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Recruiting the faithless

The USA is generally considered a pro-religious culture. But two new sociology studies conducted there have revealed that people whose CVs mention a student affiliation with a religious group may have their employment opportunities affected.

The studies used invented documents with names that suggested no particular race or ethnicity. The CVs were then mailed to employers who used the CareerBuilder website to fill entry-level job openings in sales, information technology and other fields suitable for first jobs for graduates.

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

Perhaps unsurprisingly fewer employers called back the Wallonians, reacting to 'a fear of the unknown,' said University of Connecticut sociology professor Michael Wallace who led the studies. But results changed for the real faith affiliations too.

In the southern states, where researchers sent 3,200 CVs, those with a religious mention got 29 percent fewer email responses and 33 percent fewer phone calls than otherwise identical documents with no faith ties.

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

In a separate study in New England, 6,400 applications were sent to 1,600 job adverts by employers. But applications mentioning any religious tie were 24 percent less likely to get a phone call.

Again, Muslims bore the brunt of discrimination, receiving 32 percent fewer emails and 48 percent fewer phone calls. Catholics were 29 percent less likely to get a call and pagans were 27 percent less likely - only slightly better than the Wallonian applicants.

The study focused on entry-level jobs for new grads, but Wallace said that 'the bottom line message is that it is harmful to put it on your resume and this would relate to anybody at any point in their career.

'We have kind of a schizophrenic attitude toward religion in the US. We are a fairly religious country. We acknowledge religious freedom and religious diversity but at the same time, we don't like it when religion is brought into public places such as the workplace or schools.'