AUSTIN, Texas — Some Christian schools have encountered hospitals and schools that refuse to accept their nursing and education students for jobs and internships, Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, told The Christian Post.
The students are being turned away due to the colleges' understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman. The problem is not widespread, Hoogstra explained, but it is an issue that the CCCU has been dealing with and is concerned about for the future.
"There have been small pockets in the United States where Christian colleges that have held a traditional understanding of marriage have had some of their professional programs impacted," she said. "For instance, there have been some public schools that will not allow teachers into their schools. Not because they have witnessed the student teachers in any way being bigoted or discriminatory, but because they have a penalty against a school that has a traditional understanding of marriage.
"In terms of nursing placements, this has repeatedly been a conversation between the public hospitals and nursing placements for student nurses. It's not widespread yet, but there are pockets of it, which concerns us."
Hoogstra clarified that it has nothing to do with the personal beliefs of the students, but the positions of the schools. "It could be the student has a very open understanding of marriage, but it doesn't matter, it's a categorical ban because the institution holds a particular historic understanding of marriage."
Concerns over the religious freedom of Christian colleges were also heard at CCCU's Feb. 1 President's Conference in Washington, D.C.
During that event, Shirley Mullen, the president of Houghton College and vice chair of CCCU's board of directors, noted the "standard western narrative of progress has assumed that deeply-held religious beliefs ... result in intolerance, conflict, violence, oppression." And while many view Christian higher ed as "very monolithic internally," in fact, Christian education is "often really tough-minded, thoughtful dialogue."
Hoogstra was in Austin Tuesday to lead a workshop on religious freedom for Advocacy Day, a two-day event at Woodlawn Baptist Church sponsored by the Texas Baptists' Christian Life Commission.
About 200 people attended the event where conservative Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson was the keynote speaker. On Wednesday, attendees visited political leaders in the Texas legislature to discuss issues they care about. According to a 26-page "Advocacy and Public Policy Guide" given to all the attendees, these issues included children and families, human trafficking, immigration, religious liberty, poverty, and life.
The other workshops were on prison reform, immigration, abortion and adoption, education, and the ONE Campaign. There were also two workshops for Spanish speakers.
The Texas Baptists, or the Baptist General Convention of Texas, is an affiliation of 5,300 churches in Texas from a broad spectrum of Baptist denominations.
Christian colleges, Hoogstra added during her workshop, are the "tip of the spear" on the issue of religious liberty for Christians.
The CCCU represents more than 180 Christian colleges and universities around the world. According to its website, "The CCCU’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth."