Inclusiveness and diversity are perhaps valued more in modern American culture and government than any other characteristic — unless of course you’re dealing with Christians. Whether you’re a business like Chick-fil-A or Hobby Lobby or you’re a private organization like the Boy Scouts, there is no denying that taking a traditional Christian stance on sexuality is now a risky endeavor.
The latest to experience the warm and fuzzy hospitality of “inclusive” secularism is Gordon College, a private liberal arts college located in quaint Wenham, Massachusetts.
Like many Christian colleges, Gordon College requires its students to agree to a set of behavioral standards while they attend the school. Students are expected to refrain from “blasphemy, profanity, dishonesty, theft, drunkenness, sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexual practice,” and the college has plainly stated that these actions “will not be tolerated in the lives of Gordon community members, either on or off campus.”
The prohibition against “homosexual practice” led the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the most prominent accreditation organization in the region, to investigate whether its own standards of accreditation have been violated by Gordon College’s behavioral code, which at least some in the NEASC feel are discriminatory.
On Sept. 18, NEASC met with officials from Gordon College to discuss its prohibition on homosexual sex, and the resulting report from that meeting indicates that Gordon College will spend 12–18 months reviewing its policies to ensure they are consistent with NEASC’s Standards of Accreditation. The truth of the matter is, however, that Gordon College’s standards must either change to accommodate behavior the college believes is sinful and in opposition to its stated Christian mission or the school will risk losing its accreditation from NEASC.
Because the federal government, which now controls the vast majority of the student loan market under reforms ushered in by President Obama, often requires approval from regional accreditation organizations like NEASC in order for a school to offer its students federal loans, Gordon College’s very survival could soon be at risk because it opposes homosexual sex.
This is precisely how progressivism works. It first establishes a government organization, policy, or mandate tied to access to funding, and then that financial power is used to force organizations they disagree with to adopt social, political, and economic positions they ordinarily would oppose.
Christian businesses and schools are today’s easy targets, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision not to address the gay marriage debate, opening the door for state courts to reject gay marriage bans without fear of being overturned by higher courts. Public opinion has also swayed in favor of gay marriage over the past decade, with many states, including traditionally conservative strongholds, witnessing a growth in support for gay rights.
But the issue of whether homosexuality is morally wrong or not is not the issue here; the real story is about liberty. Gordon College is not a government organization, nor does it receive tax dollars for its operation. It’s a private institution with a distinctly Christian focus. As such, it should have the right to operate any way it chooses and ask students, who voluntarily attend the school, to refrain from any sort of behavior it sees fit.
Obviously, Gordon College should not discriminate against any of its students, but its policies are, in fact, not discriminatory at all. The college bans sexual behavior, of all kinds, outside of traditional Christian marriage. That means two students, of any race, age, or gender, cannot engage in extramarital sex regardless of sexual orientation. In theory, homosexual students who are married to spouses of the opposite gender can have sexual relations with him or her in the same way heterosexual students can. The policy is absolutely and unequivocally equal for all students, making the charges of “discrimination” completely unwarranted.
What NEASC and progressives want from Gordon College is absolute acceptance of all behaviors and actions they deem permissible. In essence, Gordon College is being asked to turn in its Bible in exchange for a new ultimate authority: social liberalism. It can be fairly asserted then that, in actuality, Gordon College is the real victim of discrimination, since the only way it can possibly adhere to the standards NEASC has set is to radically alter the mission of the school in its entirety. That doesn’t sound very inclusive to me.
NEASC does have the right to establish, at its own discretion, guidelines for accreditation that may interfere with the beliefs of certain religious or non-religious institutions of higher learning. As a private entity, NEASC should have the right to operate freely as well, even if that means discriminating against certain groups it finds distasteful. However, that discrimination cannot be tolerated if the federal government is going to tie student loan approval to the decisions NEASC makes. By doing so, the federal government is essentially violating guaranteed freedoms established by the Constitution through a middleman — NEASC.
The beauty of a truly free society is that all private individuals and organizations have the ability to pursue whatever course they desire. Christians, socialists, atheists, agnostics, and capitalists should all have the right to associate with whomever they choose without fear of being punished by the government.
But by forcing Gordon College to adhere to standards it finds immoral, NEASC and the federal government have put the college in a position where it must either sacrifice its deeply held convictions in order to survive or it must risk financial ruin to maintain its liberty. That’s not diversity; it’s tyranny.
Justin Haskins (NewRevere@1791.com) is an author, blogger, and columnist at Townhall.com. You can follow him @TheNewRevere.