Association permits job listings by colleges with a religious commitment requirement. I prefer the APSA's policy, and I find it odd that the AEA has such a policy. So long as a college explicitly states that it has a religious commitment requirement, doesn't it promote economic efficiency to allow such job listings? Or is it somehow more efficient to increase the search costs of religious colleges and religious economists for the sake of indulging the tastes and preferences of the economists of the AEA opposed to allowing such listings? Has the AEA calculated a social welfare function for its policy? Or perhaps the AEA could auction off the rights to list jobs and see if the members opposed to allowing colleges with a religious commitment requirement to list jobs are willing to put their money where their tastes and preferences are.
9.8.2005 11:14pm
Goober (mail):
Jnov---

What's your response to Mr. Heldman's point that you question whether the association should (rather than could) have made its decision, but not whether the school should have made its decision, only whether it could properly have done so? I'm not sure if you think you answered this by saying that the school could properly insist its faculty share its mission, or that some religious discrimination is permissible, but it seems you haven't addressed your differential treatment of the two.

It seems this is an unavoidable problem of free association. The school wishes to exclude faculty that do not share its commitment to a grand principle of religiosity; the association wishes to exclude schools that do not share its commitment to a grand principle of non-discrimination (including on the basis of religiosity). (One might observe that's the trouble with grand principles, but I'll leave that.) Why should one association's desire to exclude be more valid than the other?
9.8.2005 11:27pm
Jack Lewis (mail):
CliveStaples said: "The college's motto is 'Christo et Regno ejus', which means 'Christ and His Kingdom'."
"Christo et Regno ejus" means "For Christ and His Kingdom." Wheaton claims not to constitute Christ's kingdom, but to serve it.
9.8.2005 11:42pm
CliveStaples (mail):
Goober: Exclusion based on "religiousity" is an interesting concept. "Applicants must pray at least [x] times per day, and each prayer must be of a duration no shorter than [y] minutes."

The job listings exist so that economists can find employment. While it does no good to a non-Christian economist for Wheaton College to list its opening, it certainly does help those who might be employed by Wheaton College. The AEA is allowing moral disapprobation to prevail over its concern for providing employment opportunities. While some might say the same of Wheaton ("it allows moral disapprobation to prevail over its concern for providing education, etc."), the AEA does little to pursue its goal of non-discrimination (except to discriminate against religiously-selective institutions), while Wheaton does quite a bit more in its pursuit of furthering Christ and His Kindgom.
9.8.2005 11:45pm
CliveStaples (mail):
To Mr. Lewis: My Latin is sorely wanting. "Christo" is indeed in the dative form.
9.8.2005 11:47pm
frank cross (mail):
As I understand it, the organization is run by democratically elected officers. Silly hyperbole about highjacking should be accompanied by an explanation how the democratic election was "highjacked."

I'm not sure whether a college "should" discriminate based on religion or whether an organization "should" discriminate against a college that chooses to discriminate based on religion. I do think that both have the choice to make the choice, and I'll not second guess them.

But I am curious how evangelical economics differs from non-evangelical economics.
9.8.2005 11:48pm
JF (mail):
As a practicing economist (former AEA member... I just didn't think I got enough out of the organization to pay the dues) and the graduate of a Christian high school with similar issues in the hiring of faculty, and, coincidentally, a Jew who still feels he owes a lot to his Christian education, I find the AEA's position highly offensive. Forget Wheaton (where as an undergraduate I once road tripped for a highly drunken weekend) professional organizations have no business taking moral stands on anything. What's the point? Do they really have the arrogance to think that their votes on particular issues have more weight than the individual (and heterogeneous) views of their members? Professiojnal organizations, to the extent they remain gateways to the profession, have IMHO, an obligation to restrict their precious moral capital to issues directly related to the professional, and to acknowledge, openly and proudly, the disagreements which do not bear directly on their mission. There is no position in economics of which I am aware which suggests that an individual university which chooses to restrict its faculty members in any legal way is "uneconomic." Case closed.
9.8.2005 11:54pm
John Armstrong (mail):
I'm surprised nobody has suggested that neither side really needs to change anything, except perhaps to make phraseology more explicit. The apropriate rewording is in the AEA's list of "obligations".
All members of the American Economic Association have a professional obligation to list their job openings which conform to the JOE-admissibility guidelines in JOE.

