(RNN) – The city of Salem, MA,’s early contract termination with a Christian college, and the conservative backlash it spawned, is generating funds for a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization.
The city has drawn fire from some readers of right-wing outlets like Glenn Beck’s The Blaze for discontinuing a contract with Gordon College over the city’s non-discrimination statute, which was put in place earlier this year.
Mayor Kim Driscoll reported on her Facebook page that the city received more than 50 calls on Wednesday from those angry that the city has terminated the relationship with Gordon College.
“This has resulted in a number of phone calls being placed to my office today from people outside of Massachusetts who have expressed some patently offensive views regarding LGBT individuals,” Driscoll said in a letter she posted online Wednesday.
For every negative call she receives about the controversy, Driscoll pledged Wednesday to donate $5 to the North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth.
The contract in question, “to maintain, manage and oversee use of the city-owned Old Town Hall facility,” was terminated effective Tuesday, a month early, because the college voiced its support for a religious exemption for the planned federal nondiscrimination contract.
On July 1, D. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, cosigned a letter to President Barack Obama seeking a religious exemption for his planned executive order regarding LGBT employment policies for federal contracts.
“Without a robust religious exemption, like the provisions in the Senate-passed ENDA, this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom,” the letter says in part.
Driscoll said of the early contract termination: “It saddens me to curb our contractual relationship in this manner, despite a long and positive relationship with Gordon College over the years. However, not doing so would be a violation of our Non-Discrimination Ordinance and even more troubling, allow a contractual relationship between the City of Salem and an institution that enables, and now advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community.”
On its web page devoted to the controversy, Gordon College stated that it doesn’t discriminate in hiring.
“As a Christian liberal arts institution dedicated to thoughtful academic inquiry and teaching excellence, Gordon welcomes any individual who wants to work or study at our college, provided they can support and live by our statements of faith and of life and conduct,” the website stated.
The college’s code of conduct for employees and students forbids, among other things, homosexuality.
Under the behavioral standards section, it says in part: “Those words and actions which are expressly forbidden in Scripture, including but not limited to blasphemy, profanity, dishonesty, theft, drunkenness, sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexual practice, will not be tolerated in the lives of Gordon community members, either on or off campus.”
The mayor has remained steadfast despite the controversy and phone calls.
“With our unique and infamous history, Salem has worked hard to not simply learn from our past, but to transform it into a call for action,” Driscoll said. “Our history has inspired us to strive to be the best we can be, to warmly welcome others - no matter who they are, who they love, or how they self-identify.”
Salem, MA, was the site of the infamous Salem witch trials. In 1692, 14 women and six men accused of witchcraft were executed in Salem, MA.
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