Shorter University in Rome, Ga., is requiring its employees to certify that they are not gay as a condition of employment.
All 200 employees of the Baptist university, located about 65 miles northwest of Atlanta, received a personal lifestyle statement last Wednesday, which they must sign or risk being fired. Employees must pledge to be active members of a local church and to abstain from, among other things, drug use, premarital sex and homosexual behavior.
I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality, the statement reads.
Employees must also certify that they have read and agree with the personal lifestyle statement and will adhere to it in its entirety while employed at Shorter University. I understand that failure to adhere to this statement may result in disciplinary action against me, up to and including immediate termination.
Don Dowless, president of Shorter, told Atlanta TV station WSBTV that anybody that adheres to a lifestyle outside of what the biblical mandate is would not be allowed to continue here.
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Supporters of the statement say that Shorter is a Southern Baptist school and that employees who have chosen to work there already know they are expected to adhere to Baptist principles. It is also a private institution, which means it has the legal right to hire whomever it wants.
Anything that is not biblical, we do not accept, Dowless said.
Joe Frank Harris Jr., chairman-elect of the Shorter board of trustees, justified the policy in broader terms in a press release.
The 'why' is really simple: What you stand for matters. Proverbs 3:5-6 tell us to 'trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.' If we acknowledge Him, He will make this university's path straight, Harris wrote.
Is Lifestyle Policy Extreme?
But critics say the new policy goes too far.
I recognize that the university has the legal right to do this, but just because it is legal, it isn't necessarily morally right, an anonymous gay employee told The Georgia Voice, an Atlanta gay newspaper.
We now will live in fear that someone who doesn't like us personally or someone who has had a bad day will report that we've been drinking or that we are suspected of being gay, the employee said. What happens then? There is no defined process, and even if there were, there is no way to absolutely prove or disprove the accusation.
In addition to questioning how the policy will be enforced, he criticized it as being overly broad and arbitrarily condemning some actions over others.
I don't see homosexuality as being any less congruent with Christianity than judging people, sexual deviance, dishonesty, pride, lust, envy, sloth, etc., he said. My response is simple: Why is homosexuality so much worse than anything else in the Bible? Why does a homosexual deserve to be fired any more than an obviously egotistical person, or a lazy person, or a dishonest person?
He added, The bottom line is that I am a gay Christian and I made a decision to be around other Christians. I'm not alone, and it is sad to see organizations shun people like me. I'd assume that if you're a strong Christian, you wouldn't need to turn those away who sin, and instead you'd welcome them with open arms because they love Jesus.