When The Pre-Employment Interview Process Enters “Forbidden Territory," Part 2



In the last post, you developed a scenario that highlighted a young man’s struggles, particularly with depression, father-bonding, and some sexual identification issues. Your question was how a Member Care person, receiving such information in the application process, should deal with it.

The Increasing Incidence of Complicated, Sensitive Information

One thing I am hearing from my clients is that such scenarios are now common. For instance, the majority of the young people applying to missions have used, or are currently using, pornography, with the attendant problems that creates. And with a generation or two of broken homes, many other problems surface that were not so common at one time.

First, let’s consider whether the organization legitimately got that information. If this were a secular job, questions eliciting information like that in your scenario would be prohibited. For one thing, they would be an invasion of privacy, and they could easily draw us into other forbidden territory in employment law, such as disability or gender or sexual orientation discrimination.

However, this is a religious organization, and this information was provided in response to a question about the person’s Christian testimony. So, for a religious organization, this territory is not forbidden—in fact, it is core to what the religious organization does.

Options for Responding to Complicated, Sensitive Information

The mission now has several options. If the person seems to be in a state of spiritual fragility or lack of spiritual maturity such that he cannot serve, turning him down is one option, and may be the right approach for a subset of applicants. But routinely turning down people with spiritual issues would make it practically very difficult to recruit. Also, it is theologically unsound. The point of the Gospel is that we believe in healing and redemption.

A second approach is just to ignore the problems unless and until they crop up again later. Since everyone has some problems, and they may be mild, this could be an appropriate approach for another subset of people.

A third approach is to require some kind of psychological counseling. This may be the most appropriate tactic in some situations, but as we’ve discussed extensively, it has to be done very carefully both in terms of timing and in terms of meeting legitimate business reasons to do so. I won’t discuss this further here, because we have other posts on this gnarly problem, except to comment that it’s the most risky legally.

A fourth approach is to have “spiritual formation” as part of candidate training. While this adds to the mission’s load in some ways, a formal commitment to spiritual formation is likely to be more and more necessary, given the baggage people are bringing from a post-Christian culture. For instance, the young man in your scenario has already said that he benefited greatly from being discipled by a group of older men. The spiritual formation process could continue to explore and help him heal from some of his experiences. From the legal perspective, religious organizations are quite free to engage in spiritual formation.

Brent, I realize these problems aren’t easy, but redemption never is. Reaching the world for Christ starts with letting Christ transform ourselves.

Featured Image: ”Fence” by Pixabay.

More in this series: Part 1

Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion

Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations