By Jen Wooldridge – Editor & Designer of The Renewanation Review
In 2014, President Obama signed an executive order making it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees. How could this likely affect Christian colleges, schools, and businesses?
Michael Zigarelli, editor of Christianity9to5.org, says, “The order doesn’t directly affect private education, but its unprecedented refusal to exempt religious organizations surely will. Without this exemption, the President has signaled to regulators that it’s open season on faith-based institutions.” 1
He goes on to illustrate two probable scenarios we will likely see in the future: “The order says if you want federal money you must hire gays. The US Department of Education decides that this applies to federal financial aid as well. Students are then prohibited from using their aid at colleges that do not hire gays. Christian colleges go out of business. Here’s another future: With the exemption gone, accrediting bodies take the cue and insist that all colleges include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in their non-discrimination policies, revoking accreditation for those faith-based schools that won’t genuflect. Students are prohibited from using their aid at non-accredited colleges. Christian colleges go out of business.” 2
The opening scenes of these “hypothetical” scenarios are already taking place.
Consider Gorden College in Massachusetts. Gorden’s president simply co-signed a letter requesting that Obama’s executive order exempt religious institutions. The result of making a simple request: the New England Association of Schools and Colleges is reconsidering Gorden’s accreditation. If this accrediting body decides to revoke Gorden’s accreditation, the pressure will be on other accrediting agencies to follow suit in the name of non-discrimination against gays.
Without a religious exemption in this executive order, the stage has been set for religious discrimination to continue to play out legally across America.
State Departments of Education could necessitate private schools hire LGBT faculty members or mandate that school curricula promote tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle. Christian K-12 schools would face a closing curtain while the audience that is our society gives thunderous applause to “tolerance” and “love.”
Think this couldn’t happen? It already is.
In 2012, a Christian school in Cincinnati, Ohio rescinded their offer to hire Jonathan Zeng after learning he was gay. Zeng wasn’t planning to take legal action though he said he was keeping his legal options open. According to Scott E. Knox, a Cincinnati attorney who focuses on employment and discrimination law, federal laws probably won’t protect Zeng, but a local ordinance might. Knox said a city Human Right’s ordinance made it illegal for Cincinnati employers to discriminate against anyone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Although religious institutions are exempt from the ordinance, he believes the school could be in danger of a penalty if it received its tax-exempt status as a private school and not as a house of worship. 3
David Cortman, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, says, “Under the United States Constitution, religious organizations do have the freedom to carry out their faith and their religious mission. So regardless of the local ordinance, the federal constitution trumps in that instance.” 4
Fast forward to the present. An executive order is now in place – without a religious exemption – that makes it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees. Cases like the one in Ohio will now play out very differently on America’s stage.
Zigarelli makes a credible point when he says, “The President is right to codify non-discrimination, but not at the expense of religious freedom. If we continue to sacrifice the latter for the former, as we have yet again with this executive order, we’ll someday see the end of Christian education.” 5 It won’t just be the end of Christian education—it will be the end of religious freedom. If we continue to allow our freedoms to be taken away, we will soon live in a country that does not allow us to practice our faith freely. Is this what we want our America to be?
Friends, we cannot sit idly by and allow our religious freedom to be chipped away. The hammer of religious intolerance is being pounded more and more every day. When we see religious discrimination taking place, we must stand up and speak up – defending the right to practice our faith. If we fail to act, in time The End of Religious Freedom will be playing in a town near you. Perform your part in closing the curtain on religious discrimination before the curtain completely closes on our religious freedom.
Use social media to share news stories concerning religious freedom and discrimination.
Write your representatives about issues that concern you.
Know Your Rights
Visit firstliberty.org/rights/religious-liberty-protection-kit-for-students-and-teachers to see answers to frequently asked questions about student rights.
Visit lc.org/employment-discrimination for information about religious rights in the workplace.
John Wesley said, “Prayer is where the action is.” If we want our efforts to be successful, we must build upon the foundation of prayer.
Talk with friends and family about issues relating to religious freedom.
Support organizations working to defend our religious freedom by donating to their cause, volunteering, and sharing their content.
Vote for candidates that have a history of supporting religious freedom.
Jennifer Wooldridge has been with Renewanation from the earliest days. Her skill and fervor for design has grown as she has helped build The Renewanation Review from the ground up. She now serves as the editor and designer of the magazine. Jen is married to Shawn and is the proud mother of Kayla, age 19. She is passionate about the cause of giving children a Christian worldview and sharing the hope of Christ with the world. You may contact her at email@example.com and connect with her through Twitter at @JenWooldridge.
1. The End of Christian Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-end-of-christian-education-124351.
3. Christian School Rescinds Decision to Hire Music Teacher … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-school-rescinds-decision-to-hire-music-teacher-after-learning-hes-gay-76330.
5. The End of Christian Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-end-of-christian-education-124351.
This article originally appeared in The Renewanation Review® magazine. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here by permission of Renewanation. For more information regarding Renewanation, visit renewanation.org.