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Understanding the Issues: Gordon College, Religious Liberty and Executive Order 13672

Gordon College has been drawn into the emerging national debate around the freedom of private, faith-based organizations to continue to set the conditions and community standards for their institutions. This website is intended as an ongoing resource to answer questions about the issues as they unfold and about Gordon, to offer context and clarification wherever possible, and to foster constructive dialogue as a College community, as neighbors, and as fellow citizens. If you have additional questions, please email

Does President Obama's executive order of July 21 apply to Gordon College?
No. Gordon College students are eligible to receive federal financial aid in the form of grants (including Pell Grants), direct loans (such as Federal Stafford Loans), and work study as administered under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In addition, Gordon faculty may apply for grants from federal organizations, such as the National Endowment for the Arts or National Science Foundation, to support their research and scholarship. These financial relationships do not classify Gordon College as a “federal contractor.”

Why did President Lindsay sign a letter to President Obama urging him to continue the congressional and presidential practice of extending religious exemptions to faith-based humanitarian organizations, colleges, and other institutions?
President Lindsay offered his support of an overall exemption because of the precedent it could set for future executive orders. As the chief executive of Gordon College he has a responsibility to conscientiously safeguard the distinctive characteristics that have defined Gordon College since it was founded in 1889. Infringement on religious liberty could affect all faith-based institutions’ ability to hire for mission in the future, and the rights of faith-based institutions to establish standards and expectations for their community.

The letter encouraged President Obama to grant the same religious exemption that was passed by a U.S. Senate bill (S.815) in 2013 with bipartisan support (including the support of both of Massachusetts’ senators), and for which President Bush signed an executive order in 2002. Several hundred organizations around the country made the same request of President Obama and his administration.

What does Gordon College stand for?
Gordon College is an undergraduate liberal arts institution dedicated to the highest standards of academic inquiry and teaching excellence. The College has a tradition of respectful dialogue rooted in a deep commitment to Christ.

We are the only institution of our kind in New England, with nearly 50 different denominations within the Christian tradition represented among our students, faculty and staff. We do not all think alike, and we do not all agree on all issues. Gordon College students, faculty and broader community share an environment that advocates dialogue, respect and acceptance, and does not pass judgment. This reflects our commitment to model Christ's love for all. Gordon provides an outstanding liberal arts education, not indoctrination.

Do Gordon’s hiring policies discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation?
No. Gordon College does not discriminate in hiring based on a person’s sexual orientation. As a Christian liberal arts institution dedicated to thoughtful academic inquiry and teaching excellence, Gordon welcomes any individual who wants to work or study at the College, provided they can affirm their support for the College’s Statement of Faith and agree to abide by the Statement on Life and Conduct.

What is the purpose of Gordon’s statement of Life and Conduct?
The Life and Conduct Statement describes how we—as members of this voluntary Christian community—strive to behave in accordance with a Christian approach to life and conduct. The statement seeks to outline assumptions and principles of a Christian worldview and encourage individual responsibility within a shared framework of faith. It does not serve to define how we view others, and encourages us to follow Christ's exhortation to treat all as we would like to be treated.

The standards in our Life and Conduct Statement are voluntarily undertaken by anyone who lives or works in the Gordon community as a student, faculty member, or staff member. We approach these statements with humility, knowing that we all fall short in Christ-likeness on a daily basis. Nonetheless, the demands of community life require some mutual understandings, which is what this statement seeks to provide.

Is there any truth to the news reports saying that Gordon’s accreditation status could be revoked in September?
No. As stated in a July 15 letter we received from the Chair of the Commission of the accrediting organization (NEASC), “there is no chance that an action withdrawing Gordon College’s accreditation or placing the institution on probation would be taken at the Commission’s September meeting.”

Gordon was most recently reaccredited in 2012 in a process involving a comprehensive assessment and analysis, which included a thorough review of all standards, practices and an assessment of the financial stability of an institution. As stated in the letter from NEASC, “as indicated by the generally comprehensive evaluation of the College in 2012, the Commission has enjoyed its positive relationship with the College for over fifty years and hopes and expects that to continue for many years to come.”

Why did the City of Salem “end its contract” with Gordon? This has received a lot of attention in the media since the city’s mayor made the announcement.
At the time of the mayor’s announcement, Gordon was already in the process of ending its one contractual relationship with the City of Salem, which was due to expire in August. This was a reciprocal arrangement in which Gordon managed the city’s historic Old Town Hall facility in exchange for using it for educational programs connected to the College, and as well as "museum curating" experiences for Gordon students. However, Gordon determined many months ago that we wanted to get out of the event-planning function of managing the facility, and to refocus on our energies on the related educational activities. The agreement between the two parties allowed the City to opt out of the contract early, and in the context of recent media attention, the City decided to exercise its option.

Has the Peabody Essex Museum closed off academic internship opportunities for Gordon students interested in museum studies?
While it is true that the chief administrator at the Peabody Essex Museum has unfortunately chosen to rescind his endorsement for a pending National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant application for Gordon, the College has received assurance from that same administrator that Gordon students will remain eligible to participate in museum internships at the PEM.

Will Gordon be discussing this issue on campus this fall?
Yes. There will be opportunities in the coming year for discussion around this issue. President Lindsay and the Cabinet will also be meeting in the coming weeks with different Gordon constituencies to discuss many of the concerns that have been raised. The President and the Chair of the Board of Trustees will convene a working group comprised of trustees, students, faculty, and staff representatives who will help the College think through a number of issues raised by this incident; the working group will host additional discussions on campus for their respective constituencies. Finally, during the coming year the Board of Trustees will explore further how Gordon can address the complex issue of the intersection of individual rights and community expectations.

Do opinions expressed on Gordon's Facebook page reflect the views of the College?
In recent weeks, much discussion has taken place on Gordon's Facebook page, which serves as an online social community for Gordon's faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. All who participate are asked to maintain an atmosphere of civil and constructive dialogue. Comments by individuals on Gordon's official Facebook page may not necessarily represent the views of the College. 

Independent Facebook groups created by alumni and students (e.g., OneGordon; WeStandWithGordon; WeAreGordon) are not affiliated with the College and therefore do not necessarily represent its views.

The College will continue to update this webpage while also continuing the conversation face-to-face with our community partners, neighbors and members of the Gordon community.

Who can I talk to if I have additional questions or comments?
We have created a dedicated email address, , where you are welcome to send your questions or concerns. We will do our best to respond as quickly as possible.