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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

In order to form a more perfect union

By Becky Walters Reigel (11/30/03)

Jesus Christ prayed for His disciples of the first century that they would be in the world but not of it. Pursuing that distinction raises complex issues for Christians in today’s workplace, especially when a labor union is involved and it supports agendas conflicting with the faith of employees.

In recent years, after several cases have captured national headlines, more workers are opting to redirect their union dues to charities. Others are choosing to support unions and work to make changes from within.

Ohio school psychologist Kathleen Klamut, who initially joined a union as an intern, decided a decade ago that being a member of the National Education Association would conflict with her religious convictions.

“I was reading a union publication and came across this article, ‘Why the NEA must be pro-choice,’ ” Klamut told PE Report. “I decided I would never let them have my money again.”

Union officials agreed she didn’t have to be a member, but said Klamut would still have to pay dues for collective bargaining. The evangelical Christian objected again. “I don’t want the union to get one penny,” she says. “I felt such a conviction about it.”

Because of a provision in the Civil Rights Act, it’s usually a simple process for workers with religious objections to have dues diverted to a charity, according to Dan Cronin, director of legal information for the nonprofit National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

“Most are pretty simple to wrap up,” he says. “We just tell people what their rights are, tell them which forms to fill out. Then we wait for the reaction.”

But sometimes, as with Klamut’s case, things get complicated.

“Most of the time union officials know to back off, but sometimes they want to play tough and we’re willing to do that too,” Cronin says, referring to filing charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Klamut, assisted by NRTW lawyers, won a nearly two-year battle with the Ohio Education Association, an affiliate of the NEA, earlier this year. She has filed requests to redirect dues in two Ohio school districts, Louisville and Ravenna. Throughout both battles, she says, neither union officials nor representatives contested the statement that the NEA supports abortion.

After union officials complied with the latest request, Klamut says, her annual dues of $600 support the American Cancer Society.

The publicity surrounding this and other cases, Cronin says, has helped inform Christian workers of their rights. The Springfield, Va.-based NRTW receives 100 calls a year on this issue.

The workers Cronin hears from are mostly concerned about unions supporting abortion on demand and special rights for homosexuals. Those issues, he says, conflict with the faith of many people. “It’s not just people of one particular faith that we’re getting calls from,” he says.

Religious objectors should know that the law is on their side, he says.

“We’ve never lost a case like this,” Cronin says. “As more people have the courage to come forward, they will have their rights respected.”

Chaplain G. Michael Collingsworth, a Ford Motor Company employee and Assemblies of God minister, has chosen to share his faith inside the United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America. From his perspective as international chairman of the UAW chaplaincy program, he sees Christians making an impact on their locals.

“I have been a chaplain since 1989 and we’ve made great strides, but it’s been 14 years of hard work,” Collingsworth says.

At his local in Lima, Ohio, meetings have been moved from Sunday to Thursday and are now opened with prayer, which has brought changes in the language and atmosphere, Collingsworth says. Over the years he’s heard many Christian workers ask whether they can belong to a union and still be a Christian.

“I tell people you give two hours of pay a month to have representation,” he says. Paying dues also allows Christians the opportunity to help shape unions and determine where funds are allocated. “We should have those rights,” Collingsworth says. “And it’s a Christian’s responsibility to ask.”

Attending union meetings is an important starting point, Collingsworth suggests.

“Christians should be involved in unions so they can have an impact,” he says. “If your money is going somewhere, you need to find out where it’s going. Then you’ll find out if changes need to be made and get in there and help make the decisions about where the money is going and on issues.”

Regardless of the methods, Christians are challenging rules that conflict with faith in the workplace. The EEOC reports that 2,572 religion-based discrimination charges were received last year, up from 1,388 a decade earlier. It’s no surprise that controversies with unions are part of the numbers, experts agree.

“If you’re going to have people in jobs that require union membership, eventually the union will end up taking positions that are in conflict with members’ views,” says Michael Palmer, professor of philosophy at Evangel University in Springfield, Mo.

But whether Christians decide to express their faith in or outside a union is a tactical question, he says, not a philosophical issue.

“Different people will take different stands,” Palmer says. “You can have two people who are equally committed Christians and see the situation from two different angles.”

Life experiences and the worker’s background often impact the stand, he says. “People of honest, sincere faith will disagree on these things. I think this really is a matter of moral perspective.”

For Klamut, that means withholding funds from a union she sees promoting abortion.

“I just believe in living your convictions,” she says. “If enough Christians would refuse to give their money to support those causes, it would make a difference.”

For Collingsworth, it’s impacting the decision-making of a union, which he stresses won’t be easy or quick.

“It won’t be overnight; there will be battles,” he says. “But when you stand fast in the faith, as the Word says, and press on toward the mark — and I’m not talking about standing up and preaching to them, just live the life — you will see changes.”

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