The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has recommended to change employment policies requiring Christian-only staff in German churches and its affiliates.
Evgeni Tanchev, an adviser to Europe’s highest court, has called on German churches to practice fair employment. He asked churches to not discriminate non-Christian job applicants and employees in church-run charities, hospitals, social welfare organizations, and schools, reports Deutsche Welle.
Vera Egenberger applied for a position in 2012 at the Diakonie, a charitable organization run by Germany’s Protestant churches. Despite her experience and qualification for the 18-month contract, she was not hired nor interviewed. Egenberger is not religious and she saw that it was the reason why her application was dismissed.
A case was filed and Egenberger sued the German charity for nearly $11,600 for violating the European Union’s Equal Treatment Directive of 2000. Germany’s Labor Court found that the plaintiff suffered discrimination. Egenberger then brought the case to the ECJ.
Tanchev noted that the church prioritizes Christians for jobs in different organizations. His nonbinding recommendation for equal treatment in employment will be used in the ECJ’s upcoming decision in Egenberger’s case.
There is a conflict, however, between the German and EU laws, and within the national law itself. Under the German constitution, churches are entitled to decide whom to employ, and, at the same time, the country’s Equal Treatment Act (AGG) prohibits any religious discrimination against employees or applicants.
A similar case was won in 2013 by two former employees of a Christian charity in Reading, England.
Mark Sheridan and Louise Hender sued Prospects for its discrimination against non-Christian employees, according to Get Reading. Both were unable to apply or get a promotion for not being Christians.
“When I worked for Prospects I would have preferred people to be Christian because then the ethos would have made more sense,” said Sheridan. “I think Prospects would have preferred all people to be Christian but given the reality of what people did on the ground, a preference is as far as they could go.”