May 23, 2017

Trustees Chairman: professor settles suit against college, will resign

Gordon Trustees Chairman Judge Herman Smith telling students about his upbringing and career at a spring 2016 campus event.

By Madeline Linnell

Managing Editor

Gordon College and a philosophy professor who sued the school and two leaders in April over what she said was illegal discipline for public comments she made about the college’s stance on homosexuality  settled the matter out of court recently, the College’s trustees chairman stated in a public letter today.

The ACLU of Massachusetts filed the suit alleging employment discrimination on Professor Lauren Barthold’s behalf in April, naming as defendants the college, President D. Michael Lindsay and Provost Janel Curry.

As part of the settlement, Trustees Chairman Judge Herman Smith wrote in today’s public letter, Barthold “agreed to resign from her tenured faculty position at the end of the upcoming semester, following her residency this fall on a previously awarded research fellowship at the University of Connecticut.”

Smith continued on to state other terms were being kept confidential “to protect the privacy of those involved and to maintain a positive focus on the future.”

One of Barthold’s attorneys, Joshua Solomon of Pollack Solomon Duffy LLP in Boston, declined to comment earlier this week when a Tartan reporter asked about the settlement.

The lawsuit, filed in Essex County Superior Court, accused Lindsay and Curry of threatening Barthold with termination and disciplining her on unconstitutional grounds. In her suit, Barthold stated that she was penalized for her  “public opposition to (Gordon’s) unlawful hiring policy, which discriminates based on sexual orientation.”

The “public opposition” is a reference to a letter Barthold wrote to The Salem News published July 11, 2014 — only a few days after news reports stating Lindsay had joined a number of religious leaders in signing a letter addressed to President Obama seeking a religious exemption from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Barthold wrote,  “I am sad that I work at an institution that believes that not talking about homosexuality and silencing stories of Christians dealing with their sexual identities is the way to bring healing and build community. I am sad that Gordon cannot lead the way amongst Christian colleges by entering into the painful communal work of crafting institutional policy that maintains the integrity of a vibrant, 21st century faith.”

Smith wrote in his letter to the Gordon community that college officials found the letter “harmful and inappropriate for a faculty member” to have written.

In her “Letter to the Editor,” Barthold stated that she had debated whether to quit her job. “In the end, I concluded that my resignation (or even a handful of resignations) would do absolutely nothing to change the policy. I am convinced that change must primarily come from within.”

While Barthold is gone from Gordon two years after the initial controversy, Gordon’s policy on homosexuality remains in place.

 

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