There. No fuss, no muss. Wheaton can refuse to hire whomever it wants and AEA can keep out whatever job listings it dislikes.
9.9.2005 12:01am
Jim Rhoads (mail):
All members of the American Economic Association have a professional obligation to list their job openings in JOE

I was not clear what the consequences are to the AEA Members at Wheaton in the event a job opening for economics professor is not listed in JOE. Are they subject to being expelled from the Association if, for example, their Department Head who is not an AEA Member fails to make such a listing? What if the Department Head is an AEA Member and fails to make such a listing? What if the listings are not made by the Department, but by the Dean of the College in which the Department is housed? What enforcement mechanisms are in place to assure this policy is adhered to?

It seems to me there is no practical problem unless the AEA attempts to impose some sanctions against its members. If such sanctions are possible, John Armstrong's solution is elegant, so long as the AEA is not trying to use muscle to force its policy on institutions in which its members are employed. If that is its purpose, I think it could be subject to serious challenge by a member who is caught up in any ensuing power struggle. FIRE might be interested in that event.
9.9.2005 12:57am
Jacob T. Levy (mail):
This is just appropriate associational pluralism at work. Under conditions of freee association and moral pluralism, different associations will manifest different internal ethics.

A religious college with a sense of mission can and should be true to its sense of mission in hiring faculty.

And a scholarly association can and should be true to its ethic of the academic vocation that holds that religious belief is not an appropriate hiring criterion for scientists (in Weber's sense of "science").

The scholarly associations, like religious colleges, are built on a certain model of what scholarship and the scholarly life is like. Nothing wrong with that, even if the the two models are incompatible. And, frankly, as strongly as I believe in the associational freedom of religious colleges and in their right [against the state] to discriminate in hiring, it also seems to me a bad, non-scholarly thing to do, and the scholarly associations are under no obligation to pretend otherwise.

It might be something else if the scholarly associations were going after religious colleges' accreditation. And there are perhaps distinctions to be drawn between hiring professors of divinity or philosophy and hiring professors of economics or physics. But given the facts at hand, I think the AEA is doing something that's not just OK but is actively commendable from the perspective of a scholarly ethic. A college like Wheaton has only one foot in the ethic of the liberal arts college or research university devoted to free inquiry. And the foot thats out matters. Another commentator distinguished this from the cases of academic freedom which were properly part of a scholarly associations' business; but religious test oaths *are* a question of academic freedom, in a way that even racial discrimination is not, because the religious promise forecloses lines of intellectual questioning and inquiry.

Not being able to list jobs through the AEA is surely among the lesser prices and burdens that Wheaton's believers are called by their mission to bear...

The scholarly association doesn't have a state-like duty of neutrality. It has its own internal ethic-- of scholarly life-- that is capable of coming into conflict with the internal ethic of other kinds of associations. Such is pluralistic life.
9.9.2005 1:06am
chris (mail):
The problem here is one of truth in advertising and throwing one's weight around, not co-equal claims of freedom of association. If the AEA were actually the ACEA (the American Christian Economics Association) no one would (or at least should) have a problem of requiring job listings be only for Christian schools. If the AEA were actually the ANDEA (the American Non-Discriminating Economics Association) no would (or at least should) have a problem with its current policy. But the AEA claims to be a broad association of all American economists, not just those that adhere to its preferred hiring policies.

Sam Heldman writes regarding why Wheaton would want their policy


Is it something about the way that economics would be taught? Or is it separation of "us" from "them" for some different reason? I'm opposed to the separation of "us" from "them" along religious lines. Maybe you are not.


I can give the perspective of one who has been an economics professor for 15 years.

Economics should be taught the same way at a Christian college as at any university. Just like Chemistry or anatomy. But an economics professor does more than teach economics. He sits on committees, advises, even befriends students. In general, he is part of the university. Its not about keeping "them" out. Its about creating an oasis of "us." Like Heldman, I don't agree that this makes for a good university. That's why I wouldn't work at Wheaton. But it's not beyond the pale, thus a supposedly broad based institution like the AEA should not act against the Wheaton's of the world.

3)
9.9.2005 1:11am
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Jacob and I are on the same page if the only problem is whether Wheaton may advertise in the JOE. That is the way Jacob seems to be reading the rule.

