President Brower signed a letter addressed to President Obama – joining more than 24 other university presidents and religious institutions -arguing for their right to exemption from an employer nondiscrimination clause against LGBT workers on the basis of religious liberties.
The letter was written in response to Obama’s new law protecting LGBT federal workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Please also protect the rights of faith-based organizations that simply desire to utilize staffing practices consistent with their deep religious convictions as they partner with the federal government via contracting or subcontracting,” stated the letter addressed to President Obama on June 25.
“What we’re trying to say, along with many folks across the country, is we’re trying to urge the president to recognize the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that provides religious protection,” Brower said. “Exemption for religious freedom is essentially the issue being called for.”
PLNU’s hiring policies for faculty and staff allow the university to decline hiring someone if they do not adhere to its Christian standards. These standards are listed in the lifestyle agreements that faculty and students are required to sign to work and attend PLNU.
“The question is if [potential employees] are willing to live life in correlation to the guidelines that PLNU presents,” said Mary Paul, the vice president of Spiritual Development.
Brower was asked by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) to sign the letter to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which argues for religious freedom in the hiring process.
“It does not make a difference if [Brower] signed the letter or not,” said Paul Bassett, who holds a law degree and is a communication and theatre professor. “We are government funded so it is really the government’s call on what we are allowed to do.”
Faculty and staff protested at Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts, when they found out that their president, Dr. D. Michael Lindsay, signed the same letter as Brower. They wrote a letter to their president in response.
However, Brower says the issue at Gordon is not related to signing the letter. However, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation commission is reevaluating the hiring practices of the university in response, an issue which these other schools could face should the issue present itself in a similar way.
“At this point, it’s not fair to say their accreditation is called into question,” said Brower. “The practice of accreditation association is to request documentation and reply from Gordon as to the policies and practices as a campus. It’s not an unusual event, but it has gotten a lot more media coverage than others.”
While Lindsay’s signing of the letter has made a lot of media coverage for Gordon College, many PLNU students and faculty were not aware of Brower signing the same letter.
“There was no consultation because faculty and staff were not here in the summer,” Brower said.
Molly Murphy, a junior sociology major, said she was surprised by Brower’s decision to sign the letter.
“I had no idea and I’m upset that he signed it,” said Murphy. “My views on discrimination have really changed over the past year when I went with the Black Student Union club and witnessed the impact discrimination had on history. LGBT is now discriminated against like blacks were and that is not okay.”
Every spring, BSU travels to Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee on a pilgrimage to retrace the footsteps of civil rights leaders.
Current lawyer and professor of German and Literature at PLNU, David Michael McKinney believes in Brower’s right to sign the letter without informing faculty or staff and that it coincides with Christian views.
“The president of this institution is responsible to no one except the board of trustees, he does not answer to the faculty,” said McKinney. “I think a lot of faculty and staff agree with President Brower signing the letter; we are a Christian university. [Brower] is the boss, whether I personally agree or not, is just one man’s opinion, and whether I do or do not – I’ll keep that to myself.”
Brower met with his legal staff in response to the request from the CCCU to discuss their inclusion in this letter.
PLNU and the other universities who signed the letter in June await a response from Obama or others about ramifying bill.
“We might get a call from a congressman’s office for perspective on part of the letter or contacted by a congressional office and say our thoughts on it now, if it affects us and what it means,” said Brower.
For PLNU, Mary Paul said the main concern is the university’s right to hire those who support the university’s Christian standards and the community students are guaranteed when attending PLNU.
“The main concern of the letter is to protect students by the right of choice. They have decided to attend with a promise of what the community is like; we have to give that to them,” said Paul.