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. . . .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.
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.
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.