On August 23, 2010, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that World Vision is a religious organization and is therefore exempt from Title VII prohibitions on religious discrimination.

Three  former employees Silvia Spencer, Ted Youngberg, and Vicki Hulse had had filed suit against the well-known humanitarian organization in 2007, claiming they had been victims of religious discrimination when they were fired because they did not agree with the religious beliefs of the organization. When hired, they had acknowledged their agreement and compliance with World Vision's Statement of Faith, Core Values, and Mission Statement, but they later denied the diety of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity.

In a 2-1 decision, the 9th Circuit ruled that despite the fact that secular organizations could provide the same or similar services, World Vision is a religious organization in practice and in its Articles of Incorporation, and provides Christian religious and missionary services.  The court ruled that World Vision is free to continue faith-based hiring.

In a statement, World Vision applauded the court's decision, "Our Christian faith has been the foundation of our work since the organization was established in 1950, and our hiring policy is vital to the integrity of our mission to serve the poor as followers of Jesus Christ. . . . World Vision will continue to vigorously defend our organization's freedom to hire employees who share our faith, as do other religious organizations, whether Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, or Christian."

World Vision is known for its child sponsorship program which provides donors the opportunity to make monthly donations toward the education of children in impoverished countries for $1 a day.  The organization is purported to serve over 100 million children in 100 countries around the world. For more information, visit http://www.worldvision.org


  • The 9th Circuit's Ruling in Sylvia Spencer v. World Vision Inc. is available here.  In this reviewer's opinion, the concurring opinion of Judge Andrew Kleinfeld beginning at p. 12259, provides an excellent primer on how Title VII applies to religious organizations.

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