One university's ultimatum: Reject homosexuality or get fired

A fundamentalist Christian school is making employees sign a pledge not to stray from what the college says the Bible teaches. Is that legal?

Employees of Georgia's Shorter University must pledge to reject homosexuality, premarital sex, and adultery, or risk losing their jobs at the religious college.
(Image credit: Facebook/Shorter University)

Shorter University, a Baptist college in Georgia, is requiring employees to sign a document rejecting homosexuality. Shorter President Don Dowless says people who don't comply could lose their jobs. Here's what you should know:

What is this university up to?

It's trying to purge its staff of gay employees. But that's only part of the story. Shorter's board of trustees is demanding that all 200 of the university's employees sign a "personal lifestyle statement" promising to abstain from any behavior prohibited by the Bible, as the Georgia Baptist Convention interprets it. Not only is homosexuality forbidden, but so is premarital sex, adultery, drug use, and drinking. "Anything outside that is not biblical, we do not accept," Dowless said.

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Why now?

The fundamentalist Georgia Baptist Convention won a court case in 2005 giving it total control over Shorter, including the right to name all of the members of the board of trustees, according to the Georgia-based Baptists Today. Ever since, the trustees have been trying to bring the school's policies in line with the Georgia Baptist Convention's mission. The new personal behavior policies and an oath of loyalty approved last week were merely a visible, controversial example of that change.

How has the policy been received?

The reaction has been decidedly mixed. One closeted gay Shorter employee told the Georgia Voice that most elements of the new policies seem reasonable enough — any employer wants loyal employees — but singling out gays raised "the possibility of witch hunts." A group of Shorter graduates, current students (who don't have to take the pledge), and former faculty members have launched a petition protesting the policy. They plan to hold a demonstration this month. But Dowless says it's perfectly reasonable — and legal, since the private school receives no federal funding — for a religious school to expect its employees to follow its mission. "We have a right to hire only Christians," he tells The Christian Post.

Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Baptists Today, Christian Post, Georgia Voice, Jezebel

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