Houghton University Employees Allege School Fired Them For Refusing To Remove Pronouns From Email Signatures

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Two Houghton University employees allege the school fired them for refusing to remove their personal pronouns from their email signatures, The New York Times (NYT) reports.

Residence hall directors Raegan Zelaya and Shua Wilmot included the pronouns “she/her” and “he/him,” respectively, when they signed their work emails, the NYT reported Friday. The university allegedly requested they remove their pronouns, citing a violation of school policy barring any “extraneous” add-ons to an employee’s email signature. When the residence hall directors refused to remove the pronouns, they were fired from the upstate New York school, according to the NYT.

“I think it boils down to: They want to be trans-exclusive and they want to communicate that to potential students and the parents of potential students,” Wilmot, 29, told the outlet. “There’s the professional piece to it, and the practical piece, and there’s also an inclusive piece, and I think that’s the piece this institution doesn’t want,”  (RELATED: From Pronouns To Comedy Shows, College Kids Keep Snitching On Speech Through Secret Tip Lines, Documents Show)

Zelaya and Wilmot argued adding their pronouns to their work email signatures was useful because their names do not explicitly indicate their gender, and people have mistaken them for the opposite gender before, the NYT reported. Neither employee is transgender, according to the outlet.

Still, university spokesman Michael Blankenship said the employees were not fired solely for having pronouns in their email signatures. He said Houghton has a policy of prohibiting “anything extraneous” from email signatures, “including Scripture quotes,” according to the NYT.

Zelaya said she believes the firings were motivated by an attempt to appeal to conservative religious partisans.

“We live in a very divided world right now where everything is this or that, right or left, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat,” Zelaya told the outlet. “As Christians, I think we’ve gotten so caught up in these ideas of, ‘This is what I should be advocating for or upset about,’ that we forget to actually care for people.”

Houghton University is affiliated with The Wesleyan Church, which ideologically opposes transgenderism and teaches that “maleness and femaleness are universal human categories.”

“Based on our biblical and theological study, there is no argument for a ‘third gender’ among humans. Gender confusion and dysphoria are ultimately the biological, psychological, social and spiritual consequences of the human race’s fallen condition,” according to a blog post from the church entitled “A Wesleyan View of Gender Identity and Expression.”

The university says it looks at issues such as abortion, racism and social justice through a “biblical lens,” noting the religious nature of the institution means it will embrace positions that are “currently called conservative,” according to the school’s official website.