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a bit more about my World Vision post on The Monkey Cage

29 March 2014

Yesterday I wrote a post I wrote for The Monkey Cage about World Vision USA’s recent flip-flop on hiring Christians in legal same-sex marriages (between Monday and Wednesday of this week: yes; every other time, including now: no). In it, I point out the hypocrisy (already argued by Ed Carr) of the US government de-funding anti-gay organizations in Uganda while simultaneously providing contracts to World Vision USA (to the tune of >$148 million in FY 2013 alone). I point out in the post, however, that the reversal by World Vision should not be surprising. Though they receive a lot of government grants, their funding comes primarily from private cash donations, I presume largely from Christians, who tend to have more negative views towards same-sex relationships/acts (according to the best data we have).

Some feedback (primarily through Facebook) I received included the following:

1. De-funding World Vision is bad because it will be hardest felt on all the poor people they serve. 

World Vision provides goods and services, sometimes in challenging environments — and if they were de-funded, they would not be able to provide those goods and services that may be essential for populations in critical need. However, they’re not actually all that great at what they do. They claim to have incredible impact, but I can’t find an unbiased, rigorous impact evaluation of their work–only PDFs posted on their own web site (if any hnh readers can alert me to some such thing, please do so in the comments). This biting post gives two recent examples of World Vision being particularly lame:

Their longstanding practice of giving away the Super Bowl loser t-shirts is roundly criticized by anyone who knows what good aid looks like… They further lost credibility last year when they actively lobbied against food aid reform

2. World Vision is not just discriminating against gays — their hiring practices also discriminate on the basis of religion.

As one blogger points out, because World Vision is a religious organization, it’s perfectly legal for them to discriminate on the basis of religion:

Religious organizations, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques, are exempt from the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment. The reasoning for that exemption is simple: you wouldn’t, of course, require a synagogue to hire a Catholic as a rabbi.

I don’t condone discrimination based on any status (including age, you random WaPo commenters). I know it seemed like I was saying they can’t discriminate against gays but they can against non-Christians — and that’s not really what I was saying. Rather, I was asking: why are they discriminating in their own group? If they only hire Christians, why discriminate against those among them based on who they love?

My point in The Monkey Cage post was to give some understanding to the reversed decision — I suspect they discriminate against those among them based on who they love because it might be financially incentivized (based on my look at Christian public opinion on homosexuality and World Vision USA’s annual financial report).

My goal with the post was to push the question on whether the US government would hold an American organization to the same human rights standards it requires of Ugandan organizations. The US government provides funding to Ugandan faith-based organizations, but apparently, they’re not going to continue funding ones that discriminate against gays. Will they also de-fund American organizations that discriminate against gays?

Nonetheless, there remains the question of whether World Vision should be allowed to discriminate based on religion if they continue to receive federal funds. Though it’s perfectly legal for World Vision to discriminate based on religion in their hiring practices, I don’t think an organization should get federal funds if they have ANY discriminatory hiring practices. You can’t unbundle World Vision’s provision of goods and services to people in need from their additional religious goals. I do not share their religious goals, nor do an increasing number of my fellow Americans. It’s legal for World Vision to discriminate, just do it with your own money, not with mine.


tl;dr: There’s no reason to give World Vision your money.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. AE Smith permalink
    30 March 2014 10:18 am

    A further issue that complicates the picture slightly is that WV is also discriminating against sexually active unmarried straight people. Of course, in principle the end result is they discriminate against all non-abstinent gay people, and only some non-abstinent straight people. Uganda, of course, is also discriminating against people based on behavior rather than attraction/orientation. Anyway, the logic is complicated, but I’m pretty sure one could find a way to split the hair and justify one type of discrimination but not the other.

  2. AE Smith permalink
    30 March 2014 10:25 am

    Oh, I wrote something earlier, but apparently didn’t hit post. I actually read the WaPo post yesterday but didn’t reply because the comments section scares me. While I generally agree, there is an important qualitative distinction between the two types of discrimination: one involves serious criminal penalties, while the other is about employment discrimination. Though I don’t support either, I think one could make a logically consistent argument supporting one but not the other.

  3. mzungu wa china permalink
    1 April 2014 2:19 pm

    What constitutes discrimimation is such a poorly discussed topic in the US as is the ease with which laws against discrimination are bypassed that I wonder at the utility and thoughtfulness of most discrimination based outrage.

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