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Gordon College Settles Discrimination Suit with Ex-Professor, but Issues Remain

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A case about a Christian college professor who claimed she was discriminated against for taking a position on homosexuality that conflicted with the school’s position has been settled, thanks to two Christian legal groups, but the issue at the heart of the case—whether employees of Christian organizations are ministers—remains unresolved.

An aerial view of Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, in summer 2018. Photo by Mark Spooner/Gordon College

Gordon College social work professor Margaret DeWeese-Boyd criticized the school and its former president, Michael Lindsay, after he sought to exempt Gordon from federal prohibitions on discrimination based on sexual orientation. She was denied promotion in 2017, and her position was eliminated in 2019.

After DeWeese-Boyd sued, attorneys from the Becket Foundation for Religious Liberty, which defends the rights of people of many faiths, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, which defends Christians and conservative organizations, helped Gordon fight the case, eventually arguing that the case should be heard by the Supreme Court, where both groups have enjoyed numerous victories.

But the Court declined to intervene. Absent a ruling that Gordon’s faculty members were ministers, the legal groups worked with Gordon and DeWeese-Boyd to craft a resolution to the case. That agreement has not been released. The news was first reported by The Salem News last week.

“We are pleased to finally reach a resolution of this dispute,” said the Massachusetts school in a Dec. 13 email to students and faculty. “This has been a protracted legal journey through the judicial system which we did not seek out but were compelled to pursue.”

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The Becket Foundation won a major Supreme Court victory on ministerial exemption in 2020 in decision on two cases involving Catholic school teachers, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel.

The issue of which nonprofit employees are ministers remains unsettled in courts across the land.

A federal court recently ruled against Charlotte Catholic High School in North Carolina, but that case is being appealed. Christian ministries have joined in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by Colorado law firm Sherman & Howard, including Samaritan’s Purse, the Navigators, Evangelical Council For Financial Accountability, and more than 10 others.

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.