So far Gordon’s admissions have not suffered, with the number of applications received a little higher than last year, Mr. Sweeney said. The school has about 1,800 undergraduates and about 300 graduate students. “We’re hoping folks will remember the type of institution we are and respect the religious beliefs that are part of that, none of which have ever been imposed on anyone outside of Gordon College,” Mr. Sweeney said. “Again, that’s kind of the irony here. We’ve always been a place that’s been very welcoming. We’re willing to engage with anyone.”
No college has taken more flak after running afoul of the gay rights movement than Gordon College, but it turns out the small Christian institution in Wenham, Massachusetts, also has some supporters.
One of them is Lori D’Amico, a parent in Lynn, Massachusetts, who submitted petition signatures last week to require the city’s school district to hold another hearing on its vote to bar Gordon undergraduates from serving as student teachers in the Lynn system.
Another is Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who fired off a letter to the Lynn mayor last month warning her that the school committee had violated the First Amendment by discriminating against Gordon College students based on their religion.
The uproar was spurred by Gordon President D. Michael Lindsay’s joining a July letter from religious leaders to President Obama, asking him to carve out a general religious exemption from an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“As noted above, no one has claimed that a Gordon College student teacher has discriminated against a Lynn public school student on the basis of their sexual orientation, or even made a comment about sexual orientation,” he said in his letter.
“The Committee is discriminating against these college students purely on the basis of their association with Gordon College and their imputed religious beliefs,” he said. “This the Constitution forbids.”
“We’re very grateful for the support, and I thought the point he [Kirsanow] made in terms of the rights of students in this situation was very helpful to point out,” Mr. Sweeney said. “At the end of the day, we’re still hopeful that the city will consider where there could be a middle ground to allow us to work with them again.”
Gordon has taken the high road despite an onslaught to its reputation of near-biblical proportions. Although Mr. Lindsay said he had signed the White House letter — along with 14 other religious leaders — as an individual and not on behalf of the school, Gordon has borne the brunt of the backlash.
A week after the letter was sent, Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll ended the city’s contract with Gordon to manage the Old Town Hall, citing Mr. Lindsay’s “hurtful and offensive” stance. Shortly thereafter, the Peabody Essex Museum cut off its relationship with the school’s museum studies program.
In August the New England Association of Schools and Colleges announced that Gordon would have a year to prove that its “policies and procedures are non-discriminatory” based on its long-standing Life and Conduct Policy against “homosexual practice.” The college calls on all students to avoid sex outside marriage, with a biblical definition of marriage as a male-female union.
At Emmanuel College, a Catholic school in Boston, athletic director Pam Roecker said that Emmanuel would no longer compete against Gordon sports teams after the 2014-15 academic year, according to the student newspaper The Hub.
“The foundation of everything [in Emmanuel athletics] is based on fair and equitable treatment,” said Ms. Roecker in a statement.