But if the rule means that AEA Members are duty bound to see to it that all job openings are listed in the JOE (the literal reading of the rule, btw) on pain of expulsion or lesser penalty, I have a problem with it.
9.9.2005 1:42am
Steven Bass:
Having just graduated from Wheaton College, I would say that in economics and in all other subjects, there is something unique that can only be provided by a Christian professor. Discussions about appropriate policy decisions in Dr. Hill's public policy course or discussions about a Christian view of government in his public choice course could not have been facilitated as well by a non-Christian professor. I'm sure that I would have learned the IS-LM model just as well from an atheist as from a Christian, but there's so much more that goes into teaching, and there's arguably so much more to economics. In fact, the blog that started this whole issue (St Maximos' Hut) is devoted to a Christian discussion of economics, showing that there's something uniquely Christian that can be added to the study of economics.
9.9.2005 2:03am
Perseus (mail):
I wondering why a religious test is objectionable, but intellectual tests such as devotion to "diversity" or "social justice" are not likewise objectionable. And lest I be accused of partisanship, Hillsdale College, for example, says that it "values the merit of each unique individual, rather than succumbing to the dehumanizing, discriminatory trend of so called 'social justice' and 'multicultural diversity,'" and requires a statement from its potential hires essentially affirming that view. Why shouldn't such colleges also be forbidden from listing their jobs at the AEA for their discriminatory policies?
9.9.2005 2:12am
NYCer:
Actually, I think Jacob's framing is about correct. I wish I had noticed that.

That non-association might inflict some real or imagined harm isn't the question. Much more important that both persue truth as they see it. That's what academics is there for.

(And I can't imagine the AEA sanctioning the school over this. To presume it might is not yet bordering on paranoid, but is rather stretching credulity.)
9.9.2005 3:17am
RBG (mail):
Perseus hits the nail on the head, I think. The question arises also in law schools, where most Offices of Career Services will not permit organizations that discriminate on the basis of religion to recruit on campus, prohibiting many religious public interest organizations from hiring. Yet these same law schools have no problem allowing other organizations that require an explicit ideological commitment to the environment or other causes to recruit on campus.

In response to other commenters who ask whether there's a Christian way to do economics, the response, I think, is no. But certainly it is undeniable that we all--even if we strive to be objective scholars--bring our presuppositions to the field. All things being equal, why shouldn't a Christian college be permitted, encouraged even, to hire the accomplished economist who believes that economics can be a useful tool to understanding how the Christian vision of social justice can most effectively be implemented? Or, to take a step into the hard sciences, why should a religious college be prohibited from favoring the physicist who recognizes that religion and science can co-exist over an equally accomplished physicist who happens also to be a dogmatic materialist who believes that modern science exposes all religion as a fraud? None of the comments here have provided any evidence that such hiring decisions impede the quality of the education available at such institutions--particularly when, as noted in The Atlantic in an article from 2000, "Wheaton does even better in the hard sciences than in the social sciences, ranking among the nation's leading colleges in the percentage of its graduates who go on to earn doctorates." So, to all the critics I ask, who exactly is harmed by this policy?
9.9.2005 5:48am
Hoya:
Re Jacob Levy's post:

First, it would be useful if he were to point out precisely what the conflict is between the internal ethic of the scholarly world and the internal ethic of a place like Wheaton.

Second, it could very well be that Wheaton's stand has little to do with the research orientation of its faculty -- the teaching load is onerous, and I am amazed at the research that they are able to do -- but rather with its teaching mission. Given that they are serving Christian undergraduates, isn't it pretty obvious that a Christian economist would be able to bring out the extent to which economics bears on the Christian life, the extent to which some of the presuppositions of mainstream economics are in tension with those of the Christian worldview, and so forth?
9.9.2005 7:55am
Public_Defender:
So, to all the critics I ask, who exactly is harmed by this policy?

A Jewish professor looking for a job.
9.9.2005 8:00am
Steven Bass:

So, to all the critics I ask, who exactly is harmed by this policy?

A Jewish professor looking for a job.


Just as a Jewish individual would be denied a position at yourlocal Methodist church. Nobody would deny the right (and duty) of a Christian church to discriminate in hiring, so why should it change when we're talking about a Christian institution of higher learning? Synagogues don't hire Muslims, Mosques don't hire atheists, so why should we expect a college devoted to living "For Christ and His Kingdom" be held to a different standard?
9.9.2005 8:27am
Public_Defender:
The comment asked who was harmed. Whether the harm is justified or not, denying employment to Jews is unquestionably a harm to those denied employment.

On the question of justification, the AEA is an organization that believes that it is wrong to deny employment to economics professors based on religion. If Wheaton disagrees with that position, its professors are perfectly free not to join the AEA.
9.9.2005 9:00am
AppSocRes (mail):
This is one of the better discussions I've seen on the Volokh Conspiracy. The exchanges have been heated, but rational, principled, and polite. There's been a bit, but not much, off-topic material. (I was the main offender and apologize.) I haven't changed my fundamental position that Wheaton's mission requires it to discriminate against employing persons who choose to espouse certain beliefs and the AEA's mission requires it not to do so. However, I now hold this position a bit less dogmatically and have more appreciation for the alternative. This is an example of why I reccomend regular visits to this site to everyone I know
9.9.2005 9:06am
anonymous coward:
Here is an example of the unique perspective offered by Christian faculty at a different college:

"On our own, we are like the zero vector because no matter what we try, we cannot move away from our sinful status. However, through the grace of Christ, we are transformed from being a zero vector to the eigenspace of the redeemed (the likeness of Christ)."
9.9.2005 9:21am
Aultimer:
John Armstrong is on the right track. Surely there's no obligation on member to post job openings for janitors in the Econ building, and probably no requirement for jobs in other departments where the subject matter is vaguely related. So, there's some definition (express or, more likely, implied) of WHICH jobs the members are compelled to include. Jobs with discriminatory requirements (whether proper or improper) are simply not in the definition.
9.9.2005 9:45am
Anderson (mail) (www):

The question arises also in law schools, where most Offices of Career Services will not permit organizations that discriminate on the basis of religion to recruit on campus, prohibiting many religious public interest organizations from hiring. Yet these same law schools have no problem allowing other organizations that require an explicit ideological commitment to the environment or other causes to recruit on campus.
I suspect that the answer to this question would be that, back in the misty, remote past when freedom of religion was being written into the First Amendment, one's religious beliefs were not considered merely as an ideological expression.

Rather, they concerned the welfare and ultimate fate of one's immortal soul.

When "religion" becomes "just another ideology," the Wheaton Colleges of the world have already lost.
9.9.2005 9:57am
Public_Defender:
When "religion" becomes "just another ideology," the Wheaton Colleges of the world have already lost.

Then their "loss" is society's gain. Many conservative Christian groups have fought and won the right to discriminate based on faith (or lack thereof). But then they turn around and try to deny the same right to people who disagree with some of the practices of conservative Christians (discriminating against gays, for example).

There are some interesting close calls (a landlord who objects to anti-discrimination laws, for example), but the Wheaton case is easy. The Wheaton economics professors should withdraw from the AEA. If they want, they can form an association of Christian economics professors.

I often disagree with Cal Thomas, but he is right on one thing. He regularly chides his fellow Christian conservatives for looking for approval and sanction from non-Christian groups (especially the government).

Here, the Wheaton professors should concentrate on being better Christians and on helping their students be better Christians (and better economists), not on seeking approval from a secular group that doesn't share their religious beliefs.
9.9.2005 11:09am
Richard Bellamy (mail):
To provide a different perspective, the traditional hiring policy of (private) Hasidic yeshivahs in Brooklyn is to hire only other Hasidic Jews, and non-Jews, excluding only secular (non-Hasidic) Jews from their staff -- as they would set a bad example.

It is understood that you need a Jew to teach religion, but while a Hasidic Jew can teach literature -- and can probably do so just as well in most cases -- chances are he's going to miss the Christ imagery. A Gentile economics teacher would not be seen to interfere at all with Hasidus.
9.9.2005 11:21am
Seamus (mail):
"Just as a Jewish individual would be denied a position at yourlocal Methodist church. Nobody would deny the right (and duty) of a Christian church to discriminate in hiring, so why should it change when we're talking about a Christian institution of higher learning?"

I suspect that the AEA implicitly takes the position that there shouldn't be any Christian institutions of higher learning, except in the vague sense that Georgetown University is a "Catholic institution of higher learning." That is, it's OK for colleges that were founded by religious people to make a vague acknowledgement of their origins, but not actually to behave in ways that are substantially different from secular colleges. It's part of the general attitude that regards religion as fine for Sunday or Saturday morning, and as praiseworthy if it helps you be a more "caring" or "moral" person, as long as morality is defined by secular canons (e.g., environmentalism good; racial and religious discrimination bad; homosexuality neutral). But when religious people emerge from their places of worship and actually act in the world, they'd better act according to the world's standards. This position leads to the view that there really shouldn't be anything like a distinctively Christian homeless shelter, a distinctively Christian hospital, a distinctively Christian college. At best, there can be a shelter, a hospital, or a college that happens to be run by people who, in their private lives, happen to be Christians.
9.9.2005 11:23am
guest:

Just as a Jewish individual would be denied a position at yourlocal Methodist church. Nobody would deny the right (and duty) of a Christian church to discriminate in hiring, so why should it change when we're talking about a Christian institution of higher learning? Synagogues don't hire Muslims, Mosques don't hire atheists, so why should we expect a college devoted to living "For Christ and His Kingdom" be held to a different standard?



