The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Monday, April 07, 2014


Posted by Seeking Solace |'s a question for the academic masses. Ready?

Would you apply for a job at an institution whose mission goes against your beliefs?  If yes, would you disclose those beliefs if asked or lie about them?

There is an adjunct teaching opportunity at a local law school. This law school's prides itself on being faithful to its Christan heritage and values. I would jump at this opportunity except...

I am an atheist.

Let me start off by saying that I do not care what someone believes or doesn't believe. One's views are personal to them. It's their truth. I am all for discussion of different views, but I draw the line at trying to indoctrinate someone into their belief system or chastise them for not believing in the way that they do. I do have strong views about the role of church and state which is tied more to constitutional legal theory.  I do not wear my atheism on my sleeve.

I have never disclosed my beliefs to my students. I don't think they should know where I stand on any particular issue. If asked, I tell my students that what I believe is irrelevant and a little scary (the scary part is my attempt at humor). My goal as a professor has always been that students need to figure out for themselves what their own truth is. They need to ask questions and view all sides of an issues. They also need to back up what they say with solid evidence. Even if I don't believe what they believe, they must be able to back up what they say.

So, the issue is that if I was to get an interview, my belief system is fair game. It is not an illegal question for an interview because it falls under the bona-fide occupational qualification BFOQ) exception.  I suppose I could lie and tell them that I am Catholic (I was a cradle Catholic), but that is ethically unacceptable. But, if I am truthful, it could be the reason to deny me. With the exception of not having a license to practice law in Elsewhere (I am still licensed in my former state), I am more than qualified to do the job.

There are other public law schools in the area, but they would be difficult for me, transportation-wise.This is a second re-posting, which makes me think they are having trouble finding qualified candidates. The  job would be an excellent opportunity to take my teaching to the next level and work with some advanced level students. Also, working with the students at this school would be helpful for one of my research interests and it would look nice on the CV.

OK...what would you do?


JaneB said...

I think I'd apply, not mention it in the materials (unless expressly asked and then might answer something like "raised Catholic") then in the interview outline your position as you have here - if they deny you, their loss.

But as a UK-based non-conformist protestant, I maybe don't understand the particular implications of a Christian school in the US...

Anonymous said...

I would probably apply and just see what they ask in an interview. It's an open question what they want. If they are protestant, even saying you're Catholic is going to be insufficient, I think. It will prompt further questions because there is such a wide variety among Catholics. So they're going to ask and at that point, I would be honest but I would suggest saying the kinds of things you say here. You're an atheist but you're not militantly anti-Christian. You're fair-minded and even-handed which would potentially make you a really good instructor for students in this context. It all depends on whether the institution wants people who understand and will respect it's mission or whether it only wants people who share its precise beliefs. It could go either way. And so I would apply and then be transparent about things.


Karen said...

I'm not an academic, but I say no. You've had SUCH a tough journey in academia with finding your right "fit" that I think it's just asking for trouble up front to apply for a position where you know you may be the odd man out and have to fight against the masses. Again.

Belle said...

I was concerned when I applied at RNU at it was religiously affiliated (protestant). Fortunately, they mean it when they say they really don't care. I'm not the only pagan on campus, and the faculty of religion has an ex-Jesuit priest, English has pagans, former nuns-turned-agnostics, etc.. I'd say it depends on the particular institution, and you can't know until you talk to people. Two unis in the area are also religiously affiliated, and they required their religion in each and every classroom; those I wouldn't touch with a very long pole. But RNU is actually welcoming of diverse views and beliefs. So... hard to generalize.

Anonymous said...

Nope. Many of those schools will make you sign something once hired that you will uphold those beliefs. The students you teach will expect those beliefs in your instruction as well.