Banned in Boston? Globe story skirts key Gordon College issue, the faculty faith statement

We can thank Anthony Comstock, a moral crusader and a U.S. Postal Inspector, for the modern-day usage of "Banned in Boston" as a catchphrase to describe books, magazines and, eventually, movies that were deemed unsuitable for the citizens of "the Athens of America."

Comstockery, as the censorship became known, died not long after Comstock's passing in 1915. 

But banning still rears its head every now and then, including, it appears, the hallowed precincts of The Boston Globe. In just under 670 words discussing yet another faculty-administration tussle over issues involving homosexuality, the paper took pains to suggest the school's clearly stated standards of doctrine and behavior are more like a policy statement than a reflection of the school's long-held Christian beliefs.

Search the story and you'll find the most oblique of references, at the top of the piece:

All seven members of the faculty Senate at Gordon College resigned last week in an apparent show of support for a professor who claims that she was denied a promotion because she criticized the Christian school’s opposition to same-sex relationships.
The resignations represented the latest rift to emerge between the faculty and the administration at the small evangelical school in Wenham, which forbids professors, students, and staff from engaging in “homosexual practice” on or off campus.
In a complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Margaret DeWeese-Boyd, an assistant professor of sociology, asserts that the college president and provost denied her a promotion to full professor because she has openly criticized the policy since 2013.
DeWeese-Boyd says she has spoken against the ban at a faculty meeting, signed a petition opposing it, organized trainings and events related to gay rights, and directly addressed Gordon’s president, D. Michael Lindsay, about the school’s stance.

What are some obvious factual questions that need to be asked? For starters, what doctrinal covenants did DeWeese-Boyd sign when she joined the Gordon College faculty? What do these statements say about Christian doctrines on marriage and sexuality? Do Gordon faculty members sign these documents each year?

Now, back to the current drama. Yes, as the Globe acknowledges, this has been a long-running issue at a school steeped in Chrisitan tradition.

Matters bubbled up in 2014 when Lindsay joined other academics in asking the Obama administration for relief from proposed hiring rules for federal contractors. Colleges and universities often participate in federally funded research, and under the Obama proposals, even faith-based schools that have a doctrinal objection to same-sex relationships would have to comply.

Fast-forward to today, as the question of Gordon's faith-based behavioral standards roils the campus and faculty. Sociologist DeWeese-Boyd is upset over the denial of tenure by Lindsay. A year earlier, Gordon philosophy professor Lauren Barthold aroused the ire of leadership over her opposition to Lindsay's letter, in the form of her own missive to a Salem, Mass., newspaper during a blitz of media coverage. That dispute ended with Barthold agreeing to leave the faculty. As noted above, the faculty senate's members resigned their roles en bloc to protest the action against DeWeese-Boyd.

The latest Globe report leans, in every way, towards the side of school dissidents. There's no quotation of faculty who support the standards, no mention of the historic Christian doctrines in those documents. Instead, those opposed to the policy are all-but-lionized as fighters of the good fight.

While the Globe hasn't been a property owned by The New York Times for several years, it's not too much of a stretch to see signs of "Kellerism," wherein views contrary to the newspaper's "doctrine" are not granted a hearing. In Massachusetts, that appears to mean that Christians -- Protestant and otherwise -- who cling to a traditional definition of marriage, or who believe sex outside of such a marriage is sin, are not allowed their say.

That's a journalistic problem, to be sure. Not everyone who reads this Globe account will be aware of the history and issues involved. For traditional Christians, the issue of marriage and sex is not a fad or fancy, it's part of the bedrock of their ancient faith. That an avowedly evangelical Christian school would insist on such standards is not at all peripheral to its values.

No one of whom I am aware is compelled to attend Gordon College or to be employed on its faculty. Everyone who comes to the school does so voluntarily, and apparently with full knowledge of the standards that exist. (Just watch the video above to get a sense of where the school stands.)

But the Globe doesn't state that admittedly obvious point, nor does it ask the dissenting faculty about the school standards they were presumably hired to uphold. I believe it's a valid question: Even if said faculty announce their disagreement, why did they go there in the first place?

Gordon doesn't hide its faith, nor does it mask its standards. By omitting that aspect of the conversation and by emphasizing the dissenters, the Globe fails its readers by presenting an incomplete picture. If anything should be "banned" in Boston, I'd suggest that lopsided reporting might head that list.

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