Faith Matters: A Liberty-Based Approach to Achieving the Goals of the Civil Rights Movement
Years ago in Atlanta, my wife Sarah and I conducted an inner-city youth ministry. I saw that the young men who came to our ministry, mostly from fatherless homes, either had trouble getting jobs or keeping them. In response, I restructured my existing business to help these young men learn to be successful in the workforce. In doing so, I used the same model as many non-profit ministries and applied a holistic approach, incorporating faith-based discipleship alongside specific job skills training.
Ask any employer and they will tell you that the predominant reason someone fails to last in a job is associated with morality, not from technical inability to do that job. Therefore, since faith is the very foundation of morality, I believe that faith-based discipleship is more important to long term workplace success
than specific job skills training.
My new business model proved successful in both helping people who came from disadvantaged backgrounds AND in achieving an increasing bottom line result. However, this outcome is possible only if an employer is given freedom to exercise faith-based discernment in making hiring decisions. An employer has limited resources and if not given the freedom to hire and maintain employees discriminately in accordance with his/her established development plan, the business will not survive to help anyone.
Unfortunately, the religious component of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids an employer from considering belief or faith practices when making hiring, firing, or promotional decisions. Had my business contained more than 15 employees, the threshold stipulated in Title VII, the success I enjoyed with my business model would have subjected me to a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the federal government.
To me, this federal intervention is ludicrous. In our nation, settlers came to live out their faith without hindrance from the government. In a private business where the employer funds the payroll, he/she should be free to exercise discernment in hiring in accordance with their faith. For example, the Christian faith
teaches exercising discernment in those we help: Galatians 2:10 says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” This scripture does not espouse hatred as some want to interpret “being discriminate.” Rather, it points to prioritizing due
to limited resources.
Ironically, my business model assisted in achieving the very goals of the Civil Rights Movement. The religious component and the gender component (as gender was redefined in the 2020 case brought before the Supreme Court) are the only components of Title VII that involve choice and therefore is a part of one’s moral character. They should be examined in and of themselves apart from the other components of Title VII. Dr. King himself said that we should judge based on the content of one’s character.
Two of the young men I hired in my business came from very similar backgrounds, though I deemed one to be more talented than the other. Both demonstrated initial failures in honesty, but I stuck with them anyway. To assist them in developing good moral character, such as honesty, was the very reason I included spiritual development as part of my business plan. Both men committed to practicing spiritual disciplines I believed to be best for them and thus best for my business. However, the more talented man failed to keep his commitment, and I made the decision to let him go. He landed another job with a similar business but due to an act that “wounded” that business, he eventually had to be let go again.
The general manager of a longstanding and successful Christian business that has suffered due to the religious component of Title VII cited a relevant passage of the Bible with me in discussing their business model: “Like an archer that wounds at random, so is he who hires a fool or a passerby (Proverbs 6:10).” Different religions will define wisdom and foolishness differently. For the Christian employer, according to the parable of The Wise and Foolish Builder, a
wise person is someone who hears and practices the teachings of Jesus but a foolish person is one who is only a hearer of the Word, not taking it to heart.
The “less talented” employee, who continued in his commitment to the holistic development plan I implemented, in time became a wonderful asset to my business. He grew to be my most faithful employee; in him I developed complete trust, which was so important as we worked inside the homes of wealthy families in the Buckhead Community of Atlanta. When I closed my business to return to teaching, he landed a job in the same type of business and continues with great success today. In addition to Biblical accounts, his story reminds me of the moral lesson found in Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, which teaches that it is not the most talented that will succeed but rather the most faithful.
I write a fuller account of this success on the page of this website called “A Beautiful Story.” It serves as a powerful example of using my own faith to extend some grace and hire at least in part based on an employee ascribing to a particular set of beliefs. Hiring based strictly on merit as the Republican Platform
advocates in Workplace Freedom for a 21st Century Workforce points to more government policies that will restrict employers; this hiring only on
merit conflicts with faith development, which doesn’t focus exclusively on where a person “is,” but rather where that person “will be” if they continue exercising the disciplines of a chosen religious course. As Christian apologist Dallas Willard has written, “Grace is not opposed to effort, grace is opposed to earning.”
Both the Republicans and the Democrats support the religious component of Title VII that forbids employers from considering a person’s beliefs and religious practices when making hiring decisions. Under the heading, We the People, in the Republican platform, the non-discrimination policies it refers to in Workplace Freedom for a 21st Century include the religious component. I support more freedom from government regulations and focus on rescinding the religious component of Title VII.
However, in the same light, given the 2020 decision by the Supreme Court that requires Title VII’s gender component to now include sexual orientation and gender identity, I believe that the gender component should be clarified to be the gender one is born with, as the original writers of the law intended. Justice Neil Gorsuch, author of the majority opinion in the ruling, recognized the ability of Congress to clarify the law to change the scope of how it should be applied.
It is not my goal to single out homosexual or transgender people but simply to say that like the religious component, the practice of homosexuality and the changing of natal gender involves choice and therefore, involves moral character. Relative to moral character, employees have the freedom to choose where they are going to work. Employers should have the freedom to choose who is going to work in their business on that same basis. The government needs to simply stay out and let “we the people” work this out for ourselves as we currently have the freedom to do when choosing where we will worship, whom we will marry, and who will be our best friends.
The First Amendment gives people the right to believe as they wish and not be restricted by the federal government; it certainly doesn’t take away our freedom of association based on religion. It is however the religious component of Title VII that does that in the workplace. If anything, Title VII is contrary to the First Amendment as Republican Senator (and 1964 Presidential Nominee) Barry Goldwater vehemently argued and Republican Senator Rand Paul mentioned in 2010 regarding its application to private businesses. What both Goldwater and Paul failed to do is what I am attempting by isolating the religious component and examining it alone, apart from the other components of Title VII. Just as the Democrats have wanted to add to Title VII in such legislative propositions as “The Equality Act,” so also can Title VII be amended to rescind any of the individual components.
My passion for this issue runs far deeper that just mere freedom for freedom’s sake. My heart is for faith-based businesses of all sizes and types to have liberty from the federal government to do as I did in my small business. Why limit faith-based efforts to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds to just non-profit ministries? Through the heavy hand of the government, the liberals want to force people to help through progressive tax policies that in turn fund all the federal government programs. If continued, these socialistic policies will eventually lead us all into poverty. I want the government to just get out of
the way and give more liberty for employers of all sizes to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds and thus fulfill the goal of the Civil Rights Movement.
As success is demonstrated in businesses that utilize the freedom I advocate for, it will be on display for all to see so that others can freely emulate. That is the way America is supposed to work. Please stand with me to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights so that the religious component is rescinded and the gender component is clarified.