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Are Christian Colleges Free to be Christian?

  • Kelly Givens What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • 2014 Jul 17

Is religious liberty being cast aside in the name of sexual liberty? That question is at the heart of Denny Burk’s latest trending post, Are Christian Colleges free to be Christian? In it, he looks at the recent shake up over Gordon College President Michael Lindsay’s signature on an open letter asking President Obama to include a religious exemption in a forthcoming executive order.

The president’s order is meant to bar federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, those who have signed—including Rick Warren, Gabe Lyons and others—are concerned that the order would prevent religious organizations (like Gordon College) from requiring employees to hold to a Christian sexual ethic.

As Burk explains, Gordon College has a longstanding policy of behavioral standards, which forbids sexual relations outside of marriage and homosexual practice. “Gordon is not asking for permission to discriminate against people with a certain sexual orientation,” Burk writes. “Rather, they are asking President Obama for permission to require employees to live according to the school’s behavioral standards.”

The fallout has been significant. Gordon College’s accrediting agency announced its intention to investigate whether the school meets diversity and nondiscrimination requirements. The mayor of Salem has terminated a contract with Gordon College now that it “advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community.” There is also an online petition calling on President Lindsay to remove his signature from the letter.

Religion News Service writer Kristen Powers explains why this exemption request is a reasonable one. “Without an exemption in Obama’s executive order, we could see many religious organizations that provide social services to the most needy losing government contracts because they act on the dictates of their faith. Century-old Catholic Charities, which serves more than 10 million Americans a year, could lose critical government funding to help people in desperate need. This disregard for the poor who are served by religious organizations is astounding.”

Burk believes this is just the latest assault on religious liberty in the United States. “Nevermind that religious liberty is the first freedom mentioned in the Bill of Rights,” Burk writes. “There are people who are willing to use whatever means necessary to force religious institutions to conform to the new sexual morality. Any individual or institution that refuses to comply will have to face the consequences. In this case, the consequences are potentially existential for Gordon College.”

What do you think? Should religious institutions receiving federal funding be exempt from President Obama’s executive order? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

Kelly Givens is the editor of