I haven't seen many listings on JOE from churches, synagogues, or mosques either. It's not that Wheaton can't discriminate based on religion, it's that they can't have it both ways by then insisting their job listings be included on JOE. As others have pointed out, for Wheaton to complain about JOE's policy on job listings is for Wheaton to assert its own freedom of association while seeking to deny that freedom to the AEA.
9.9.2005 11:29am
Tom952 (mail):
Science is the expansion of knowledge through the quest for objective facts, regardless of how inconvenient the objective facts may be. Religion requires adherents to accept doctrine on faith, even if, (or perhaps especially if) the doctrine conflicts with observable facts. The conflict between Wheaton and the AEA occurs due to the fundamental conflict between religion and science.

A religious college has intrinsic potential for its religious doctrine to impede the scholarly quest for knowledge. The conflict is real, and continues to manifest itself regularly in the modern world in, for example, attempts by religious activists to have teaching of evolutionary and/or astro-physics banned in schools. Wheaton is hostile to the scholarly necessity of free inquiry and debate, and as such will find itself in conflict with mainstream academia.

Academia must defend at all cost the right of free inquiry, else the pursuit of knowledge itself is compromised. To expand knowledge for the benefit of all, every idea must be heard and examined.

The AEA is absolutely correct in maintaining a rule to preserve members' right of free inquiry in academia. By mixing religion and academics, Wheaton is breaking the rules; trying to play ping pong on the academic soccer field, so to speak.
9.9.2005 11:59am
chris (mail):
I'm going to ask my question again, especially of Jacob Levy. Why isn't the AEA's stance a case of simple fraud - pretending to be what they are not? The AEA claims to be a broad based organization of economists, but is excluding those who are not beyond the pale.
9.9.2005 12:16pm
Curtis Crawford (mail) (www):
I think it a mistake by the American Economics Association to frame the issue as discrimination based on religious belief. This a private religious college can rightfully practice. The problem is that many items in the required faculty Statement of Belief constrict scholarly freedom of inquiry in academic subjects such as history, biology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, theology, even economics, etc. Can a college do this and still deserve professional academic accreditation? I think not, but would be interested in hearing cogent arguments to the contrary.

Curtis Crawford
9.9.2005 12:23pm
Antton:
Why are Non-Volokh (and a great many commenters) describing Wheaton merely as a "Christian" or "religious" school and acting as though the only people discriminated against are non-Christians? Wheaton isn't merely Christian - they're hardcore evangelical Christians. Take a look at the statement of faith instructors are supposed to subscribe to. It includes:

Adam and Eve as historical figures.
Substitutionary atonement.
Salvation by faith.
Resurrection of the body.
Condemnation [to hell] of all nonbelievers (i.e. people other than hardcore evengelical Christians)

All of these doctrines are controversial among Christians - many are controversial among even less conservative evangelical Christians, not to mention non-evangelical Protestants or Catholics of any stripe.

Describing Wheaton as merely "Christian" without these additional qualifiers leaves three-quarters of the story untold.
9.9.2005 12:28pm
Public_Defender:
I'm going to ask my question again, especially of Jacob Levy. Why isn't the AEA's stance a case of simple fraud - pretending to be what they are not? The AEA claims to be a broad based organization of economists, but is excluding those who are not beyond the pale.

The AEA is a broad-based organization. Wheaton choses to place itself so far out of the mainstream that the school doesn't fall within the AEA's "broad base."

P.S. Your argument sounds similar to a lot of arguments used to try to force the Boy Scouts to accept athiests and gays as members and leaders.
9.9.2005 1:01pm
Jody (mail) (www):
"Condemnation [to hell] of all nonbelievers (i.e. people other than hardcore evengelical Christians)"

Me thinks thou dost stretch too much in your restatement. (Disclosure: my mom went to Wheaton).
9.9.2005 1:16pm
RBG (mail):

A religious college has intrinsic potential for its religious doctrine to impede the scholarly quest for knowledge. The conflict is real, and continues to manifest itself regularly in the modern world in, for example, attempts by religious activists to have teaching of evolutionary and/or astro-physics banned in schools. Wheaton is hostile to the scholarly necessity of free inquiry and debate, and as such will find itself in conflict with mainstream academia.


