Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ask. Tell. Pledge.

School Forces Staff to Sign an ‘I’m Straight’ Pledge

Here's a plan that should offer foolproof results: Shorter University, a Christian Baptist institute of higher learning in Rome (Georgia, not Italy, but same difference, really) has sent all 200 of its employees a "personal lifestyle pledge." The pledge promises that the signee will refrain from all acts of homosexuality — as well as lesser transgressions like adultery, premarital sex, doing drugs, and drinking in the presence of students — but mainly homosexuality.

If they do not, they'll be fired, according to school president Don Dowless:

"I think that anybody that adheres to a lifestyle outside of what the biblical mandate is would not be allowed to continue here. Anything that is not biblical, we do not accept."

From The Atlantic.


  1. Whenever I see stuff like this, I wonder if the people saying it have ever actually read the Bible. The story of Lot, for instance (offering his daughters up to be raped by the townspeople, father/daughter incest, etc), is enough to make anyone's toes curl with disgust

  2. Wait, is an employer even allowed to do this? Won't lawsuits be flying before we can say "Whaa?"

  3. Fuck these people. But not outside the bonds of marriage.

  4. Okay, I'm no expert on this, but I did do a good deal of reading in the work of those who have thought long and hard about it in preparation for teaching an adult Sunday School class (admittedly to a group of people who were mostly quite receptive to a reading of the Bible that tallied with their own instincts that the gender of the people involved in a consensual adult sexual relationship is a morally neutral factor).

    It seems to me that most of the Old Testament restrictions could be covered by the sort of policy forbidding disparate-power relationships that most colleges and universities already have: basically, one would need to pledge not to use sexual acts as a means of terrorizing or otherwise asserting power over another person (and yes, as issyvoo points out, that wording actually goes a bit *beyond* the Biblical standard, since it protects women as well as men). That standard might well cover the Pauline provisions as well, but one could add something about not worshiping gods other than Yahweh through sexual acts, just to be safe.

    Methinks that the folks at Shorter are confusing their own deeply-felt cultural standards with Biblical ones (most likely due to a failure to consider cultural and historical context in their reading of the Bible).

    And, of course, as has been said many times before, they might want to take a look at what Jesus had to say about homosexuality: nothing (unless you count his healing of a centurion's servant who may also have been the centurion's lover -- which gets tricky by modern standards, since that would have been a disparate-power relationship, but certainly doesn't seem like a condemnation).

  5. @ FML -- Shorter is a private Christian university; they can do pretty much whatever they want for terms of employment.

  6. Really? So they could say they don't hire black people? Or people in wheelchairs? I think not.


  7. Their defense will be "We have no problem hiring gay people, as long as they don't violate our conduct code by having gay sex." Sort of like that wanker Orson Scott Card, who thinks that gay people are wonderful so long as they get married to people of the opposite gender.

  8. CC - The Biblical tradition and canons are too complex to really know what is "biblical" anyway. The texts don't exactly lend themselves to any one interpretation.

    Going a step further, with all due respect, I think the problem is deeper. The idea that we can have 21st century state or college policies based on a 4th century collection of purportedly supernatural texts written from about to 500 BCE to to 200 CE is the problem. I think the whole idea of trying to make policies based on it - or any other magic books - runs counter to the basic idea of what higher education should do. Even if the texts were clear on a particular issue, I would oppose policy if that were the only reason supporting it.

  9. @Slave: agreed, at least as to Biblical interpretation. I'm comfortable with a considerable degree of uncertainty in interpretation, and very unhappy when people figuratively hit each other over the head with the Bible and/or supposedly-infallible interpretations thereof (basically, I'm willing to do my best to do what I perceive, through a mirror darkly, to be God's will, trust others to do the same, and let God sort it out eventually -- but I'm also going to speak up when someone claims that what I see as a hurtful, unChristian view of others is the only "Biblical" one). I'm also perfectly happy working for a secular university with secular policies(including ones against *both* power-unequal relationships *and* discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation) that happen to accord pretty well with my own sense of decent interpersonal behavior, Biblically-based or otherwise.

    And I'd be very happy to see the federal regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, etc. extended to cover sexual orientation/gender identity, and to see them enforced at any institution that receives federal funds, possibly with an exception for indirect funding such as student grants and loans; those I really think a student ought to be free to take to any accredited institution, even if I don't much like what it teaches. We might part ways there, but keep in mind that whatever laws we have also have to protect minority religions -- Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, etc. -- from interference with *their* institutional choices. It's not an easy balance, and I'm quite aware that there are plenty of explicitly Christian colleges where I, a practicing Christian, would be no more welcome than an atheist (in fact, I might be less so, because I'd muddy the waters by asking difficult questions). That doesn't bother me; it strikes me as the price we pay for the freedom to pursue our own religions -- or no religion.

    So I guess I think what Shorter is requiring is ridiculous, and unChristian, and unlikely to produce the results they want, and feel compelled to say so (especially the unChristian/unBiblical part), but, when push comes to shove, I actually do defend their right, as a private religious organization, to require it.

  10. Speaking of Orson Scott Card, Brigham Young University also has a "You must be Mormon and not gay" policy.

    I've shot my mouth off about the private Christian colleges before, but not about their sexual demands. They don't want sex to happen on campus at all; no straight sex, no kinky sex, no gay sex, no group orgies. NOTHING. Not even the appearence of male students liking female students, or even innocent physical contact. And that includes at some places even having male and female students use the same stairwells! At the same place with the bizarre stair fetish students have been thrown out for going on dates or watching R-rated movies - during their holiday or summer breaks at home! When a school advertises itself as "private", "Christian", or "Fundamentalist" that's when you have to start worrying that if you were hired there that they might coerce you into being another agent of the campus Gestapo.

  11. @CC - Based on what you write here - and what you have written in the past - I think, when the chips are down, we agree on what matters - at least on what really matters to me. I am philosophically one of those hard core, "new" atheists, and I have been known to make fun of religion on occasion, but I gladly walk the world - as citizens, colleagues, friends, relatives, etc. - with Christians like you.

  12. I don't see the problem. They clearly state their position as a Baptist university, and their job postings clearly indicate that one must be a "committed christian" (presumably by their definition) to gain employment. Surprisingly, their application process does not require a statement of faith.

    Given their stated position, stated hiring intention, and denominational affiliation, why would anyone expect them to be pleased with a homosexual faculty member? More to the point, why has it taken them this long to decide to put it in writing? What incident occurred to nudge this new policy into being? That's what I would like to know.

    Be glad these schools exist, for two reasons: They take students that would otherwise end up in your classes. Kids entering them with fundamentalist beliefs are more likely to soften those beliefs than kids entering a large secular school. (That study was posted here, why can I not find it?)

  13. It's not gonna matter what the rules are once President Don gits caught with his pants down in the midst of something extra marital.


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