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One of the "essential duties and requirements" for this job posting on Stack Overflow is:

Maintains a personal, active relationship with Jesus Christ and is a consistent witness for Jesus Christ

Given that the job is with a Christian evangelical organization, this seems like a reasonable requirement: after all, it's in their interest to hire subject matter experts.

But under what circumstances is that requirement legal or illegal in the United States, and specifically North Carolina?

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    The federal law you want is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the state law you want is the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act. The EEOC also has a Q&A on religious discrimination. – BSMP Jun 22 '16 at 3:36
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    This will ramble a bit. Many years ago, I worked at General Dynamics / Fort Worth Division. A friend once asked my mother whether GD/FW was a good place to work. She asked him "Do you love airplanes?" His answer was, basically "Meh." She explained, from my experience, and that of her husband (my father), who had also worked there, that he probably would not be happy working at GD/FW if he didn't love airplanes. Similarly, if you are not a Billy Graham-flavor evangelical Christian, you probably would not be happy working for their organization. This is more important than the legality. – John R. Strohm Jun 22 '16 at 19:26
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There are exceptions to the Title VII prohibition, which "does not apply to discrimination by a religious organization on the basis of religion in hiring and discharge. The exemption applies to an organization whose 'purpose and character are primarily religious.'" In all other respects, a religious organization is bound by the law that everyone else must follow. The EEOC defines "religion" as "includ[ing] moral or ethical beliefs as to right and wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views", but that does not seem to encompass metaphysical beliefs (e.g. about reincarnation, who created the universe...). They also state that "Religious discrimination also includes discrimination against someone because s/he is an atheist". The wording there is of some significance, since it does not say that an atheist organization is a "religious organization" which would be entitled to discriminate in favor of atheists in hiring practices. The statutory definitions section of the law tells us that "religion"

includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business

which doesn't actually support the commission's decision to extend coverage to atheist employees. That interpretation comes from post-statutory case law, such as Shapolia v. Los Alamos Nat'l Lab., 773 F. Supp. 304, 305.

What is unclear is what a "religious organization" is. The exemption comes from 42 USC 2000e–1(a):

This subchapter shall not apply to an employer with respect to the employment of aliens outside any State, or to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities

but the definitions do not clearly state that an organization dedicates to denying religious beliefs is legally subsumed under the exemption. Billy Graham would be, dunno about an atheist organization.

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    Indeed, the waters are murky and apparently case-by-case. From the EEOC on exemption thresholds: "Title VII does not apply to discrimination by a religious organization on the basis of religion in hiring and discharge. The exemption applies to an organization whose "purpose and character are primarily religious." This determination requires a weighing of all significant religious and secular characteristics." – bishop Jun 22 '16 at 17:02
  • Can one require musicians playing instruments on stage to be male? (I know of a female singer who seemingly does that.) – Michael Hardy Apr 30 at 5:42
  • (I also know of an instance in which a Catholic school employed an observant Jew to instruct children in Catholic theology.) – Michael Hardy Apr 30 at 5:43
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Short answer: Yes they can. They can even go so far as requiring you to be a Baptist/Protestant/Methodist.

Title VII prohibits many kinds of discrimination by employers, however religious organizations have an exemption to the religion part of Title VII. They can legally discriminate against people with other religious beliefs, even so far as allowing a Baptist church to require it's employees be Baptist (not just Christian). They can even ask narrow questions about a specific teaching and can discriminate based on your answers to those questions. They can also terminate an employee if their religious beliefs change while they are employed. This page has some good info. Not sure about North Carolina specifically, IANAL but I think these rules and this exemption are at the federal level.

  • I think a "Yes" answer is too strong. From the EEOC on exemption thresholds: "[The exemption] determination requires a weighing of all significant religious and secular characteristics." – bishop Jun 22 '16 at 17:03
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    @bishop I agree. This answer seems to provide a definite answer, yet fails to cite any legislation or precedents that are relevant. A general use-case website that doesn't look into specific incidents, and doesn't address specific jurisdictions doesn't count as a strong resource to cite. – Zizouz212 Jun 22 '16 at 19:59

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