Gordon College’s case may never become a popular cause. The college is unlikely ever to enjoy the pop-culture power of chicken restaurants and craft stores. But few battles will have more enduring meaning than the fight for Christian education, for the very ability to transmit knowledge and values from one generation to the next.
Never mind that the policy allows any person of any sexual orientation to attend Gordon, teach at Gordon, or serve in its administration. The fact that its Life and Conduct Policy prohibits “sexual relations outside marriage” and “homosexual practice” (explained as “sexual intercourse”) was enough to take action, to declare it bigoted and not fit for inclusion in society.
The response was swift.
In an act of pure moral grandstanding, in July — just eight days after President Lindsay signed the letter to President Obama — the city of Salem suspended a long-term contract with Gordon that had allowed the college to use the city-owned Old Town Hall — a spiteful act, but one of little consequence to the college.
But then the spite became harmful. In late August, the Lynn School Committee — a nearby school district — ended an eleven-year relationship with the school and refused to accept Gordon College students as student-teachers in its system.
This action — in addition to being destructive (teaching programs can’t function without student-teacher placements) — is grotesquely unconstitutional, violating students’ rights of free association, free speech, and religious liberty by punishing them for merely attending Gordon College, even without evidence the students themselves have engaged in any “discriminatory” acts or even agree with Gordon’s policy (there are dissenters who attend the school).
Then, in September, Gordon’s accreditor, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, announced that it had met to consider whether “Gordon College’s traditional inclusion of ‘homosexual practice’ as a forbidden activity” violated the association’s standards for accreditation. The Association gave Gordon one year “to ensure that the College’s policies and procedures are non-discriminatory.”
The implication was clear: You have one year to choose between your conscience and your accreditation.
For Gordon, the death penalty now looms. A college cannot exist without accreditation. The number of programs and benefits that are conditioned upon accreditation are simply too numerous to mention. Simply put, a student with any ambitions to participate in the commercial life of this country or to pursue a graduate or professional degree would be foolish to attend an unaccredited college.