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Geneva College court battle could end

The United States and Pennsylvania now agree that Geneva College’s policy of hiring only Christians is not illegal, a development that could end a court standoff between the two governments and the Beaver County school.

The college claimed its rights to free expression, free speech and church autonomy were violated when it was told it could not mention a religious preference for job applicants in help-wanted ads posted on a government Web site.

In December, it filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, state Labor Secretary Stephen Schmerin and the Team Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board.

The school posted ads on Team Pennsylvania CareerLink, an online employment listing service run by the state that allows postings from employers who do not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, political affiliation or belief. Because the state program receives federal money, Geneva College was told that the Web site must operate under the federal nondiscrimination provision.

Both the school and the defendants have agreed that the Workforce Investment Act’s nondiscrimination provision applies only to recipients of Workforce Investment Act money. Geneva College is not a recipient and is not subject to the nondiscrimination policy of the state employment Web site, the parties agreed in a court document filed Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti has been asked to dismiss the lawsuit, and could do so as early as this week.

Geneva College is a “Christian college rooted in the Evangelical and Reformed traditions and governed by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America,” its lawsuit states. The school “requires all of its new hires to demonstrate a credible Christian commitment. The inability of an applicant to articulate a personal faith commitment to Jesus Christ and be supportive of a Reformed worldview will have a direct impact on employment consideration.”


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