BRUNSWICK, Maine – Bowdoin College officials have banned a local lawyer and his wife from leading campus Bible studies with students after the couple refused to sign a non-discrimination agreement they say violates their Christian faith.
“The college has terminated us,” said Robert B. Gregory of Damariscotta.
Gregory, along with his wife Sim, are volunteers with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, a charitable organization that promotes Christian ministry on American college campuses through Bible studies, social gatherings and leadership training.
The Gregorys, both graduates of Colby College in Waterville, have been providing Christian ministry at the Brunswick campus for almost a decade as advisors to the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship (BCF). They lead weekly Bible studies in Thorne Dining Hall, facilitate chapel services on Sunday evenings, and host off-campus events of many varieties.
For nearly a decade, the Gregorys have been a fixture of Bowdoin’s community and source of counsel and comfort for college-aged Christians. But last year administration officials informed the Gregorys they would be required to sign a non-discrimination agreement in order to continue serving as an advisor to BCF.
“If someone’s participating in an organization and they are LGBTIQA [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Asexual] and they are not allowed to participate in that organization because of their sexual orientation or they cannot lead that organization because of their sexual orientation, then that’s discrimination,” said Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, according to the Bowdoin Orient.
According to the Orient, Foster said the initiative grew partially as a reaction to the Penn State scandal in 2011 in which assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of multiple counts of child molestation.“One of the things we realized,” Foster told the Orient, “is that we have people on our campus working with students, spending a significant amount of time with students, and we don’t know a lot about a lot of these people.”
Gregory, who runs a Damariscotta-based law firm and is also a minister, had no qualms submitting to a background check. But for him, signing the agreement would constitute a violation of his Christian faith. So he offered a revision to the agreement that would protect his right to teach the historical Christian faith — without Bowdoin’s censorship. Similar religious exemptions have been adopted at other American colleges and universities.
The suggested amendment to the agreement read, in part, as follows: “Reservation of Rights to Religious Beliefs and Practices: The signature on this agreement shall not be construed to limit in any way the right of the undersigned Volunteer to hold, teach and practice his/her sincerely held Christian religious beliefs and to follow, hold, and teach the religious beliefs and practices of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the conduct of its campus ministry at Bowdoin College.”
In a Feb. 5 email obtained by The Maine Wire, Nathan Hintze, associate director of student activities, rejected Gregory’s compromise language.
“I’m sorry that you have decided not to agree to the College’s volunteer policy,” said Hintze. “Both the Muslim and Catholic volunteers have in fact agreed without reservation…. It is simply unacceptable to have College-recognized student organizations effectively discriminate against individuals in violation of Maine law, which protects students’ right to fully participate as members of an organization and to lead that organization regardless of one’s sexual orientation.”
Although Hintze and Foster both allege the BCF has engaged in discrimination, neither provided Gregory with an example of such discrimination. Gregory said Bowdoin’s new policy is not a reaction to anything BCF leaders or members have done.
“They’re fighting against wars that aren’t happening. They’ve got they’re troops lined up and there is no enemy on the other side,” he said. “I don’t understand it.”
When the college refused to grant the Gregorys an exception to the agreement – an exception that would allow them to teach the entire Bible, including passages regarding sexuality and marriage – he and Sim refused to sign. As a result, Hintze told Gregory in an email last week: “We’re not interested in continuing to debate these issues, so we will proceed with finding a new advisor for BCF.”
The Gregorys’ expulsion from Bowdoin will become effective in May.
Hintze said additionally that the Gregorys would only be welcomed to campus as invited guests if they signed the non-discrimination agreement.
Gregory told me the ordeal is especially perplexing considering the BCF has never prevented someone from participating in or leading the group as a result of differing beliefs. “BCF has been an all-comers organization, in that we welcome all students,” he said.
“No one, in my experience, has ever come to me or come to me or Sim and said, ‘you mistreated me,'” he said. “We’ve had candid discussions about what the scriptures say about homosexuality. All of those students have told me they respect the way Sim and I address those issues.”
“All we try to do is teach the scriptures,” he said.
The text last year was the book of Hebrews, he said. This year it’s been the parables of Jesus Christ.
Gregory said he has been encouraged by his conversations with students in BCF and believes the ordeal will ultimately strengthen Bowdoin’s small Christian community.
“These kids get it, they understand – there is a cost of discipleship,” he said.
Bowdoin is not the first elite private college to have conflict with Christian groups over Biblical teachings on sexuality.
In 2011, the Colby Christian Fellowship (CCF) reportedly prevented a homosexual student from leading a weekly Bible study because of her sexual orientation. As the result, CCF relinquished its formal group status and now operates unofficially.
In 2012, officials at Vanderbilt University in Nashville implemented a policy that led several Christian groups to lose their status as official campus groups. The Vanderbilt policy was a reaction to the impression that Christian groups were using faith-based litmus tests to ban homosexuals from participating.
The BCF has experienced some controversy, as well. In 2009 and 2011, some members of the Bowdoin community were offended by what they viewed as conservative Christian beliefs being espoused during Sunday evening chapel services. In 2011, the offensive message was a local pastor’s reading of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
The stakes of the present debate at Bowdoin extend beyond the Gregorys to the core of what it will now mean to be a Christian at the college. For Gregory, the college administration’s concern is not merely with his ministry, but with the historical teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible.
“We now have Bowdoin College defining Christianity,” he said.
In a Feb. 3 letter obtained by The Maine Wire, Will Truesdell, InterVarsity’s Northern New England director, articulated both his and the Gregorys’ concern about the non-discrimination agreement’s potential infringement on religious faith.
“I am concerned that Rob has been informed by Bob Ives that Bowdoin’s interpretation of its non-discrimination policy would prohibit him (and, by extension, the student group) from using religious criteria to choose the religious leaders of the group and would limit the religious texts and teachings the group may consider,” Truesdell said. “I believe Bowdoin’s commitment to inclusion, tolerance and non-discrimination would be undermined if your office interprets the non-discrimination policy in this way. I am concerned that your office’s position unnecessarily interferes with the fundamentally religious character of the student group. When a religious group cannot study their religious texts or freely select leaders who affirm and embody their religious beliefs, the group ceases to be a faithful representative of that religious tradition.”
Carroll Conley, executive director for the Christian Civic League of Maine, said Bowdoin’s expulsion of the Gregorys is yet another example of the hostility toward religious sentiment prevalent in this country.
“This is a perfect example of intolerance toward people of faith who hold positions contrary to popular culture,” said Conley. “Religious freedom is fast becoming a privilege afforded only to those who bow down to the agenda of political correctness rather than the fundamental right our Founding Fathers so vehemently protected.”
“The actions of the Bowdoin College administration speak loud and clear: anyone who embraces and espouses the orthodox Christian teachings on human sexuality is disqualified from participation in campus life even as a volunteer at the request of Bowdoin students,” he said.
Last year, the National Association of Scholars issued a controversial report about Bowdoin entitled, “What Does Bowdoin Teach?” (pdf)
[Related: Bowdoin College “dominated by progressive ideology,” scholars say]
But now an equally valid question is, “What Does Bowdoin Forbid Teaching?”
Editor, Maine Wire
(Disclosure: Robinson attended Bowdoin College and was a member of the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship.)
Another prime example of the liberal war on Christians and the reality of their intolerance towards anyone who doesn’t March in lockstep to their discriminatory progressive agenda. The hypocrisy of the Bowdoin College regime is absolute. I have no doubt that Chamberlin is looking down upon the college he founded in disgust.
What a great example of how Bowdion college works to create ‘cookie cutter’ graduates. Yeah, muslims agreed, what a joke! Heaven forbid that Christians teach love and tolerance, while islam teaches hate, exclusion and intolerance. Bowdion college has for my lifetime been nothing but, a sore on the butt of Brunswick. They have never worked in the interest of the town of even the best interest of the students. Every unAmerican unproductive idea is pushed, they lean toward being nothing more than an advanced detention center for young adults.
Excellent article Steve Robinson!! Bowdoin College has scored a touchdown and a great victory in the name of tolerance………Bowdoin’s “all inclusive” goal has been reached!!……… Bowdoin respects the view of “all people”………………and Bowdoin is a stellar glittering jewel in the market place of Ideas??
As Christians we can expect this kind of bullying towards us. It is nothing new and in other countries more Christians are currently being killed than in any other time since Jesus Christ was on the planet in human form, see http://www.vom.com for stats.
We do pray for this institution and all the young people that pass through it, faculty and staff alike. Bowdoin has had the finite day. Psalm 1&2 tells of the One who inhabits eternity and Loves all at Bowdoin College. He is Just, However He does not share in the direction that Bowdoin College has chosen.
This is exactly what Jefferson had in mind when he stated in a letter to a minister of a particular denomination the state shall not show respect over religion (meaning one denomination over another). The intent of that being not to have a Church of England type of system where the monarch is the head of the church, but not to kick denominations out of any political process as many believe today.
And this is why the Pilgrims came here in the first place being fortunate enough to find a boat getting ready to set sail as the CofE was in hot pursuit. That boat was the Mayflower. Those left on the dock lost everything, including children, and freedom.
So now we have a college that wants to play monarch.
I think there’s an important question to ask here. Nathan Hintze is quoted in this article as saying that Bowdoin Christian Fellowship’s current policy is in violation of Maine law. Is this true?
If religious organizations in Maine adhere to an interpretation of their scripture that requires its leaders to meet any demographic qualification sexually or otherwise, what is their legal status?
If this non-discrimination law only extends to Maine’s student organizations, why not non-student organizations? Does justice look the same for students and for non-students alike, or not?
Steve Robinson, Thank you for this article … unfortunately Bowdoin has become caught up in the “one Size Fits All” thinking of today , and apparently they believe that having christian thoughts and beliefs is aberrant behavior.
Too bad for them …
I can safely say that I am not of any religious persuasion and even I think this is appalling behavior on the part of Bowdoin College … SHAME ON YOU BOWDOIN!
Stop trying to discredit Bowdoin College. Did anyone who works at The Wire graduate from Bowdoin or a directly related Ivy League College?
It looks like BCF will need to go “underground” … like in China. Is off-campus an option? This is not surprising; it seems to be “the way of the World.”
I’m a recent Grad of UMaine Farmington, where we had a chapter of the same organization. As a student, I served as the Officer of Financial Affairs for the Student Senate, and ran into multiple issues regarding the defunding of clubs for various reasons. One way to view this particular scenario is to look at it from a different point of view than the christians who are whining about being “bullied.” Every year that a student attends a college, they pay a wide array of fees, including what most campuses call a “student activity fee” (or SAF), which essentially insures that all organizations are able to operate, and be open to all students who wish to participate. Organizations like IVCF frequently have clauses in their constitutions that limit the people who are allowed to take part in or lead their groups. This is a big problem because every student has a financial investment into every club, and by refusing membership of any level to any club is unacceptable. Denying a service to someone who has paid for said service wouldn’t fly in any setting, ever. This isn’t an issue of “the liberal war on christians” or “bullying.” I support fully the decision of Bowdoin College to do away with any discriminating organization.
Forcing a Christian organization to accept a homosexual leader in order to remain a viable campus group? That would be the same as forcing a Muslim group to have a Christian leader who plans on teaching about Jesus. … or better yet … Are the gay and lesbian organizations being forced to sign a document stating that they must allow Christian leaders for their groups? The wave of tolerance appears to ebb in one direction only. I knew Bowdoin College was going sliding into moral decay, I just didn’t realize how fast.
“Tolerance:the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”
I guess I would have to say that Bowdoin College is not exactly tolerant of Christians.
It’s reasonable for the private college to require officially registered groups to be open to all students, and Gregory appears to have no problem with this, as he says the group welcomed all students.
The more shocking accusation that the non-discrimination policy would limit what texts could be read and discussed by the group is not supported by the wording in the policy or by any statements made by representatives of Bowdoin. I don’t think the school is perfect, but I think they are above book-banning, and the only evidence against that seems to be Gregory’s accusation, which he was encouraged to make by an outside group (InterVarsity) in order to create a conflict where there wasn’t one.
