Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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Mayor Ends Contract with Christian College after President Stands for Religious Freedom

Just days after the president of Gordon College, a Christian college in Massachusetts, signed a letter urging President Barack Obama to include religious freedom protections in an upcoming executive order—which would ban any discrimination based on sexual orientation among federal contractors—the mayor of Salem, Mass., terminated a contract with the College which had allowed it to use the city’s town hall, Boston.com reported.

The Cardinal Newman Society reported earlier this week on the letter signed by several academic and religious leaders, including some with ties to Catholic colleges.  The signers wrote to President Obama, “[A]n executive order that does not include a religious exemption will significantly and substantively hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped to serve in common purpose with the federal government.”

The city posted a message on its website saying:

In response to Gordon College President D. Michael Lindsay’s recent actions in support of an exemption from federal regulations that bar employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the current policies at Gordon College that require strict adherence to behavioral standards for students, faculty and staff that are discriminatory towards LGBT individuals, Mayor Kim Driscoll sent a letter to President Lindsay this morning notifying him and his Board of Trustees of the City’s termination of their management contract of Old Town Hall due to the institution’s non-compliance with the City of Salem’s fully LGBT-inclusive Non-Discrimination Ordinance.

Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll, according to the report, said she was “truly disappointed” in the stance of the Christian College which she said “plainly discriminates against the rights of LGBT individuals, both on and off campus.”  She continued that she believed the College’s stance to be “hurtful and offensive.”

Driscoll said that while she “respects” the College’s right to its values on its own campus, she said that religious freedom does not grant them “the right to impose those beliefs upon others.”

Lindsay responded to the controversy surrounding his letter on the Christian college’s website.

Signing the letter was in keeping with our decades-old conviction that, as an explicitly Christian institution, Gordon should set the conduct expectations for members of our community. Nothing has changed in our position.The letter asks the president for the same religious exemption that was passed by a U.S. Senate bill (S.815) in 2013 with bipartisan support. Some have misunderstood this message as requesting something new or different. That’s not the case. President Bush signed an executive order in 2002 that offered the same sort of religious exemption that we are requesting of President Obama.

…Be assured that nothing has changed in our position regarding admission or employment. We have never barred categories of individuals from our campus and have no intention to do so now. We have always sought to be a place of grace and truth, and that remains the case. As a Christian college, we are all followers of Christ. As long as a student, a faculty member, or a staff member supports and lives by our community covenant documents, they are welcome to study or work at Gordon.

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