Thursday, July 23, 2015

As Catholic Institutions Still Fire Gay Employees Who Marry, Two Mennonite Universities Announce They Will Hire Such Employees

At Inside Higher Education and Slate, Scott Jaschik reports that two Mennonite colleges — Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College — announced on Monday that they will now permit the hiring of faculty members in same-sex marriages. Jaschik writes:

While such a policy would not be surprising at most colleges and universities, it represents a dramatic shift in Christian higher education. Eastern Mennonite and Goshen are the first members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities to adopt such a rule. Some CCCU members (and those two in the past) have said that gay faculty members were welcome as long as they were celibate. Unmarried faculty members at Eastern Mennonite and Goshen will still be expected to be celibate, and that rule applies regardless of sexual orientation.

Jaschik quotes Nancy Heisey, biblical studies professor at Eastern Mennonite, who stresses that this decision is not, as many opponents want to depict it, an abandonment of the Christian principles that inform the university's mission. As she points out, the decision represents a choice of these institutions to adhere to principles of equity and justice that are central to the Christian belief system — and which the unjust treatment of gay faculty members in Christian institutions which make special rules for those faculty members not imposed on other faculty members (e.g., remain celibate for life, with no option for marriage) violates.

And, for anyone following the situation in American Catholic workplaces these days, how is it possible to read this news from a sister Christian church long considered on the conservative end of the spectrum regarding matters of sexual morality, without remembering that,  in not a few Catholic institutions in the U.S., employees who choose to marry a same-sex spouse are fired, and in some dioceses threats have been made to fire any employee of any Catholic institution in the diocese who even expresses support for same-sex marriage on social network websites? It's true that recently, the chair of Fordham's theology department Patrick Hornbeck married his partner Patrick Anthony Berquist, and has apparently not been fired — to the consternation of one right-wing religionist after another.

In fact, a statement sent out by Bob Howe, Fordham's senior director of communications, in response to inquiries about the marriage, states, 

Professor Hornbeck is a member of the Fordham community, and like all University employees, students and alumni, is entitled to human dignity without regard to race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation.

Unfortunately, this situation is the exception to the norm in Catholic universities in the U.S. right now. A majority of Catholic colleges in the U.S. do not have in place the kind of policy just crafted by the two Mennonite colleges, assuring that gay employess will be treated with the same dignity and justice provided for non-gay employees. 

More's the pity, given the negative image the Catholic church has earned for itself in the U.S. as a Christian church singularly hostile to LGBT human beings.

The compare and contrast illustration is from this posting at the Grockit website.

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