Bowdion is not the only choice of schools. Sad that discrimination only applies to Christian organizations. Would the same principles apply if a Christian minister wanted to join a Gay/Lesbian group and voice his opinions?
SHAME!!! on Bowdoin College officials! This Nation was founded under One GOD! With justice and Liberty for all who follow the word of GOD! ONE MAN ONE WOMAN!!! Babylon has Fallen. Please don’t tell me we are going down that same road! I thank GOD for people like Robert B. Gregory and his wife who stand for the rights given to us by GOD! He should be commended for his leadership instead of being Judged!
People seem to forget that our Constitution guarantees freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion. This is disgraceful.
I have a question… How does Bowdoin’s IVCF nominate their leadership in various positions? I went to Trinity and we had no IVCF (that I know of) so I’m a bit ignorant of that organizational structure.
Is the BLT and G group at Bowdoin open to a born-again Christian who holds a Judeo-Christian worldview? Furthermore, are they open to such a person holding a leadership position?
Looks like some infiltration may be in order to find out.
BC has been known to ban people from their campus when the person refuses to move to BC’s beat. I’ve seen it happen to a former employee who was contracted to work w/students. He was offered a position from a company who replaced his contract, did not agree with the philosophy of the company, did not take the position and was banned from the campus, from working with the students, etc. He was good at his job, but did not agree to a pay cut plus all the other changes that BC & the new company wanted to make to the current position. So does this surprise me coming from this particular dean? No. Not really. Sadly. Dance or leave.
Incidentally, I’ve met w/students who worked w/Gregory & wife and were thankful for their presence on campus, especially here in New England, where the Christian faith is discriminated against. These individuals were from states south of Maine and grateful for an opportunity to worship Christ with fellow believers.
So Bowdion does not discriminate against rapists, murderers, pillagers, active pedophiles, passive pedophiles, pederasts, pornographers, adulterers, goat-lovers, imbeciles, poets who want to teach physics, physicists who want to teach poetry, and illiterate undergraduate applicants who seek the best scholarships? Yes? Really? Bowdion does not discriminate? Amazing!
Maine. A very liberal state. If this had been Muslims it would be a different story. So very sad that Christians are being bullied.
Bowdion’s use of the nondiscrimination to willfully violate the religious freedoms of organizations shows clearly that the pre-cursors to what gave rise to the Nazi’s is easily achievable. Here, under the coercive nature of the government (In this case the school) they “deem” one group superior to all others under a false pretense and violate the rights of others in the process of “justice!” Now, tell me how this is not the same? Tell me how it is we are a nation founded principally on the foundation of religious freedom but we even tolerate this specific attack on it!
and. To think Bowdoin was once a Christian school , none gone heathen like Harvard etc!
Thomas Paine states in his 1794 essay “The Age of Reason”:
I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy. But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them. I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.
Last year, Rollins College in Winterpark, FL, did the same thing. They even forbid the students from meeting on their own for Bible study. See:
A most significant and timely reason to support Senator David Burns’ L.D. 1428 religious freedom bill that was rejected by the Maine Senate yesterday along party lines. Penny Morrell
I dislike walking away when I believe people are misunderstanding. Even harder is to walk away when people are stating untruths as facts. But, I need to use Psalms 1 at this point. Leaving with one final point….NO ONE ever said ANYONE was not aloud to attend or belong to the group in question. PLEASE try and make your points using only facts.
Jenny Yasi (if that’s REALLY your name) … IMHO, you’re just a bully, a troll and an intellectually bankrupt individual … please go away so the rest of us can have a reasonable, intelligent and thoughtful discussion!
Glad I don’t go to this college Mr Foster needs to reexamine the hypocrisy of his decision to ban the IV couple.
Sad to see that this once-great college as descended into the intellectual bankruptcy that espouses “diversity ” except in the realm of intellectual life. Apparently the administration lacks both intellectual integrity and an appreciation for the school’s heritage. I look forward to the day when they force the Muslim group to accept a gay Jew as their leader.
Common sense just left on the last train out of Brunswick.
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