For those of you who’ve never signed up to work at a religious school, such entities make it very plain before you work there that certain behavior is expected.
We are talking, of course, about ink-on-paper doctrinal and lifestyle covenants. Whether it’s drinking alcohol, smoking, drinking coffee (in the case of Mormons) or having sex outside of marriage, certain expectations are made very clear to you before you sign a contract to work in this voluntary association, which is what a private school is, of course.
NPR just did a story on one college professor who didn’t get that message.
A former professor at Northwest Christian University in Oregon is suing the school for allegedly firing her for being pregnant and unmarried, violating the faith-based values of the institution. She says it's discrimination.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: Now a story about a professor in Oregon who says when she told her employer she was pregnant, she got a pink slip instead of congratulations. That's because she worked at a Christian school and because she's not married. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Coty Richardson spent four years teaching exercise science at Northwest Christian University. She says she loved in the small classes at the school in Eugene, Ore., and she loved its values and caring environment…
JOHNSON: But Richardson says that tolerance was put to the test earlier this summer when she told her boss she was pregnant.
The story went on to say the university told the professor to either break up with the father of the child or marry him quickly. She refused. As NPR says next:
RICHARDSON: You know, this is a professional environment, and they really have no place meddling and making demands in my personal life.
JOHNSON: Managers at Northwest Christian University disagreed. They fired Richardson. She's now suing them for discriminating against her on the basis of gender, pregnancy and marital status.
Other than saying that university officials wouldn’t give a taped interview, we hear little about what their side of the story is.
If the university won’t talk, why couldn’t the reporter have contacted the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a parent denomination of the university, for a quote? And did the reporter bother to call up the university’s website, which talks about some of the standards faculty are expected to adhere to? And here is the crucial question: Did Richardson sign a doctrinal and/or lifestyle covenant? Private schools -- liberal and conservative -- are allowed to create these documents that define the beliefs at the heart of these voluntary associations.
Instead, we get a puff piece extolling the heroic professor who’s been picked on by this barbaric university intent on firing her for getting pregnant. We get nothing stating that private universities do have the right to require certain conduct of their faculty and if you disagree, the time to discuss that is before signing the contract.
Instead, Richardson is given a pass, with zero difficult questions asked. Why doesn’t the reporter ask her about the documents she signed when she was hired by this university? What was she thinking when she announced her pregnancy and knew she’d broken the rules that she affirmed? That she’d get a pass?
Apparently not, because now she’s charging the school with “marital discrimination” and NPR is sympathizing with her plight. Richardson's lawyer gets a lot of air time in this story. The one outside scholar, University of Virginia's Douglas Laycock, cited in this piece only gets one quote.
Remember, the story does say of her attitude toward Northwest Christian that she "loved its values." Apparently she didn't love them all. We also don’t know what faith -- if any -- this professor has. That would have been a key fact to cite. Alas, such soft coverage is more often than not indicative of NPR’s way of covering religion these days.
We’re getting a lot of stories recently about high school teachers and college professors who have transgressed some facet of their employer’s expectation for faculty conduct and are losing their jobs.
Instead of manning up and getting a job at a secular institution, they’re complaining to the media and filing lawsuits. They're free to do that but the media doesn't have to be the lapdog to every discontented academic who feels she or he has the moral agency to do what they want. Once again: What did these teachers promise when they signed these covenants and contracts? Get the facts. Quote the details.