- - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Salem, Mass., is infamous for its witchcraft trials of 322 years ago, which is just how the town likes it. Celebration of its unsavory past attracts tourists and their dollars. Without that unsavory history, Salem would be just another town in the Boston neighborhood.

The spirit of Salem and its celebration of intolerance survives in the person of Kimberly Driscoll, the mayor. She was “stunned” to learn that Gordon College, 16 miles away in Wenham, practices what its evangelical Christian faith preaches. Everyone who works or studies at Gordon College is expected to remain sexually abstinent, unless married. No hanky-panky is allowed at Gordon — straight, homosexual or otherwise. All are welcome, the college says, and all are expected to respect the college policy.

D. Michael Lindsay, the college president, explains in an open letter to the community that this is nothing new. “We have never barred categories of individuals from our campus, and have no intention to do so now. We have always sought to be a place of grace and truth, and that remains the case.” Gordon is a private institution and does not hide its faith. Students go there by choice.

Mayor Driscoll wants to make Salem safe for promiscuity, and she canceled a small contract the college had to use Salem Old Town Hall for its “History Alive” theater company, which re-enacts events from the witch trials of long ago.

“While I respect your rights to embed religious values on a private college campus,” the mayor told the college, “religious freedom does not afford you the right to impose those beliefs upon others. I hope you realize how hurtful and offensive these ‘behavioral standards’ are.”

When news of the contract cancellation was reported by radio talker Glenn Beck, his listeners bombarded Mrs. Driscoll’s office with emails and calls protesting her hurtful and offensive policy. This irritated Her Honor, who said she would donate $5 for every telephone call or email to a homosexual activist group in the name of “equal rights.” The mayor says she has received 150 protests, and she will turn over $3,750, including matching gifts, in the name of “diversity.”

But diversity is precisely what the mayor cannot abide. She is using her power, such as it is, to coerce a religious school to abandon its beliefs and adopt hers. Gordon College is clearly not for everyone, as the most cursory look at the culture demonstrates. Television, movies and music glamorize promiscuity and merrily mock the faith of believers. President Obama framed his health care law so that it would force religious institutions to choose between crushing fines or violating their beliefs.

Gordon College’s policies are well known. Nobody is forced to enroll. Acknowledging Gordon College’s positive contributions to the community (and the local economy) by allowing it continued access to Salem Old Town Hall would demonstrate true diversity, and tell everyone that the celebration of intolerance in Salem is meant only as an act for the tourists.

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