Professor Says College Sought to Muzzle Her

     SALEM, Mass. (CN) – The Gordon College professor claims in court the school’s administration retaliated against her after she spoke out against the college president’s stance on LGBT discrimination.
     In a complaint filed in Essex Superior Court, associate professor Lauren Barthold says she was stripped of leadership positions and the opportunity for promotion after writing a critical column about the president’s position in a local paper and taking part in an interview with The Boston Globe.
     In 2014, Gordon College President D. Michael Lindsay was among the signers of an open letter to President Barack Obama, urging the president to include a religious exemption in an anticipated executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against hires based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
     “Without a robust religious exemption, like the provisions in the Senate-passed ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Action), this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom,” the letter said.
     Obama signed the executive order about three days later without the exclusion.
     After becoming aware of the letter, Barthold wrote a one of her own to the editor of The Salem News, decrying Linday’s actions and promising to “win back the trust” of the LGBT community.
     Shortly afterwards, Barthold also spoke with a Globe reporter for a story about faculty turmoil at Gordon.
     In response, the administrative threatened to fire Barthold, but ultimately gave her an opportunity to resign, according to the complaint. She refused.
     Barthold claims she was then told, in August 2015, that she was ineligible for promotion to full professor, despite being scheduled to become eligible that fall.
     Barthold says she was also told that she was ineligible to hold any leadership positions at the college until she successfully went through a promotion review or a six-year review by the faculty senate.
     “As a direct result of Professor Barthold having publically voiced her opposition to the discriminatory practices of Gordon, representatives of Gordon retaliated against her, first threatening her, and later disciplining her by demoting her from her position as Director of the Gender Studies Minor, and denying her the vested opportunity to apply for promotion,” the complaint said.
     In a statement released after Barthold’s lawsuit was filed, Herman Smith Jr., chairman of the college’s board of trustees described the teacher’s actions as “detrimental to the College and not appropriate in her role as a faculty member.”
     “The College administration and Faculty Senate have been addressing this matter for over a year, and we are truly saddened and disappointed by the ACLU’s decision to take legal action against the College, filing a legal complaint and then going to the media with a news release that is replete with blatantly misleading statements and omissions about both the issue at hand and about Gordon in general.”
     Lindsay argued that Barthold was only punished because her actions were a direct attempt at harming the college.
     “Dr. Barthold was disciplined because she publicly called for a boycott of the school and severing of ties — actions which would harm Gordon students and potentially affect faculty and staff at Gordon,” wrote Lindsay. “At no time has any action been taken by the College to suppress open dialogue or punish the expression of differences within our community. We are proud of the way our community has grappled with divisive issues that confront our society on several levels. A core belief at Gordon as a Christian liberal arts institution is that the truth will stand up to scrutiny, and that we can engage on different points of view with grace and truth. Far from seeking to suppress such disagreement and discussion, Gordon has continued to foster dialogue.”
     Barthold is seeking unspecified damages on claims of associational discrimination in employment; sex discrimination in employment; retaliation and violations of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.
     She is represented by Joshua Solomon of Pollack Solomon Duffy LLP.

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