The End of Christian Education

A 9 to 5 Editorial, July 2014 

On July 21, President Obama signed an executive order making it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. Sounds innocuous enough, but an unintended consequence may be the closing of Christian colleges and schools.

The order doesn’t directly affect private education, but its unprecedented refusal to exempt religious organizations surely will. Without this exemption the President has signaled to regulators that it’s open season on faith-based institutions.

Here’s one possible future: The order says if you want federal money you must hire gays. The US Department of Education decides that this applies to federal financial aid as well. Students are then prohibited from using their aid at colleges that do not hire gays. Christian colleges go out of business.

Here’s another future: With the exemption gone, accrediting bodies take the cue and insist that all colleges include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in their non-discrimination policies, revoking accreditation for those faith-based schools that won’t genuflect. Students are prohibited from using their aid at non-accredited colleges. Christian colleges go out of business.

Absurd? Alarmist? It’s already happening to Gordon College in Massachusetts.

Gordon’s president merely co-signed a letter requesting that this executive order exempt religious institutions. Enter the Secret Police. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges is now reconsidering Gordon’s accreditation. As their decision goes, so goes Gordon. And as Gordon goes, so may go Christian higher ed.

In this environment, Christian K-12 schools could also be fed to the lions. If religious exemptions disappear—which they now probably will—couldn’t the Massachusetts Department of Education (or any state DOE) compel private schools to hire LGBT faculty to remain an approved school? Couldn’t it mandate that school curricula promote LGBT acceptance?

It’s not even hypothetical. On this same issue the government has strong-armed a Christian-run bakery in Colorado, a Christian-run florist in Washington, and a Christian photographer in New Mexico, among others. And as we saw in the recent Hobby Lobby case, HHS tried to require all businesses, including faith-based ones, to pay for abortifacients under Obamacare. They even got four Supremes to agree with them.

So is it really implausible that Christian education is next? The ultimatum for schools will be inescapable: comply or close.

Well “so what?” some would say. Just comply. What’s the problem with non-discrimination?

Nothing, if you frame the issue in that one-sided manner. But what if it were framed this way: What’s the problem with coercing a Christian school to teach that the Bible is wrong? Or hateful? Or discriminatory?

Set aside for a moment that Washington is not supposed to be Tehran. Could you really build an educational system on a Book like that?

Of course not. It wouldn’t be credible and eventually people would abandon it. If you want evidence, just look at the empty pews in our dying mainline churches. The exodus correlates well with their de-legitimizing of scripture.

Empty desks will follow empty pews, at least if this capricious, destabilizing theology is foisted upon our Christian schools. It’s time to take a stand.

The President may be right to codify non-discrimination, but not at the expense of religious freedom. If we continue to sacrifice the latter for the former, as we have yet again with this executive order, we will someday see the end of Christian education.

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