(CN) – The nonprofit Christian humanitarian organization World Vision is exempt from claims of religious discrimination brought by three employees who say they were fired because they “denied the deity of Jesus Christ and disavowed the doctrine of the Trinity,” the 9th Circuit ruled.
In a lawsuit filed by the three former employees against World Vision, the district court ruled that the organization did not act discriminatorily because it fired them after finding out that they were not the Christians they claimed to be.
When they were hired, the employees submitted required personal statements describing their “relationship with Jesus Christ” and all three acknowledged their agreement and compliance with World Vision’s statement of faith, core values and mission statement, the ruling says.
The district court ruled that World Vision is exempt from claims of religious discrimination because it is a religious organization and operates for that purpose.
On appeal, a 2-1 majority for the 9th Circuit agreed.
“While World Vision is neither owned by nor affiliated with a formally religious entity in the traditional sense, this does not preclude our finding that it is a ‘primarily religious’ organization and thus eligible” for exemption from discrimination claims, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the Seattle-based panel.
In her dissent, Judge Marsha Berzon wrote, “If World Vision is right, then it may refuse to hire, and may fire, on the basis of their religious beliefs individuals — like the plaintiffs here — whose jobs have no religious element at all.”