InterVarsity's LGBTQ Policy

Of Threatening Politics and Precautionary Policies

By Jeff Laird

Time recently published a story about college outreach ministry InterVarsity's approach to employees with conflicting views on same-sex marriage. Several years ago, InterVarsity concluded a four-year internal doctrinal review with the conclusion that homosexual behavior was clearly condemned in the Scriptures, and same-sex marriage could not be supported. InterVarsity circulated their findings to their employees and asked for those who disagreed to voluntarily step forward, triggering a two-week countdown to ending that person's employment.

Predictably, this was met with open disdain from LGBTQ activists. Comments have run the gamut from decrying "narrow theology," to accusations of hate, to predictions that the organization will be banned from college campuses. On the other hand, some evangelical leaders have praised InterVarsity for taking a principled, formal stand.

According to some critics, Christians who support the actions of InterVarsity but disliked the treatment of Brendan Eich, the former Mozilla executive, are being hypocritical. Eich was compelled to step down when activists found out he'd donated money in support of California's proposition 8, intended to block same-sex marriage. Eich's case is one Blogos has tackled before, in an article by Jim Parker. A similar case involving Frank Turek was examined by Robin Schumacher.

First, it's important to consider the differences between what happened to Brendan Eich and what's occurring within InterVarsity. Eich's actions were entirely outside of and unrelated to his employment. Nothing he said or did conflicted in any way with some aspect of Mozilla's business plan, mission statement, or other goals. There was no review, no process, and no formal statement to compare. Eich was ultimately forced to resign under the pressure of mob justice, over something unrelated to his actual employment.

InterVarsity is drawing a line on an issue directly related to their organization's mission, and the counseling provided by those employees. The ministry has made a clear, proactive statement of how their view aligns with their core beliefs. Employees are (purportedly) not being forced to sign agreements, or out themselves, but are being asked to voluntarily resign, as a matter of ethics, if they disagree with the organization's view.

Some will argue about the need to split hairs over "voluntary" admission of disagreement, leading to termination. And, there are reasonable questions about what that might mean in the future. Unfortunately, InterVarsity has responded with a statement that they have no policy on employee views, which only muddies the waters of what is really happening.

For the sake of simplicity, though, consider the question in high-stakes, black-and-white terms. What if, when all is said and done, InterVarsity is actively firing employees who disagree with their stance on this issue? Is this morally equivalent to other companies ousting employees over these types of disagreements, to the extent Christians should be supporting it?

Yes, and no.

The truth is that InterVarsity's actions are not only profoundly different from what happened to Eich and Turek, they are a natural consequence of the LGBTQ's own aggressive social bullying.

As the differences already mentioned show, there is an enormous gulf between requiring employees to hold views consistent with the core, necessary aspects of a business, versus views unrelated to the nature or purpose of the business. A McDonald's employee probably ought not to be fired for saying he prefers Pepsi to Coke, or that he feels minimum wage jobs are unfairly compensated. Saying those things at work, or to customers, becomes a gray area. If he tells the manager he hates people, believes beef is murder, thinks that fast food is killing Americans, and has a moral problem with washing his hands, he has to expect to be let go.

At some point, personal beliefs can conflict with the mission of the employer. In the case of InterVarsity, this is not a secondary or tertiary issue. This is a subject directly related to how the Bible is interpreted, applied, and respected. In other words, criticisms of "narrow theology" are laughably immature. Former employee Bianca Louie is cited as saying, "I don't know how InterVarsity can do ministry on campus with integrity anymore." I don't think she understands half the words in that sentence. By definition, religions are defined (separated) via their distinct views on certain moral or spiritual topics.

It's asinine to suggest that an employer — morally or legally — is obligated to pay someone who overtly opposes their own interests. It's sillier to ask a religious organization to retain people who oppose their religious beliefs. Holding that line would be an example of integrity, wouldn't it?

From that standpoint, there is nothing immoral about an organization terminating an employee whose views conflict with their raison d'Ítre. How many PETA activists would argue for the right of one of their staffers to raise veal in his off-time, or to eat lamb chops at his cubicle?

Eich and Turek, by any fair assessment, held no such conflicting views. By both actions and logic, nothing they said or did were at odds with the mission of their employers. From a moral standpoint, then, Eich and Turek were the victims of illegitimate targeting, on the basis of their beliefs. InterVarsity employees who disagree on the subject of homosexuality are in no such predicament: those beliefs are part and parcel of their employer's purpose.

What, then, of legal concerns? I'm not a lawyer, so I canít expertly contribute on the subject of what is or is not allowed in all circumstances. I can only speak to common sense, and how things ought to be. Let's shortcut that discussion with a pointed question. Does anyone want to live in a society where the government can force you, a private employer, to retain someone who opposes your business's interests? Be careful, now, there's a big difference between living in a culture where unfair people are free to do unfair things, and a culture where the only recourse to unfairness — the government — is the same one foisting the unfair situation on you.

If the law is going to restrict employers from anything, it should be disallowing termination on the basis of religious views when such views are irrelevant to the company's work or the person's job. Not bolstering the power of an employee to be paid when they oppose their own employer, or a customer to force a business to participate in something the owners dislike. In theory, this is what the law does. In practice, however, we're seeing the opposite.

In other words, what's happening at InterVarsity is a direct result of the LGBTQ lobby's social bullying. At least for now, there are still some legal and constitutional protections for organizations who want to uphold certain moral positions. Unfortunately, the LGBTQ alliance has been using every possible means to force such organizations and businesses to betray those convictions. As a result, these groups are being forced to formalize, crystalize, and enforce strict doctrinal points in order to leave no room for a later lawsuit.

In other words, when you use legal maneuvers to force people to agree with you, you compel them to use legal maneuvers to defend their beliefs. Based on current trends, taking a "live and let live" policy, on InterVarsity's part, would probably open the door to a lawsuit if they later told a staffer not to promote or endorse certain behaviors on the job.

See the connection? From the standpoint of an LGBTQ activist, the backfire effect should be obvious. Using the courts to force business to violate their conscience is starting to result in actual consequences for LGBTQ-minded people. Because, in order to protect themselves from bully lawsuits, these organizations now have to draw clear, absolute — dare I say intolerant — lines, lest their own openness be used against them.

Restrictions on a company's right to terminate employees should be very narrow, and carefully considered. At the same time, pushing society to bully organizations into following the crowd is already having some unintended consequences. Whether you think InterVarsity is justified or not — and I do — those concerns should be crystal clear in all of our minds.

Be careful what you wish for has become my standard mantra when dealing with LGBTQ issues. Before long, I'm afraid, I'm going to have to change that to something much less helpful, and far more depressing:

I told you so.

Published 10-10-16