While in college, did you ever join the Catholic Student Association, Campus Crusade for Christ, or some other student religious organization? If so, you might want to leave that off your resume. A new study in the sociology journal Social Currents found that applicants who expressed a religious identity were 26 percent less likely to receive a response from employers.
For the experiment, the researchers sent out resumes to companies in the South from fictional recent graduates of flagship universities located in the South. They signaled religious affiliation on the resume by listing membership in campus religious organizations such as the “University of Alabama _______ Association,” where the blank is replaced with a religious identity (e.g., atheist, Catholic, evangelical, Muslim). They also sent out resumes with similar information but left off any religious identifiers.
Compared with the control group, Muslims, atheists, and pagans received the fewest responses, followed closely by Catholics, evangelicals, and Wallonians (a fictional religion made up for the test). Surprisingly, employers least prejudicial views were reserved for Jews who failed to show significantly lower results on any indicator.
According to the researchers, “The results strongly support the secularization hypothesis that employers penalize those who indicate any overt expression of religion.” They point out that secularization theory holds that modernization has led to the declining influence of religion on social institutions and individual consciousness. “While secularization does not necessarily equate with decline in religious belief, it uncouples religious expression from public life,” says the study. “This has led to the ‘privatization of religion,’ the belief that religion is properly confined to the private sphere and should be kept out of politics, academia, and the workplace.”