Standing up for religious freedom and God’s design for human sexuality these days comes at a price, as one Christian college president recently learned.
Meet D. Michael Lindsay, President of Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts institution located in Wenham, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1889 as a missionary training school.
President Lindsay, a scholar in his own right as well as a Pulitzer-nominated author, stirred up an unexpected tempest for his school by signing on to a July 1 open letter to President Obama, along with other religious leaders from various churches, organizations and social relief agencies. The letter urged the President to include a hiring exemption for religious organizations in an anticipated Executive Order (EO) related to government contracting and homosexuality. Many religious institutions contract with the federal government to provide various goods and services such as disaster relief, and they were rightfully concerned that the EO might require them to compromise their religious beliefs as it relates to hiring homosexuals.
The EO, which President Obama issued earlier this week, does require government contractors to hire homosexuals. But as it turned out, the EO left in place a previous hiring exemption for religious organizations ordered by President George W. Bush. Many religious leaders, including Lindsay and the other signers of the letter, had feared the Bush exemption would be repealed, and indeed, had asked Obama to include a robust exemption in his order.
All’s well that ended well, right? Not for Lindsay and Gordon College.
Just signing the letter put Lindsay and Gordon College on the radar screen of those who deem obedience to Scripture’s teaching on marriage and sexuality an act of bigotry.
In nearby Salem, Massachusetts, the mayor, after hearing of the letter and apparently researching the college’s website, cancelled a city contract with the college to manage the city’s theatre facility, noting that the college’s code of conduct for teachers and students forbids homosexual practice.
Then the Boston Globe interviewed the college’s accreditation agency, which announced it was going to review the college’s policies and “decide if the institution is meeting our standards.”
That’s ominous. A school’s accreditation is its lifeblood. Without it, the school can’t attract students, and if you can’t attract students, you’re out of business.
President Lindsay explained, in a letter posted on the college’s website, that his sole intention in signing the letter to President Obama was “to affirm the College’s support of the underlying issue of religious liberty, including the right of faith-based institutions to set and adhere to standards which derive from our shared framework of faith …”
There was a time in this country when such sentiments would prompt praise, not provoke criticism, when such sentiment were the foundations of colleges and universities, not their potential demise.
We applaud and support President Lindsay’s principled stand for religious freedom. His experience, however, should serve as a warning to Christians in our increasingly “post-Christian” America that standing up for the Gospel and for the religious freedom necessary for its propagation now comes with a cost.
If you want to know more about your religious freedom rights, please download our free resource, “Religious Freedom: Protecting How We Practice Our Faith.”
Bruce Hausknecht, J.D., is a judicial analyst for Focus on the Family