Even if you're not an evangelical Christian fundamentalist, you're probably familiar with the 58 Commandments. Standard stuff: Thou Shalt Not Kill, Thou Shalt Not Drink Alcohol in Public, Thou Shalt Not Support Homosexuality, etc. etc. It's not enough for employees at Georgia's Shorter University to place their faith in these tenets, so the school wants them to put it in writing, requiring them to sign a "Personal Lifestyle Statement" that forces them to pledge loyalty to the school, refrain from having a glass of wine at Applebees and "reject…premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality," or be fired. Because nothing strengthens the sacred bond between one's God and one's soul like a legally binding document.
Don Dowless, the president of the Baptist school, tells Channel 2 News that the policy is nothing new. "I think that anybody who adheres to a lifestyle that is outside of what the biblical mandate is and of what the board has passed, including the president, would not be allowed to continue here." “They (employees) must be transparent,” he said. “The rules are already in place and we have set up fair expectations up front," he added to Rome News Tribune, apparently believing that asking his employees to fundamentally change who they are is "fair."
One of those people who "adheres to a lifestyle outside of what the biblical mandate is" happens to be a gay employee of Shorter, who describes him or herself in an interview with the GA Voice as "a long-time employee of Shorter who is in a position that impacts many." In the interview, the employee shares details of the letter they're being asked to sign, and illustrates the heartbreaking internal conflict it's forced on the school's gay community:
Some might say that you made a decision to work at a Southern Baptist university, and it is no secret that the Southern Baptists are not supportive of gay rights. How do you respond?
I made the decision, I own it, and I'm proud to be a Christian. I don't see homosexuality as being any less congruent with Christianity than judging people, sexual deviance, dishonesty, pride, lust, envy, sloth, etc. My response is simple: Why is homosexuality so much worse than anything else in the Bible? Why does a homosexual deserve to be fired any more than an obviously egotistical person, or a lazy person, or a dishonest person?
With all of the talk about homosexuality being a sin, I do feel the need to share my own view. I struggle with viewing the Bible as the inerrant word of God if only because I know that I was born this way. And to Christians who would say that what I feel is the work of the Devil, I would only say that I went through a long period of praying, begging, and really trying not to be gay. God didn't change me or pull me out of it.
Because of this, I don't feel that I am a terrible person who is damned to hell. God has a plan for me. Telling me I'm going to hell, telling me I'm a bad person ... those are judgements and none of us is fit to judge anyone else.
Do you know of other gay employees or gay students? How are they reacting to this?
Yes. Not well...It isn't enough that, as professionals, everyone knows that you don't come to work drunk, high, flaunting sexuality, or opening disparaging your employer. It isn't enough that to come here you have to be a Christian. You have to sign on a dotted line that you're going to believe things and act a certain way. It is pretty insulting.
Right now, the student body isn't forced to sign a similar document, and the employee states that they will probably leave the school rather than sign it. Why can't the school's leaders just keep their bigoted complaints on Facebook like everyone else?