Shorter University, which describes itself as a “Christ-centered liberal arts university dedicated to academic excellence within the context of a biblical worldview,” is requiring that all of its 200 employees sign a “personal lifestyle statement” declaring their heterosexuality and rejecting homosexuality, adultery and premarital sex. Part of the statement says:
“I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality.”
Teachers and administrators at the conservative Christian school are also banned from drinking alcohol in front of students and must be active members of their local churches.
The university’s president, Don Dowless, says that the goal of the pledge was to “declare who we are” and was not meant to offend. The Board of Trustees has released this statement, which makes it very clear that only certain individuals are allowed and welcome on Shorter University’s campus:
… The desire of the Board of Trustees was to clearly state our beliefs and put them in a form that would be readily available for anyone who wanted to know more about our university. We are a Christ-centered institution committed to excellence in academics. Through our policies, we seek to honor Jesus Christ. We understand that there are those who do not agree with our beliefs. We are not trying to undermine their right to those beliefs, but want to be transparent about our own.
All employees of the university will be required to sign the policy documents as a condition of continuing employment. This will be part of the faculty contract and staff agreement renewal process next year. Anyone who chooses not to sign the documents will be choosing to end their employment with the university. The documents are currently a part of the hiring process for any new employees coming to the university.
One gay employee of the university — who chose to speak anonymously — said in the Georgia Voice that the pledge has aroused the fear of witch hunts:
We now will live in fear that someone who doesn’t like us personally or someone who has had a bad day will report that we’ve been drinking or that we are suspected of being gay.
While the pledge is only directed to employees, students are understandably worried that they may be required to sign such a pledge, too:
Tamara King Henderson, a student at Shorter who says she is bisexual, commented on the Georgia Voice story that she was concerned the pledge could impact her education. “This could hurt the University’s ability to attract the best and the brightest professors available… [and] ability to receive federal funds.”
WSB-TV says that, because Shorter University is a private institution and does not receive public funds, it is legal for it to require employees to sign such a pledge.
Shorter University’s requirement that staff members sign the “personal lifestyle statement” suggests that, in contrast to some of what is said in its own Mission Statement, providing a “quality higher education” is not so much one of its goals, as is ensuring that members of its community adhere to particular beliefs and “lifestyles.” Dowler also said that ”Anybody who adheres to a lifestyle that is outside of what the biblical mandate is, what the board has passed, including the president, would not be allowed to continue here.” Dowler’s words are quite open-ended: Will LGBT students at some point be included among those “anybodies” who ”would not be allowed to continue” at Shorter University?
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