Religion as a negative job qualification

I found this news report interesting. It says that in a study done with having purported students send out resumes for jobs, those who mentioned having been involved in some sort of religious activities resulted in them being less likely to receive a response.

The researchers tested seven religious categories including: Roman Catholic, evangelical Christian, atheist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, and one faith they just made up, “Wallonian,” to see what would happen compared to people who made no faith reference.

Fewer employers called back the “Wallonians,” as well as the others, reacting to “a fear of the unknown,” said University of Connecticut sociology professor Michael Wallace who led the studies.

In the South, where researchers sent 3,200 resumes, those with a religious mention got 29 percent fewer email responses and 33 percent fewer phone calls than otherwise identical resumes with no faith ties according to the study, released by the Southern Sociological Society on their Social Currents site.

Muslims faced the sharpest discrimination with 38 percent fewer emails and 54 percent fewer phone calls to the voice mailboxes set up by the researchers.

The study did not look at why employers tend to shy away from people who seem more involved with religion, which will likely be the point of a future study. It does seem a bit surprising, given that the US is an ostensibly religious country and that people who are religious are considered more moral and ethical than the nonreligious.

I wonder if it is because the most visible religious people in the public eye tend to be somewhat obnoxious and no employer wants to have their workplaces infested with proselytizers?

On the other hand, you’ve got to admit that ‘Wallonian’ is a cool name for a religion. Is their god Wally, the slacker in the Dilbert comic strip? I could totally see that becoming a major religion for the cubicle-bound.


  1. Francisco Bacopa says

    If I saw the term “Wallonian” I would guess that it was some kind of Belgian protestant sect with a very interesting history.

    And I am not really sure this study indicates an anti-religious bias other than in the Muslim cases. I am sure lots of employers are put off by anything that makes a candidate seem to be committed to being anything other than a total corporate drone.

  2. says

    I think there are a few things to consider here. The first, one of the studies was in New England, and as an adopted Yankee I can say that the region’s religious past is quite complicated. This results in religion being understated as a way to avoid problems and now the region is one (if not the most) of the most secular in the country.

    It can also be an issue of trying to avoid conflict in the workplace. Unfortunately I cant find evidence of having resumes that included membership in the Secular Student Alliance or Center for Inquiry to confirm that this has to do with evidence of activism rather than just religious membership.

  3. Lofty says

    If your entire workforce consisted of pigeons, would you willingly employ a hawk or a falcon? Productivity would plummet drastically if you don’t protect the pigeons from dissenting worldviews.

  4. sailor1031 says

    Wallonians only? How about equal time for Flamands? You got sumthin’ agin’ dutch speakers?

  5. Francisco Bacopa says

    Interesting that they didn’t find discrimination against Jews in the South.

    Fond cultural memories of Judah P. Benjamin.

  6. corwyn says

    One should not confuse, ‘having a religion’ with ‘mentioning a religion on a resume’. The latter is unprofessional.

  7. bmiller says

    I agree with corwyn.

    I might also point out that mentioning a competing religion might be discouraging for corporate hiring personnel. It might suggest that the applicant believes in a faith which competes with the dominant American religion…MAMMONISM.

  8. Ed says

    I’m tempted to start answering “Wallonian” whenever asked what religion I am in the future. 🙂 Stop the shameful workplace discrimination against my people!

  9. Menyambal says

    Wallonia is in Belgium. It used to be Walloon, which is my favorite name.

    Yeah, anybody who advertizes their religion in a resume is likely to be a nutcase. Maybe they just mentioned a former employer as a religious org. I have worked for two religious groups, myself, attending services and all, but I am atheist.

  10. M can help you with that. says

    What corwyn said.

    I’ve never worked in HR, granted; but I did office work for the director of a small alternative school when they were hiring new teachers. The general sense on the faculty involved in hiring was that multiple references to religion in a resumé could be a red flag that the job candidate might be unwilling to treat their (secular) workplace as anything other than a venue for evangelism. No objection to religion at the school (several people involved with running the place were firm believers in assorted religions), just questions about what kind of person would consider their religious activities a qualification for work.

    (Now, a history of volunteering for a religious-affiliated group with a secular purpose — Habitat for Humanity, assorted youth and homeless charities affiliated with churches — didn’t carry the same baggage. I think they actually hired someone who’d worked with HfH for years.)

  11. says

    Wallonian is a fake? I thought that was the name of the walmart employee cult.

    Given that it happens to all people who announce their religion, I doubt it’s about discrimination. Avoidance of lawsuits and problems in the workplace (i.e. they cost money) are much more likely.

  12. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    Thank God for Muslims. We atheists aren’t the most despised group anymore.

  13. doublereed says

    This reminds me of an OK Cupid study on religion. It found that people who take religion less seriously were more attractive, even to people who take religion seriously.

    I think that’s all there is to it. Religion is annoying, and even very religious people know that religion is annoying.

  14. says

    A possible explanation is that those hiring would tend to be better educated and, therefore, less religious. It certainly makes sense to me that, all else being equal, such people would prefer a candidate that doesn’t ascribe to superstitious nonsense.

  15. kyoseki says

    I suspect the real reason is that someone who puts their religion (or lack thereof) on their resume is likely the kind of person who won’t shut the fuck up about religion.

    At the very least, it displays a distinct lack of ability to discern what does and doesn’t qualify as pertinent information, which is also not an attractive trait in a prospective employee.

    Obviously this doesn’t apply to religiously oriented positions.

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