Monday, September 01, 2014

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Catholic Education Daily

 

Backlash Continues against College after Plea for Religious Exemption

classThe negative reactions continue against Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., as an accrediting agency has decided to review the Christian institution after its president signed a letter to President Obama asking for religious freedom protections to be included in a looming executive order which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation among federal contractors.

Gordon College President D. Michael Lindsay joined several academic and religious leaders, including some tied to Catholic colleges, last month in signing the letter asking President Obama to include a religious exemption in the executive order.  The group warned that an order without an exemption "will significantly hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped to serve in common purpose with the federal government."

National Review Online now reports that the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which has control over access to federal funding, is now reviewing Gordon College in response to Lindsay's participation in the letter.

“[The commission] will talk about the issues and decide if the issues, that are raised and what is publicly available, is at odds in any way with standards and policies,” New England Association of Schools and Colleges president Barbara Brittingham said...

The federal government relies on accrediting agencies to decide which colleges qualify for the $157 billion of federal funding provided annually to colleges and universities, so the meeting that Brittingham described could have dire consequences for the school...

The expected executive order is modeled on the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which gay rights groups have long supported. That unity among activists is fracturing, though, as some gay rights activists want to remove the religious freedom exemption from the bill.

Earlier this week it was reported that Salem, Mass., Mayor Kimberly Driscoll cited Lindsay's participation in the letter and the College's policies, which she described as "discriminatory towards LGBT individuals," in her decision to terminate a contract with the College which had allowed it to use the city's town hall.

Lindsay stated in a message on the Gordon College 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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