Gordon College is small Christian college in Wenham, Mass., but has been making big news over its recent request.
D. Michael Lindsay, the president of Gordon College, signed a letter to President Obama last week requesting that the school be exempt from an upcoming executive order that does not allow federal contractors to discriminate against employees based on their sexual orientation.
President Obama has not signed the non-discrimination executive order yet, but Gordon College, along with several religious groups and charities, signed the group letter asking for permission to discriminate against gay people based on "religious beliefs."
According to The Washington Post, the letter states:
A religious exemption would simply maintain that religious organizations will not be automatically disqualified or disadvantaged in obtaining contracts because of their religious beliefs.
However, alumni and students of Gordon College have started an online petition against the letter, which states, "We the alumni, students, family and friends of Gordon College are requesting that President D. Michael Lindsay rescind his request to be allowed to discriminate against LGBT people in the hiring process."
"While we recognize the variety of beliefs based in Holy Scripture, we do not believe that there is a Biblical requirement to refuse employment to people of LGBT sexual orientation."
On Monday, Lindsay wrote an open letter to the Gordon College community that assured folks that the school was not going to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation:
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.
However, the Christian ministry Focus on the Family's political arm CitizenLink recently congratulated Gordon College for taking a stand for religious freedom and against homosexuals.
CitizenLink's Stuart Shepard recently interviewed Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, and they both worried aloud about the violation of religious freedom if Gordon College were not able to discriminate against gay people (video below).
Shepard and Beckwith framed Gordon College's request to discriminate as simply supporting "God's timeless design for marriage."
In an apparent effort to counter the petition signed by Gordon College students and alumni, CitizenLink has launched its own online petition, which states:
Thank you for taking a stand for God's timeless design for marriage and relationships. I am writing to let you know that I support your signing the letter to President Obama asking for a religious exemption to be included in his promised executive order.
The administration should not be allowed to force Christian organizations to hire people who disagree with biblical values. I deeply respect your decision to remain steadfast in Gordon College's decades-old conviction to "set the conduct expectations for the community." Please know that there are many of us across the nation who support you.
In response to the controversy, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, which is in charge of accreditation in the area, is going to investigate whether Gordon College is violating its standards.
“There’s considerable publicity about the whole issue, and it’s been getting a lot of attention,” Barbara Brittingham, the commission’s director, recently told the Boston Globe. “It’s a matter of looking at the information we have and deciding if the institution is meeting our standards.”
Additionally, Salem, Mass. Mayor Kim Driscoll dropped the city’s contract with Gordon College to manage its Old Town Hall facility because of the original letter signed by Lindsay.