February 20

DON ROBERTS: Actions against Bowdoin group point to religious discrimination

All Politics is Local

For nearly a decade, Robert Gregory and his wife, Sim, have provided students at Bowdoin College with Christian ministry, leading Bible studies in the dining hall, facilitating chapel services and hosting off-campus events.

The Gregorys, both graduates of Colby College in Waterville, live in Damariscotta, where he has his own law firm and is a minister. They have served as advisers to the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship under the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship-USA, an organization that promotes Christian ministry on American college campuses.

Bowdoin, however, has severed the Gregorys’ official standing at the college for their refusal to sign a non-discrimination agreement on the grounds it violates their Christian faith, according to The Maine Wire.

The impetus for the requirement, according to Tim Foster, dean of student affairs at Bowdoin, stemmed partially from the 2011 Penn State scandal where coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of multiple counts of child molestation.

Bowdoin’s newspaper, the Orient, quoted Foster as saying, “One of the things we realized, is that we have people on our campus working with students, spending a significant amount of time with students and we don’t know a lot about these people.”

What has that got to do with discrimination?

This sounds like a red herring, if you keep in mind the Gregorys have been doing their good work at Bowdoin for nearly 10 years.The real motivation behind this termination is probably revealed in a further statement in the Orient: The college wants a guarantee that sexual orientation will have no bearing on a person’s right to participate in or to lead this Christian organization. It appears that Bowdoin also wants assurances that teaching of the Bible will not be “discriminatory.”

You can’t have it both ways. There have apparently been no incidents of discrimination on the basis of sexuality, or otherwise, during the Gregorys’ years of service, and they have no intention of signing something that prevents them from teaching the Bible’s position on any subject. Rob Gregory offered to sign an amended agreement that would not violate his Christian faith, protecting him from Bowdoin censorship against his right to teach historical Christian principles. On Feb. 5, however, an email arrived informing the Gregorys that their standing as advisers to the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship had been terminated.

In the Bowdoin case, as with many others throughout the country, it seems that discrimination is OK if it is against religion.

Freedom of religion is everyone’s fundamental human right. However, discrimination against Christians is proliferating with a silent war on religious freedom being fought in our courts, our schools and in the halls of Congress. There is a determined effort to transform this country into a secular nation. America has always been sustained by our faith. That faith is under assault. Religious freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few-it is the universal right of all, and it is not extreme in any way for us to expect and demand it.

“We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Our founders made certain that the Constitution was made for a moral and religious people.

Fifty years ago, Paul Harvey, a legendary radio pioneer whose son graduated from Colby, delivered a dramatic commentary, one that may have turned out to be extremely prescient. Here are a few selected lines (edited for brevity)...

“If I were the devil, I should set about however necessary to take over the United States. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve, ‘Do as you please.’ To the young, I would whisper, ‘The Bible is a myth.’ I would convince them that ‘man created God,’ instead of the other way around. I would evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, then from the Houses of Congress. Then in his own churches, I’d substitute psychology for religion. If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive to be ambitious. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. Then I would separate families. I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned.

“And, with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

“In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”

ADDENDUM: Tom Sotir of Augusta departed this earth earlier this month, after serving his community in many capacities over the years. I served with him as a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utilities District, where he provided many years of intelligent leadership. Sotir was a city councilor during the administration of Mayor Bill Dowling, who told me at Tom’s wake that, “He was an outstanding councilor.” Augusta salutes and thanks Tom Sotir, a true public servant, who will be greatly missed.

Don Roberts is a former city councilor and vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta. He is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District, and a representative to the Legislative Policy Committee of Maine Municipal Association.
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