Woman Sues InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for Firing Her (but Not Men) After a Divorce

Alyce Conlon worked as a spiritual director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Michigan for about seven years (and for the company in general for more than two decades) before she got fired following her divorce.

If that sounds unnecessarily cruel, well, what do you expect? IVCF is the same organization that once told a gay Christian he couldn’t be an officer of his campus IVCF group because of his cooties.

Conlon’s now suing IVCF — good for her — claiming that she was treated very differently compared to men who had been in the same position. The more you read about how her situation was handled by the company, the less respect you’ll have for this Jesus-loving group:

“During this leave of absence, plaintiff followed each and every requirement of the Separation and Divorcing Staff Policy including counseling sessions and continuing communication with her supervisors as to her progress.”

During the absence, [IVCF's regional director of the Great Lakes Region Fred] Bailey and [Ohio Valley Division director Marc] Papai contacted her husband, David Riemer, to discuss the marriage — without Conlon’s knowledge, the lawsuit said.

Papai also provided a “Staff only confidential policy” to the husband, then he and Bailey asked him to write a letter about their marriage. They also ordered Conlon to see a counselor of her husband’s choice, the lawsuit said.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit contends, two men who also went through divorces still have their IVCF jobs:

“Defendants approved of at least two male employees keeping their employment with IVCF despite their separation, divorce and becoming remarried, while disciplining and discharging plaintiff, a female, for not reconciling her marriage.”

Making matters worse is IVCF’s heartless public statement, which shows no empathy for Conlon and suggests that she’s the problem for not being Christian enough:

“A vital element of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty is the freedom of religious employers to make hiring decisions through the use of faith-based criteria,” the statement said.

As a Christian organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s credibility and witness depends on its ability to hire and retain personnel who share and abide by InterVarsity’s faith commitments. It is deeply regrettable that a former employee has chosen to challenge this key constitutional liberty.

Of course, Conlon was (and still is, as far as we know) a deeply committed Christian. She followed the company’s “If you get a divorce” rules and was still punished.

A judge will have to settle this issue, but in the court of public opinion, there’s no contest here. It would surprise 0% of people if a Christian organization like IVCF used a double-standard against women. I mean, would anyone really be shocked to learn that IVCF treated men as superior to women (taking Conlon’s husband’s word over hers) or treating gay people as inferior to straight people? It’s what they do. And it’s why no decent person should want to work for an organization like that.

That applies to Christians, too. There are plenty of decent organizations that would treat Conlon with respect, and I hope one of them reaches out and offers her a job — if they haven’t already.

(via Religion Clause)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.