For more than 30 years, a clause within a Michigan public school district contract openly stated that "special consideration” would be be given to non-Christian applicants.
According to the teachers union contract:
the Board shall consider the professional backgrounds and attainments of all applications along with other relevant facts. Should there be two (2) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications for the position and one (1) or more of these applicants with equal qualifications is a current employee, the current employee with the greatest seniority shall be assigned. Special consideration shall be given to women and/or minority defined as: Native American, Asian American, Latino, African American and those of the non-Christian faith. However, in all appointments to vacant positions, the Board's decision shall be final.
In addition to poor contract writing (section 2.6 stipulates that every “race, creed, religion, color, sex, sexual preference” etc. will be treated equally), this reverse discrimination is illegal on both the state and federal level.
Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act states that educational institutions may not:
Discriminate against an individual in the full utilization of or benefit from the institution, or the services, activities, or programs provided by the institution because of religion, race, color, national origin, or sex.
The contract also violates the First Amendment, which is intended to make public institutions free of religious preference or discrimination.
It is "unconstitutional" for a public school district to track their employee’s religious beliefs, according to Thomas More Law Center president Richard Thompson.
The Michigan Capitol Confidant also found Rana Elmir, deputy director of the Michigan ACLU, questioned the practice:
"There's nothing wrong with encouraging people from diverse faiths to apply for a position. In fact, doing so recognizes that our classrooms and communities are diverse," Elmir said. "However, public schools themselves should not be in the business of promoting particular religious beliefs or religious activities over others and they should protect children from being coerced to accept religious or anti-religious beliefs."
Ferndale Public Schools addressed the concern Thursday:
The old language in Section 10.3 of the contract has since been appropriately removed (as advised by our legal counsel and supported by the Ferndale Education Association.)
The discriminatory clause was discovered by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.