Unlike, I suppose, secular commitments such as feminism, which never impede scientific inquiry? Come on--religion poses no more inherent obstacle to scientific inquiry than any other firmly held ideological commitment. Just ask Larry Summers. How is Wheaton hostile to "free inquiry and debate" in a way that the feminists at Harvard are not? No appeals to the perfidies of religious activists, please; apart from guilt by association, would anybody care to provide concrete examples of this hostility at Wheaton, or examples of how free inquiry and debate has been suppressed at Wheaton in any way more egregious than happens on a regular basis at our more enlightened secular institutions?
9.9.2005 1:18pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I know the topic is dwindling down, but can we please not refer to people's (or universities') religious beliefs as being "out of the mainstream?" That's just demeaning.

Frankly, the term "out of the mainstream" is rapidly losing all meaning, and will soon be used only as a sound-byte on political talk shows. Frankly, as long as they're not going around advocating mass murder, I really don't care whether someone's faith is within the acceptable average range as determined by a USA Today poll.
9.9.2005 1:21pm
Jody (mail) (www):
As to two other items on the list, you're telling me the following are not mainstream Christianity?

Substitutionary atonement? So, you're saying that most Christians don't believe John 3:16?

Salvation by faith? What of Ephesians 2:8-9? (I don't expect the average person to be able to quote that, so here it is)"For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast."
9.9.2005 1:23pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Well, if a private college had a "commitment to feminism" written into its charter, and required that all courses reflect not just a "feminist" perspective but be in accord with radical feminism (which is to feminism as Wheaton's version of Christianity is to "Christianity") ... then I think the AEA would need to have a similar policy towards that college.

But ARE there any such private colleges?
9.9.2005 1:25pm
Taimyoboi:
Antton,
Are you trying to suggest not all Christian's believe they will be saved by their faith? Or that not all Christian's believe that Jesus died to save them from their sins (subsitutionary atonement)?

Not to mention, nowhere does it say that nonbelievers are condemned to hell. I don't think you can substitute that kind of rhetoric for statements like "the everlasting punishment of the lost."
9.9.2005 1:26pm
Taimyoboi:
"The AEA is a broad-based organization. Wheaton choses to place itself so far out of the mainstream that the school doesn't fall within the AEA's "broad base."

Public defender,
Can you provide the metric with which you measure distance from a mainstream?
9.9.2005 1:28pm
Public_Defender:
I know the topic is dwindling down, but can we please not refer to people's (or universities') religious beliefs as being "out of the mainstream?" That's just demeaning.

Why would it be demeaning? Why isn't it a compliment? Being outside of mainsteam academia is what makes Wheaton unique.
9.9.2005 1:33pm
Public_Defender:
Can you provide the metric with which you measure distance from a mainstream?

Yes--the opinion of the members of the AEA as expressed in their rules. That seems as fair a measure as any when trying to determine the mainstream of economics professors.

Also, see my 12:33 p.m. comment. I don't think it's an insult to say Wheaton is outside of the mainstream.
9.9.2005 1:38pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
As I explained above, "out of the mainstream" is a cheap political soundbite for people who don't have the time, ability, or inclination to make a more substantive point. Applying the same discussion technique to a person's religious beliefs belittles those beliefs. I'm sure you don't understand what I'm talking about, but how about you just do it out of respect since it has no effect on you or this discussion. You scored no points for your rhetorical jab, and you lowered the level of conversation in the process.

But again... I'm just repeating myself.
9.9.2005 1:38pm
Seamus (mail):
"Describing Wheaton as merely 'Christian' without these additional qualifiers leaves three-quarters of the story untold."

I have a hard time figuring out how the fact that "Wheaton isn't merely Christian - they're hardcore evangelical Christians" makes a bit of difference. Or are we saying that we'd be OK with them if they just required their faculty to adhere to some kind of easygoing Episcopalianism or Methodism, but that we can't cut them similar slack if the theology they adhere to is too wacky?
9.9.2005 1:40pm
chris (mail):
Public Defender,

I am not arguing that the AEA should be forced to change its policy. I am only claiming that it is unwise and somewhat dishonest. Broad based umbrella organizations should be just that.

An example: If economics department dominated by Marxists (there are a few left) wants to put in an ad essentially stating "non-Marxists need not apply" then the AEA, as a broad based institution, should accept the ad. I argue this even while acknowledging that Marxist economics is a total bunch of crap and that any dean worth his pay should crack down on such a hiring policy. It's not the AEA's job, as a broad based umbrella organization of economists, to police hiring policies not beyond the pale.

