WES Blog — WES: A Place for Worshippers and Infidels

What does it take to work at WES? Let’s see: a love of waffles, especially those made by teens. A sense of humor. A tolerance (at least!) of evening meetings. One thing that isn’t needed? A humanist belief system.
Because WES is a religion according to the IRS, we are *allowed* to require all sorts of things of our employees…that’s how much more conservative churches can get away with discrimination against queer people in hiring practices or in who they allow to be clergy, for instance. WES could say that you have to be a humanist, or an Ethical Culturist, to work here. But we emphatically don’t. Why not? Because we’re an Ethical Culture organization!

We do ask all our employees to support our core values: the worth of every person, the idea that we’re all connected to each other and that our relationships matter. We ask that they support our families, no matter how those families are comprised, and that they share our congregation’s commitment to anti-racism work and participate in training around that work. We ask that in the programming they offer they support our commitment to non-theism (which is to say, the idea that WES has “no official position” on questions about God) and to humanist values (see again, the worth of every person and a human responsibility for repairing the world). But we don’t ask them to identify as humanist personally–and indeed, over the years and at WES today you’ll find Christians, Muslims, atheists, theists, and more, all serving as dedicated and thoughtful staff and serving our mission with great care.

How is that uniquely Ethical Culture? I think back to the Founding Address, given by Felix Adler in 1876 when he first had this wild idea of a movement that brought together people of different beliefs to act as one for justice in the world. He wanted to build “a platform broad enough for worshipper and infidel,” which was a big deal in 1876 and remains a big deal today. What those words tell us is that there is nothing about traditional religious belief that is necessarily antithetical to Ethical Culture. In fact, our individual beliefs often enrich and motivate the shared commitment to ethics that we have here. That’s true for WES members, and it’s true for our staff as well.

So when you see a WES staff member wearing a hijab, or a cross, or sharing a personal story about their religious commitments, know that they are bringing their full selves to their work…and that part of that “full self” is undoubtedly a commitment to the core values of Ethical Culture, to the platform broad enough, and to our work together to create justice in the world. This month, as we explore the theme of Curiosity, I invite you to get to know all of our staff with a spirit of learning how broad our platform is and how big our family is.