The city of Salem, Massachusetts, has chosen to opt out of a longstanding contract with a Christian college in response to the school's rule banning "homosexual behavior" among students and faculty.
The agreement in question between Gordon College and Salem was "a reciprocal arrangement where we provided management of the facility in exchange for using it for educational programs connected to Gordon, and as well as ‘curation’ experiences for history majors at Gordon," Rick Sweeney, vice president of marketing and communications at the college, told the Christian Post.
The contract had been in effect since 2008, and the agreement was already set to end in August.
"The city had the option of opting out early," Sweeney told the Post, noting that school officials likely won't consider legal action. "When the college became part of a public controversy over attention on longstanding behavioral standards we have as a private Christian institution, they decided to move quickly."
Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll confirmed these details, citing the college’s "behavioral standards" policy banning "homosexual behavior" for students and faculty as the specific issue causing the city to opt of out the contract one month early, the Post added.
Driscoll said the decision came as a result of a non-discrimination ordinance that the Salem City Council adopted earlier this year and added that she does not consider it an example of "viewpoint discrimination"; instead, the mayor told the Post that officials are simply following the law.
"The city does not contract with private parties that willfully discriminate on the basis of age, ancestry, color, disability, family status, gender identity or expression, marital status, military status, national origin, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation," Driscoll said.
But Sweeney said the school is disheartened over how the situation was handled.
“It is sad this situation has cast both the college and our relationship with the city in a bad light, as the partnership has always been very amicable and productive over the years,” he told the Post.
Salem’s decision came after Gordon College president D. Michael Lindsay signed a letter to President Barack Obama requesting an exemption from an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating in their hiring based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Lindsay was one of 14 religious leaders who signed the letter. That controversial decision caught the attention of the agency through which Gordon College has its accreditation, the Boston Globe reported.
AP Photo/Danny Johnston
The agency’s commission will review the college at their next meeting in September and decide whether the college is violating the agencies’ accreditation standards, which state that each "institution adheres to nondiscriminatory policies and practices in recruitment, admissions, employment, evaluation, disciplinary action, and advancement,” according to the Globe.
Lindsay published a statement on the college's website highlighting its devotion to biblical principles.
“At root, Gordon is, and always has been, an educational institution grounded in our commitment to Christ," he wrote. "Our longstanding positions on matters of Christian faith and community standards are conveyed in our statements of faith and of life and conduct.”
Lindsay also explained that the college has “never barred categories of individuals from our campus and have no intention to do so now."
(H/T: Christian Post)