The accreditors who control what schools have access to federal funding are reviewing a Christian college whose president signed a letter to President Obama pertaining to religious freedom and an executive order about gay rights.
“[The commission] will talk about the issues and decide if the issues, that are raised and what is publicly available, is at odds in any way with standards and policies,” New England Association of Schools and Colleges president Barbara Brittingham said, per Boston Business Journal, in response to a letter signed by Gordon College president D. Michael Lindsay.
Lindsay signed a letter to Obama requesting an exemption from an imminent executive order “forbidding companies that do business with the federal government from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
About 150 religious leaders also signed the letter. “We believe that all persons are created in the divine image of the creator, and are worthy of respect and love, without exception. Even so, it still may not be possible for all sides to reach a consensus on every issue,” they wrote, according to the Boston Globe. “That is why we are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.”
The federal government relies on accrediting agencies to decide which colleges qualify for the $157 billion of federal funding provided annually to colleges and universities, so the meeting that Brittingham described could have dire consequences for the school.
“That $157 billion a year is the oxygen that keeps higher ed alive,” as Southern New Hampshire University president Paul LeBlanc put it.
The expected executive order is modeled on the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which gay-rights groups have long supported. That unity among activists is fracturing, though, as some gay-rights activists want to remove the religious-freedom exemption from the bill.
“ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations — including hospitals, nursing homes and universities — a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people,” the ACLU says.