Important Context and Clarification on ACLU Action against Gordon College

On April 29, the ACLU of Massachusetts widely distributed a news release announcing its filing of a lawsuit on behalf of a member of our faculty, Associate Professor Lauren Barthold. An active legal case can make it difficult to communicate fully about the issues and positions of the parties involved. This web resource is intended to provide some background information and context. Gordon's leadership hopes for a resolution that reflects the College’s values as a Christian institution.

  • The College administration alerted the Gordon community and larger constituencies to the news release on the evening of April 29 when we learned of the lawsuit, including a message from Gordon’s chairman of the Board of Trustees, Herman J. Smith Jr. ’70. This statement was a corrective response to the news release, which was clearly slanted to support the ACLU’s filing and to negatively influence public perception of the issue, and of the College.
     
  • Most significantly, the release included claims that distort the true nature of Gordon as a Christian college, particularly the longstanding tradition that all members of the Gordon community are called to support the College’s Statement of Faith and abide by its statement of Life and Conduct. The release also misrepresented the role of faculty at Gordon; the integration of faith and learning is foundational to the College and required of Gordon faculty, who are expected to be fully prepared in all facets of their tasks as Christian teachers and advisors.
     
  • The suit stems from a disciplinary process last year involving a current Gordon faculty member. At issue were written and other public statements made in 2014 in which she identified herself as a Gordon employee and expressed her strong disagreements with the College in a harmful way at a time when Gordon was under media scrutiny regarding issues related to human sexuality. This faculty member's statements were found to be detrimental to the College and not appropriate in her role as a faculty member. Gordon’s Faculty Senate, an elected committee of Professor Barthold’s faculty peers, determined and voted to recommend the disciplinary action. In this process, which is rarely employed but which has precedent, in the case of an allegation of improper conduct by a member of the Gordon faculty, the Faculty Senate makes a recommendation to the Provost regarding an appropriate response.
     
  • It is important to be clear that Gordon College respects its employees’ right to free speech and personal opinions. Not all faculty at Gordon agree with the school’s position on matters of human sexuality, and some have openly expressed their disagreement internally without any disciplinary response by the administration. This case centers on a different issue: whether a Gordon employee can remain in good standing after taking actions considered harmful to the College. 

Related Links:

May 4 op/ed in NewBostonPost ➔

April 29 Statement from Herman J. Smith Jr., Chair, Gordon Board of Trustees ➔

ACLU News Release ➔