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60 Percent of Dismissed Seminary Maintenance Workers Rehired

The private contractor taking over maintenance work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has hired about 60 percent of the former seminary employees who took care of its facilities, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Sunday.

Seminary spokesman Lawrence Smith told the newspaper that all nine student employees affected by the decision to lay off 94 workers and outsource campus maintenance were offered jobs. In all 56 former employees were offered jobs. Smith said all former employees were offered a severance package and those not re-hired were offered help in finding a job.

Smith defended signing a contract with Sodexho, a Maryland-based firm with a diversity policy that includes non-discrimination against gays, by noting that the school gets its power from Louisville Gas & Electric, which also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“No contract we would sign would result in our violating our core principles and beliefs,” Smith said.

Smith did not respond to an earlier e-mail from EthicsDaily.com asking whether seminary officials were aware of the company’s diversity policy when they decided on Sodexho and if being alerted to it would have any impact on the agreement. EthicsDaily.com sent courtesy copies of the e-mail to seminary President Albert Mohler and Clark Logan, Jr., senior vice president for institutional administration, who also did not respond.

Mohler later told a Courier-Journal columnist that he saw irony but no inconsistency in working with a gay-friendly vendor, despite his frequent attacks on homosexuality.

“We want to be faithful to our own convictions,” Mohler said, “but we recognize that we will inevitably be doing business with companies and individuals whose convictions on some of these issues may differ from our own…. This is not a surprising phenomenon.”

EthicsDaily.com also e-mailed Southern Baptist Convention leaders asking if they agreed with Mohler that the Sodexho contract was a wise use of Cooperative Program funds.

Morris Chapman of the SBC Executive Committee, SBC president Bobby Welch, and Hershael York, a seminary faculty member who is currently president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, did not respond.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, answered to say his views, “if needed, will be communicated directly to Dr. Mohler and not to the press. Moreover, if I were to speak with the press it would be to press that seeks fairness.”

On other occasions, Mohler has been outspoken in his criticism of homosexuality in church life and society.

“No issue defines our current cultural crisis as clearly as homosexuality,” Mohler wrote in 2004.

He has called homosexuality “ultimately a rebellion of human nature against the divine creator.”

On the BBC in 1997, Mohler viewed “the modern attempts to normalize homosexuality as a threat not only to the moral equilibrium of the culture, but to the very survival of the society.”

In a February lecture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mohler called homosexuality a form of sexual perversion, into which society is “rushing headlong.”

“It is one of the most pressing pastoral issues you will face,” Mohler said, adding that “nothing less than the credibility of the Christian church is at stake” in the way it responds to the crisis.

He predicted America’s decision on same-sex marriage “will determine the future state of our society, the moral status of our culture, the health and well being of our children, and the inheritance we leave to the world.”

“The choice before us is not between two visions of marriage,” he said, “but between marriage and madness.”

Mohler criticized the Episcopal Church for appointing a gay bishop, United Methodists for acquitting a lesbian minister charged with violating church law and accused the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America for “equivocation” on homosexuality for sending the question of blessing same-sex unions back to the local church.

Recently he faulted author and pastor Brian McLaren and the “Emergent” church movement for “refus[ing] to answer the question” on issues including homosexuality.

He supported an amendment to the Kentucky state constitution banning same-sex marriage and called Sen. John Kerry a “cafeteria Catholic” for claiming allegiance to the Catholic Church while supporting abortion rights and civil unions for homosexuals.

Mohler opposes gays in the military and compared the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in the state to Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I believe that homosexuality is one of the greatest moral challenges facing this nation,” Mohler said in 1999 on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” “The decisions we make on this issue are going to shape the future of our country. We will either order our society by God’s law, or contravene that law and face the consequences.”

He has questioned the existence of a “gay gene,” which would suggest a biological cause for homosexual orientation.

In 2003 Mohler criticized the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue for photos suggesting sexual activities including homosexuality.

He included gay students who ran for homecoming queen at two universities among “signs of a civilization on the brink.”

He defended a columnist for her student newspaper at Indiana’s Butler University, who was attacked after writing a column questioning homosexuality. He accused Sweden of criminalizing Christianity for convicting a Pentecostal pastor who preached against homosexuality of breaking a law against hate speech.

Mohler also served on a study committee which drafted revisions to the Baptist Faith & Message in 2000. One change was to an article on “The Christian and the Social Order,” which listed homosexuality among issues that Christians ought to oppose.

“Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth and brotherly love,” the article says. “In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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Mohler Defends Contract with Gay-Friendly Firm