SALEM, Mass. — The mayor of a city in Massachusetts has ended a contract with an area Christian college because of the institution’s biblical beliefs about homosexual behavior.
Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll recently sent a letter to Michael Lindsay, the president of Gordon College, advising that the school could no longer manage the Old Town Hall because it opposes sexual activities between those of the same gender.
She stated that her main concern was over the college’s behavioral standards policy, which prohibits staff and students from engaging in homosexual behavior. The policy also forbids fornication, drunkenness, profanity, blasphemy, lying and other behaviors that are contrary to biblical law.
“I hope you realize how hurtful and offensive these ‘behavioral standards’ are to members of the greater Salem LGBT community, some of whom are Gordon alumni, staff and/or students,” Driscoll wrote.
She said that Gordon College’s policies “fly in the face” of Salem’s non-discrimination law, which bars the city from working with entities that “discriminate” against others.
“While I respect your right to embed religious values on a private college campus, religious freedom does not afford you the right to impose those beliefs upon others and cannot be extended into a publicly owned facility or any management contract for a public owned facility, like Old Town Hall,” Driscoll wrote.
She told reporters recently that she made the decision to cancel the contract, which was to have expired later this year, when she discovered that Lindsay was among those who signed a letter to Barack Obama requesting that a religious exemption be included in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which bars the government from contracting with “discriminatory” organizations.
But in an online message to Gordon College students and staff, Lindsay explained that he signed the letter out of his belief that religious entities should not be punished for being faithful to the Scriptures.
“My sole intention in signing this letter was to affirm the College’s support of the underlying issue of religious liberty, including the right of faith-based institutions to set and adhere to standards which derive from our shared framework of faith, and which we all have chosen to embrace as members of the Gordon community,” he wrote.
Lindsay stated that although there was “confusion, hurt feelings and disappointment” at the college over his support for the exemption, he believed that intentions had been “misconstrued,” noting that “Gordon tries to stay out of politically charged issues.”
Gordon College has contracted with the city since 1992 to manage and maintain Old Town Hall, a facility used for private events, as well the annual production of “Cry Innocent,” a play about the Salem witch trials.
Salem, known as “Witch City,” was the location of the 1692 trials and has a long history of witchcraft and paganism that continues to this day. Because of its roots, the city hosts a month-long celebration of Halloween each year called “Haunted Happenings.” The events include a costume parade, witch-centered dramas, psychic readings and public fairs and carnivals. On Halloween, the streets of Salem become especially congested with trick-or-treaters and other costumed revelers—numbering upwards in the tens of thousands. A number of occult shops are especially visible during the month of October as well.
Photo: John Phelan