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Homosexuality, sex outside of marriage affect colleges' hiring practices

Several faith-based colleges and universities in Indiana require employees to agree to a certain lifestyle. Some agreements are friendlier to LGBTQ employees than others.


Posted on May 29, 2014 at 4:00 a.m.

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While Goshen College has made headlines recently for hiring practices that set rules for its employees sex lives, it isn't the only church affiliated school in Michiana to do so.

As it turns out, several other Indiana colleges have practices similar to Goshen College’s that require employees to agree to lifestyle guidelines that fit a spectrum of religious values in many areas, including sexuality. One policy requires employees to attend church. Another asks employees to stay away from dancing, tobacco and supporting abortion.

And there are still other religious schools that say they support LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning) employees. At Machester University, a Church of the Brethren school in North Manchester, for example, employees’ same-sex partners can even be covered under the employee health care plan.

“We've got maybe 10 gay faculty or staff members,” Jeri Kornegay, director of media relations for Manchester said. “But that’s just me guessing — you don’t have to declare,” she added.

Kornegay said Manchester is a school before it is a religious institution. 

“There are members of the church on the board of trustees, but the Church of the Brethren does not govern this place,” she said. 

Representatives of Catholic schools nearby, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, said the schools don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation.

“Notre Dame doesn't inquire as to the sexual orientation of prospective or current employees, and we are committed to fostering a welcoming, diverse and inclusive environment for all,” Dennis Brown, spokesperson for Notre Dame said.

An employment policy at Saint Mary’s says, “Based on our Catholic values, the College...commits to avoiding discrimination based on sexual or political orientation.”

Holy Cross College administration doesn't address “LGBTQ stuff” in the hiring process, said spokesperson Robert Kloska.

“We've never encountered that as an issue...it’s never come up,” he said.

Two schools, Bethel College in Mishawaka and Grace College in Winona Lake, specifically say employees cannot have sex outside of a marriage relationship.

Audrey Russell, director of human resources at Grace, said the college’s hiring practice is based on the biblical worldview that the word of God is the final authority on all subjects — conduct expressly forbidden in the Bible isn't acceptable for employees to include not only homosexual relationships but all sexual intercourse outside of wedlock.

“Grace, therefore, would not knowingly hire employees who engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage between a man and a woman,” Russell wrote in an email to The Elkhart Truth. 

Bethel’s “covenant of lifestyle” says employees should “avoid any form of sexual activity which the Scripture prohibits, including sexual intercourse outside of marriage...”

It does not specifically address same-sex relationships.

Indiana Wesleyan University’s “community lifestyle statement” lists “homosexual behavior” among a long list of things employees shouldn't participate in, including lying, theft, adultery and premarital sex.

A “life together covenant” at Taylor University in Upland includes homosexual behavior on a similar list of prohibited behavior for those in the Taylor community.

Another school declined to elaborate on specifics for what they expect of their employees.

Sara Wenger Shenk, president of the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, said the administration decides who to hire based on prospective employee’s support of the school’s mission to uphold the Anabaptist, evangelical and ecumenical vision. 

Shenk declined to say whether any seminary employees are openly gay or whether an LGBTQ person would feel comfortable working at the seminary.

“We don’t buy those categories,” she said. “We think more broadly about whether people are well-suited to serve our employees.”

A representative of Valparaiso University, a Lutheran school, was not immediately available to give information on the schools’ hiring policy when contacted by an Elkhart Truth reporter.

Legal discrimination 

Church-affiliated schools, like religious organizations, are exempt from the federal Title VII law that says employers can’t discriminate based on religion. That’s what allows a Catholic company, for example, to state it will only hire Catholics.

But there is no law that prevents any employer — religious or not — from discriminating against an employee based on sexual orientation. It’s completely legal to do so, according to the Indiana Civil Rights Commission

Federal law protects employees from discrimination based race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Indiana law protects  from discrimination in those categories but adds disability, age and ancestry too.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include information about the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross hiring policies. The graphic was updated to include Goshen College.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks


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