Essentially, this example boils down to two wrongs not making a right.
9.9.2005 1:48pm
Abe Delnore (mail):
I believe I am correct in saying that the AEA's peer organizations--that is, the professional organizations for academics in other disciplines--do not have policies mirroring the AEA's. So one has to wonder, what is up with the AEA? Is there rampant religious discrimination against economists? Is economics particularly religiously sensitive? Or are the officers of the AEA simply perceiving problems that their colleagues in history, anthropology, religious studies, modern languages, etc. don't find?


Some people wonder whether the situation would be different if the institution in question required adherence to mainline Protestant rather than evangelical Protestant Christianity. (Please note, I write and mean mainline, not mainstream. These are very different terms.) This is interesting; however, there is not really an example of that sort of thing available.


Mainline Protestant and Catholic institutions simply do not impose these sorts of religious tests, in part because of their admittedly more liberal (expansive) theological outlooks and, I think, also because they feel that they will provide a better academic product (thus getting a wider selection of faculty, higher college guide ratings, more enrollment, higher tuitions, etc.) if they do not. At most, a dean or someone will mention to a job candidate the school's mission statement about "serving God through education in a pluralistic environment within the Lutheran/Jesuit/Methodist/what-have-you tradition" and that is it. Religious affiliations at these schools tend to mirror that of academia generally and don't usually overrepresent the sponsoring organization except possibly in the theology faculty, if there is one.


--Abe Delnore

9.9.2005 2:00pm
manaen (mail):
Universities don't teach economics; they teach students.

If Wheaton's purpose is to provide the atmosphere in which students are nurtured in their particular faith, it would follow that they would hire professors to do that.

In my classes at BYU (which hires non-LDS faculty), I found the insights from believing professors provided the context I sought to use in my life what they taught. They also shared personal experiences in families, learning, work, and careers from the viewpoint I chose for my life. This helped me to become a whole person.

Educating the whole person used to be what distinguished universities from technical training. I saw this extra-technical guidance as integral to the phrase at the school's entrance, "Enter to Learn -- Go Forth to Serve."

Sometimes we had some interesting moments, as when at the beginning of a vertebrate zoology course, our professor explained that understanding evolution was important to working in that field, even though we believe in a literal creation by God. He then started his lecture with, "Now, turning to Brother Darwin..." His comments through the course helped us to understand not only evolution, but the issues surrounding it and ways to reconcile our faith with it.

I hope this helps you understand why Wheaton would hire only professors that profess only Wheaton's understanding.
9.9.2005 2:15pm
Public_Defender:
As I explained above, "out of the mainstream" is a cheap political soundbite for people who don't have the time, ability, or inclination to make a more substantive point.

Repeating a point does not make it correct. Why do you think it's an insult, rather than a compliment, to say that a devoutly religious school (that requires economics professors to fully agree with a complex set of beliefs) is "out of the mainstream"?


Broad based umbrella organizations should be just that.

Then would agree that it's wrong for the Boy Scouts to exclude atheists and gays?

And how can the AEA's policy be "dishonest"? It's easy to find the policy on their website. They don't hide it. Too many people say "dishonest" when they should say "position I disagree with."

As to wisdom, Professor Levy's post does a better job than I could of defending the policy's wisdom. I'll just add that an organization that includes people of many faiths (and no faith) could reasonably expect its members to treat each other equally regardless of faith. People who can't abide by that can find another organization.
9.9.2005 2:21pm
Jeremy (mail):
Let us not ignore the fact that a refusal to post Wheaton's job may deny a Jewish economist a job.

Suppose that a Christian who would love (and prefer) to go to Wheaton applies for a job actually in the JOE. A Jewish guy applies for the same job. The Christian finishes first and gets the job, while the Jewish guy finishes second. The Christian would have preferred Wheaton, but never knew about their job opening. The Jewish guy would have gotten the job but for the JOE's refusal to post jobs from organizations that discriminate against non-Christians.

You'd think economists would understand the simple laws of supply and demand. The more job postings there are, the better chance EVERY ECONOMIST has of getting a job. The JOE rules make sense only if some schools would discriminate but choose not to ONLY to get in the JOE. My sense is that few if any employers are like that; discrimination decisions are rarely based on such minor considerations.

The JOE's refusal to give access to religious discriminators almost certainly hurts all economic job-seekers. Duh.
9.9.2005 2:28pm
chris (mail):
The Boy Scouts are not a broad based umbrella organization. They have a specific defined set of beliefs they want members to adhere to. They are not for everyone. The AEA, on the other hand, is basically a few journals (the big one being the American Economic Review) and one big (and terrible) conference a year that has as its chief function a marketplace for new professors. It is not a collection of like-minded people. It is a collection of like-credentialed people.

