Put in the simplest terms, if the question has nothing to do with job performance, don’t ask it! Every question asked should relate to some aspect of job performance.
There are, however, other questions that should never, never be asked of any candidate for employment. These include questions about age, race, sex, religion, national origin, medical information, marital status, or sexual orientation. All of these categories are protected by federal law via the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC), in the sense that basing an employment decision on any of them could cause an employer to find himself in a federal discrimination lawsuit.
As a simple rule-of-thumb, if it’s personal information that has nothing to do with past job performance or job performance potential or the requirements of the job to be done, don’t ask it! On a more practical level, why would any employer need to know, for instance, where somebody goes to church? What possible bearing could that have on job performance? Common sense, again, is always a factor in the equation about what to ask and not to ask.
But, you ask, shouldn’t my church know the religious affiliation of the candidate being considered for church office secretary? No. You don’t need to know that to make an intelligent employment decision. The goal is still the same – hiring the best person for the job to be done. It is not appropriate to eliminate otherwise-qualified candidates for employment on the basis of religion, unless part of the job description requires being well versed in the church’s dogma, procedures, or traditions that are considered essential to the religious mission of the institution.
Remember, if the question has nothing to do with job performance or the requirements of the job, don’t ask it!