The First Amendment protects the right of religious universities to decide the faculty they want to hire or promote. That means Christian colleges are free to choose who teaches the faith.
Gordon College is no different. But Massachusetts is trying to take that freedom away.
Founded in 1889, Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts is a distinctly Christian institution. It aims to be “a place where Christian faith frames all aspects of the experience—from residence life to athletics to academics.” This is seen in its vibrant community of faithful students and scholars.
To achieve its mission, Gordon College requires its faculty members to provide students with religious instruction and leadership, including spiritual mentoring. The college cares deeply about its students’ spiritual growth. And professors are instrumental and essential in these efforts, as they are required to integrate the Christian faith in every class they instruct.
Faculty members’ adherence to the school’s religious beliefs is a key to the college’s administration as a distinctly Christian institution—and this is something the college is very open about. They even post the school’s statement of faith as well as life and conduct guidelines on their website.
The government has no business getting caught up in a private religious college’s internal religious affairs.
But now, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is forcing Gordon College to make hiring decisions contrary to its religious mission.
In 2017, Gordon College professor Margaret DeWeese-Boyd filed a lawsuit against the college because she was denied a promotion. But as U.S. Supreme Court precedent confirms, religious institutions are free to make employment decisions that uphold their ministerial mission without governmental interference.
The Court held in Our Lady of Guadalupe: “The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools.”
“The government should not interfere with the religious decisions of religious colleges,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “Gordon College works to stretch the mind, deepen the faith, and elevate the contribution that Gordon students and graduates make to the world around them. Gordon’s professors are the key to teaching the faith to its students. And the First Amendment is clear: The government has no business telling a faith-based college how to exercise its faith.”