A historic Christian university in Rome, Georgia has received record resignation letters from staffers after mandating that its employees sign a “personal lifestyle statement.”
Reports indicate that nearly sixty out of the two hundred employees at Shorter University have decided to leave the educational institution rather than sign the statement, which outlines a moral code that staff are required to live by.
The statement reads, “I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.” It also prohibits the promotion of alcohol and states that employees “are expected to be active members of a local church.”
Professors and students alike have become so enraged about the requirement that they have launched a website called “Save our Shorter.” The website outlines that since the university has come under “fundamentalist” leadership, it has made changes that the members of Shorter University are unhappy with.
“Students sunbathing on the lawn, as Shorter students had done for many, many years, were told that their behavior was no longer acceptable, [and] the opera, Elixir of Love, a repertoire standard, was banned because alcohol was a part of the plot. The Harry Potter novels were [also] no longer allowed to be used for courses,” the website explained.
Save Our Shorter also features commentary from students and staff who explain why they are leaving the university.
“How can a self-proclaimed Christian university come out with a document that is not Christ-like at all?,” McKinley Starks, an openly homosexual student stated, referring to the required lifestyle statement. “I feel that Shorter, the GBC, the Board of Trustees, and/or whoever can do what they want to the school. It’s their school, but I cannot personally attend a school so full of hate.”
“Surely a kind and loving God wouldn’t condemn to eternal damnation those who didn’t interpret the Bible in an ‘approved’ fashion,” wrote Dr. Sherri Weiler, former Associate Professor of Music at Shorter University. “I am grateful for teachers who caused me to question my faith; my own Baptist mother taught me that unless faith was questioned and tested, it really had no value,” she added. “Where is today’s American Taliban? At Shorter University. Religious fundamentalism in any form (Muslim or Christian) is sheer lunacy in today’s divided, fractured, and tormented world. True peace is only to be found in opening the doors, not closing the gates,” Weiler wrote.
The website also claims that the changes to the university, including the lifestyle statement, are “slowly destroying the reputation of our beloved school and causing irreparable damage to the cause of Christ.”
Michael Wilson, a librarian at Shorter University, is also a homosexual. He recently explained that he signed the “personal lifestyle statement,” but sent it back with a line crossing out the sentence that reads, “I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.” Wilson is aware that he could be terminated from his position for his involvement in the homosexual lifestyle.
Shorter University first opened in 1873 as the Cherokee Baptist Female Seminary, but after switching leadership, grew into the multidimensional facility that it is today. Since the 1950’s, the university has been a part of the Georgia Baptist Convention, but according to reports, many of the faculty were not approving of a number of the beliefs of the Convention.
In 2005, Shorter University sued the Georgia Baptist Convention in an effort to break free from its control, but lost its lawsuit.
In 2008, the university joined the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, a group which largely limits their hiring practices to only evangelical Christians. The leadership of the university also changed hands.
Last October, the school decided that it needed to take measures to ensure that its staff members were abiding by Biblical, moral standards, and issued the “personal lifestyle statement” to employees.
The president of Shorter University states that he is not surprised that some staffers are upset with the school’s requirements, but is not backing down.
“We have a right to hire only Christians,” President Don Dowless stated. “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.”
“While we hate to lose members of our community, we wish them well,” he added.
Protests have taken place at the university against Dowless for his stand since the policy went into effect. Students and faculty have held signs such as “Dowless is a born again bigot,” and “Jesus loves me; why can’t you?” One student stated at one of the protests, “I don’t think they should care about what you do in your personal life as long as it doesn’t affect your work.”
However, Dowless believes differently. “It’s really unreasonable not to expect a Christian university to promote Christian values,” he said.