PLNU and other members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) await a decision from the U.S. Labor Department to clarify the rights of faith-based organizations in their hiring practices.
This is in response to President Barack Obama’s executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. PLNU receives government funding.
The CCCU submitted a letter on June 25 asking that Christian organizations have the right to refuse to hire someone based on sexual orientation. President Bob Brower signed the letter along with other religious university presidents on behalf of the CCCU.
“People should be able to talk back and forth with each other. The letter from presidents to the executive branch is a part of democracy. It happens all the time,” said Shirley Hoogstra, president of the CCCU.
Brower said the letter protects Christian universities’ religious freedoms.
“We have respect and regard for all people,” Brower said. “But the interpretation that only a church is considered an organization (and can have exemptions with LGBT) is not right… To take the law and do this is an inappropriate form of government.”
Currently, members of the LGBT community go through the same hiring process as anyone else, said Jeff Herman, associate vice president for human resources.
“[At PLNU,] the university is committed to abide by all applicable laws in our hiring procedures including the religious organization exemption,” said Herman.
Herman would not provide any more information in regards to the hiring process.
According to PLNU’s website, the university does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices or procedures.
Mary Paul, vice president of spiritual development, said as a university, PLNU believes in a set of standard practices.
“As a university, PLNU believes that sex is between a man and woman after marriage,” said Paul. “We do follow the traditional Christian sexual ethic.”
Paul said PLNU’s policies call non-married employees to practice celibacy in correspondence to the Christian religion.
“It is [the applicant’s] decision if [PLNU] is somewhere where they can serve and grow. We believe in honest communication,” said Paul.
Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, received negative feedback from signing a similar letter over an executive order. Gordon College lost city contracts and federal grants because of the letter refusing to hire LGBT.
Gordon faced review from a regional college-accrediting agency and dealt with campus protests in response to his letter.
“I’m okay in civil society for there to be civil unions, insurance rights, domestic partnerships, all those kinds of things,” Lindsay said to the Crux, an online Catholic website. “But the difference here I think we need to pay attention to — this is a religious institution that presumably might be asked to betray one of its core convictions.”
Obama’s new executive order, titled EO 13672, was issued on July 21 and is a clarification on EO 11246, issued January 4, 2002, which prohibited federal contractors from discriminating on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, an organization devoted to promoting government policies that safeguard institutional religious freedom, the new policy lacks “regulatory guidance on how the new prohibitions affect the religious-staffing exemption that is already in the regulations.”
Thus, this alliance asked the U.S. Labor Department to clarify EO 13672, explaining the rights of faith-based organizations that receive government funding.
EO 13672 was sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for review.