A school district in rural Michigan has removed the "Christian" requirement from its job posting for superintendent after receiving a warning letter from the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to the Associated Press, the ACLU wrote a letter to the McBain Rural Agricultural School on Tuesday to challenge the religious criteria that was included in its job posting for superintendent. The original job post on the school district's website was initially posted on Feb. 12 containing the requirement of "a strong Christian background and philosophy."
"There is no principle more fundamental to American public education than the requirement that schools be welcoming of all students, employees and administrators regardless of religious or ethnic background," ACLU lawyers Steve Morse, Daniel Korobkin and Marc Allen wrote. "Our Constitution wisely requires public schools to remain neutral in matters of religion."
The ACLU argued that if a school played favorites when it came to matters of religion, "students and teachers who do not subscribe to the favored religion are made to feel like they do not belong." The organization claimed the school district was breaking various federal and state laws by including the Christian requirement, which could be considered a discriminatory hiring practice.
"You are likely violating numerous federal and state laws, including the Establishment Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, the corresponding guarantees of the Michigan Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act," the ACLU wrote.
The ACLU admitted in its letter that there was "nothing wrong" with public school districts hiring a superintendent with a religious background. However, the legal organization argued that there were limits.
"The religious beliefs of a candidate for an administrative position in a public school system cannot be the basis for a hiring decision," the ACLU wrote. "Furthermore, candidates of any religious background, or no religious background, must be welcome to apply and must be given full and equal consideration for the position.
According to Kyle Moroney of MLive, Scott Crosby, the regional president of the Michigan Leadership Institute for West Central Michigan, admitted that the wording was in "poor judgment" from him alone, not the school board. Crosby told Moroney that he was only trying to reflect the area's "close-knit and conservative" beliefs.
"There are other ways to reflect that," Crosby said. "Clearly, it was not intended to discriminate in any way, shape or form."
Crosby, who spent 33 years in education according to Moroney, added that the school district was a "welcoming, inclusive environment where all backgrounds are respected."
"As the person responsible for this posting, I apologize to your organization and to any individual who feels that our language was discriminatory in any way," Crosby wrote in an email to the ACLU. "There was no mention of preference, favoritism, or this being a requirement in reviewing this document."
Allen told Moroney that he appreciated the swift response from the Michigan school district.
"We appreciate them taking our letter seriously and responding promptly," Allen said.