A Georgia university is gaining attention for a new document that will rule out homosexuals as possible employees. The school's board of trustees recently adopted a “Personal Lifestyle Statement” document that all faculty and staff must sign. If they don't, their employment with the school will be terminated.
Shorter University, which is based in Rome, Ga., is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention, and expects its staff to help it further its Christ-centered goals. The school's new motto, “Transforming Lives through Christ,” was also approved during the board of trustees meeting in addition to the lifestyle statement and a number of other related documents.
The lifestyle statement document says that the school will only hire “committed Bible believing Christians,” who, as employees of the school, are also expected to be active church members.
As far as personal conduct is concerned, the document also lays out rules forbidding employees from producing, using or selling illegal drugs, and they are not allowed to drink alcohol in public or endorse its use.
But the one item that really caught the eye of critics is the statement that all employees must “reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.”
In a news release, Trustee Chair-Elect Joe Frank Harris, Jr. shared why the school created the document.
“The ‘why’ is really simple: What you stand for matters,” said Harris. “Proverbs 3:5-6 tell us to ‘Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.’ If we acknowledge Him, He will make this university’s path straight.”
One Shorter University student, a sophomore who asked not to be named, told WSB-TV in Atlanta that the school shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against employees by forcing them to sign such a statement.
"The Bible says, ‘Thou shall not judge.’ Who is one person to judge what somebody else does? It's none of their business," the student said. "It's taking it too far, I believe."
A petition against the document has been posted on SignOn.org, and as of Friday afternoon over 400 signatures had been accumulated since just the day before.
“I went to Shorter for a year in 05-06, but left when all this nastiness started happening,” wrote Corey Bradberry, one of the petition's supporters. “It's a real shame. Educational institutions should promote culture and comprehension, not bigotry and close-mindedness.”
The school's president, Donald Dowless, says the lifestyle statement isn't really all that new to Shorter University faculty and staff. Since he became president on June 1 of this year, he says he has always addressed issues of faith and lifestyle with any potential employees. The purpose of the document, he says, is not to add new rules but to clarify the school's already established stance as a Christian institution.
"As a private institution we have a right, just like organizations have the right, to set expectations of their employees,” Dowless told The Christian Post on Friday. “We have a right to hire only Christians."
None of the school's 278 employees have come forward yet to say they will refuse to sign the document. Dowless says he won't force anyone to go against their conscience, but those who don't sign will be fired.
He has also made it known to employees they can bring their concerns to him, and so far, two individuals have come forward to speak with him about the issue. Current university employees, who are on annual contracts, will be expected to sign the document before their contracts can be renewed next year, and any new hires will be expected to sign the document immediately.
“We love Jesus Christ, and we want people who serve here to love Jesus Christ and be willing to not just sign the document, but enthusiastically endorse that in every aspect of their lives,” Dowless said. “We are an institution that wants to foster a Christian environment...and that's done by all employees who we hire, not just the faculty but also the staff."