As for dishonest, I called the policy "somewhat dishonest" as opposed to simply dishonest for a reason. It's a borderline thing. Yes, they don't hide the policy. But my point is that they also sell themselves as, basically, the organization for American economists, not the organization for American economists who believe in A, B, and C.
9.9.2005 3:46pm
Public_Defender:
The Boy Scouts are not a broad based umbrella organization.

They certainly presented themselves as a broad based group back in the dark ages when I became an Eagle Scout. But that's another thread.

Back to this thread, how many economists does the AEA's policy impact? My guess is only a tiny handful out of 19,000 members. I think you can call an organization "broad-based" if it represents all but a very few potential members.

JNV asked if this were a wise policy. If the majority of AEA members believe that it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation when hiring economists, then I think they are morally compelled to stop people from using the AEA for those purposes. People who feel morally compelled to discriminate based on religion or sexual orientation should find another organization (or seek to change the AEA from within).
9.9.2005 4:45pm
Chris Lawrence (mail) (www):
Small data point: the American Political Science Association (not an organization known for being to the political right of the AEA) does accept ads from Wheaton.

That said, I'm not sure you are being true to the spirit of science (and I include social sciences, like economics) if you're ruling certain questions as not being subject to honest scientific inquiry. For example, the empirical validity of whether or not Adam and Eve actually existed is something that could (in theory) be determined*... but Wheaton says, "they existed, notwithstanding any evidence to the contrary," much as the Church once told Galileo "the sun revolves around the Earth, notwithstanding any evidence to the contrary."

* Testing this empirically is left as an exercise for the reader.
9.9.2005 4:53pm
Jamie Darin Prenkert:
I'm a bit late to the conversation, but I would direct interested commenters to my article in the Hofstra Labor &Employment Law Journal, which discusses the use of religious preferences by religiously-affiliated institutions of higher education. I suggest that such preferences may be an efficient way for such institutions to protect and solidify their missions and, as well, to foster a second-order diversity among institutions of higher education. I, in fact, discuss the external pressures to secularize such institutions' missions (such as through accreditation processes) as a reason many of them may choose to engage in the preferential hiring on the basis of religion, on the theory that a relatively homogenous faculty serves as a united front against such pressures and insulates the institution to some extent. It's interesting here that the external pressure is aimed directly at the tool that many schools use to protect, in part, the pervasive religious character of their schools.

For what it's worth, the article is Prenkert, "Liberty, Diversity, Academic Freedom, and Survival: Preferential Hiring Among Religiously-Affiliated Institutions of Higher Education," 22 Hofstra Lab. &Emp. L.J. 1 (2004).
9.9.2005 5:48pm
ReaderY:
Both organizations enjoy the privelege of being selective in who they choose to disseminate their message, although of course others are free to disagree with their choices. It's a free country.
9.9.2005 10:20pm
ReaderY:
Both organizations enjoy the privelege of being selective in whom they choose to disseminate their message, although of course others are free to disagree with their choices. It's a free country.
9.9.2005 10:20pm
Curtis Crawford (mail) (www):
Some posts have excused the trespasses on academic freedom in Wheaton's required faculty Statement of Faith by pointing to analogous though unwritten expectations in politically correct colleges. I agree that such expectations exist, and consider them fully as destructive of the freedom of scholarly inquiry as some of the items in Wheaton's Statement. With apologies for offering them so late in this discussion, herewith some propositions for pc Statements of Faith:

1. All cultures are equally valid: there is no objective basis for considering one culture more favorable to human development than another.
2. Western civilization has stood out as a source of racism, sexism, oppression, imperialism, colonialism and aggressive war.
3. Racial genetic differences in mental potential do not exist; racial differences in academic achievement are due to environmental disadvantages including adverse discrimination.
4. Sexual genetic differences in mental potential do not exist; sexual differences in academic achievement are due to environmental disadvantages including adverse discrimination.
5. In a racially just society, there would be no racial difference in individual wealth, status or power.
6. In a sexually just society, there would be no sexual difference in individual wealth, status or power.
7. Until a racially just society is achieved, racial discrimination favoring minorities over whites in education and employment is necessary and right.
8. Until a sexually just society is achieved, sexual discrimination favoring women over men in education and employment is necessary and right.
9.12.2005 1:05pm
Public_Defender:
I know it's late in the game, but would the people who support Wheaton's right to have a special exception to the AEA's rules give the same special exception to a school that said, "No Evangelical Christians" or simply, "No Christians"? What if the school demanded that all applicants sign an oath specifically denying the divinity of Jesus or the truth of the Bible?
9.13.2005 9:43am