I weighed in some time back when Wheaton fired a philosophy professor who converted to Roman Catholicism but who said, in spite of what the President of Wheaton thought, that he could sign the doctrinal statement in all good faith. Now my alma mater, Cornerstone University, has fired a Roman Catholic – but the person worked in technology and was not a professor. So the newspaper reports. Correct me if I’ve got anything wrong. I hope President Rex Rogers has an explanation for this somewhere. (Scroll down to “21 Feb o6 Students respond to firing of Grave.) (HT: Greg Mutch.)
Or read it here:
Students respond to firing of Graves, WOOD-TV 8 story
Sarah Heth 21.FEB.06
There has been a lot of talk around campus about the IT staff member fired, allegedly, because he was Catholic. Reactions have been angry, upset, disappointed, and unbelieving. One might wonder, what with so many Protestant students on campus, what the Catholic students on campus think about all of this. The Herald caught up with six such students to get their response on the now infamous event.
Alex Marzolino, a Cornerstone sophomore who grew up in the Catholic church (although he would not consider himself a practicing Catholic now), and whose family is still Catholic, first reacted with disbelief. “When I first heard about it, I didn’t believe it,” he said.
When he realized it was not a joke, Marzolino was not happy. “I don’t think it’s right. It’s still a Christian religion. Other schools hire people of different denominations-why can’t we?”
He was not alone in those feelings. Ashlee Ducat agreed. “I don’t think it was right, because if he’s a practicing Catholic, he’s going to church, and that’s what he put down on his application.” She went on, “There are a handful of Catholic students here. What are they going to do, kick us out next? I just didn’t think it was fair.”
Jason Binder, a senior, was also disappointed in the affair. “In a nutshell,” he said, “I feel like the school often times doesn’t think about how some actions play out in the future. I don’t think they realize this affects the value of each student’s degree.”
Andrew Lindquist, a junior at Cornerstone, wasn’t angry because they fired him, but that they hired him first. “I wouldn’t be mad if they had said first off that he couldn’t have a job,” he said. “I’m more mad that after two days, they said ‘you have to give up your church attendance.’ I thought maybe they’d have looked at it and picked up on it before they hired him.”
Another junior, Kate Fedoruk, had similar thoughts. “I…feel like, if it was something that was such a big deal, they should have noticed it first off,” she said.
Sami Jo Greiner, a sophomore, felt that because he got hired, this was actually a personnel problem. “I take it for what it is: a guy who was hired when he shouldn’t have been. It’s not his fault, it’s the fault of the person who hired. We need not discuss our policy, but we need to discuss the person who did the hiring, and why something like that slipped through,” she said.
Most of the students felt that the man’s denomination (Catholic) shouldn’t matter. Laura Carlson is a freshman who, like Marzolino, grew up in the Catholic church, has a family that is Catholic, but would not consider herself a practicing Catholic anymore. “I really thought that it was just ridiculous because you can’t know a person’s true faith by simply their denomination,” she said. “There can be Catholics that have just as great of faith as Protestants.”
Fedoruk, who is “not Catholic anymore, but I still respect it,” said “If he wasn’t a Christian, that would be a different situation, but if it’s simply a different denomination, then it shouldn’t matter. They both believe in the same God, so I don’t see what the big deal is…Your worship style is different than mine, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still love you and respect you.”
One big thing some of the students had a problem with was the fact that he was a technology staff member. “He’s only a web designer,” said Fedoruk. “He’s not teaching theology. That’s what I can’t get over.”
Lindquist agreed that he had a problem with “the fact that he didn’t have any interaction with the students.” Carlson felt the same way. “Especially because it’s a tech position,” she said, “and his faith isn’t going to affect as many people.”
The students also felt that they have not gotten all the information about the situation. “I guess I’d like to see the school say something more about it,” Binder said.
“We don’t have all the facts,” Greiner said. “We just have to wait for the facts to come to us.”
Here’s the earlier story:
Katie Stanfield & Luke Stier 14.FEB.06
Late last week, WOOD-TV 8 ran a news story accusing Cornerstone University of firing Tony Graves because of his Catholic faith. The WOOD-TV 8 report aired on Thursday, Feb. 9 during the 6 p.m. news and again Sunday, Feb. 12. During that report, Graves said that Cornerstone University officials gave him an ultimatum: “I was told to deny my religion, change my religion, or get fired,” Graves said.
WOOD-TV 8 acquired a tape recording from Graves of the meeting in which he was fired. On the recording played during the news report a man, who Graves claims is a university official, said, “You could opt to change your church attendance to one that falls within that definition of a theologically conservative and evangelical, biblical church.”
Graves had applied for a job in the Information Systems department at Cornerstone. Because of school policy, which requires all staff and faculty to attend an “evangelical, biblical church,” all applicants are required to list the name of the church they attend as well as sign the Cornerstone confession of faith. Although Graves listed a Catholic church, the name of which has not been disclosed, on his application, the Cornerstone official who hired him failed to see this until two days after he had been employed at the university. The Herald was unable to learn the name of this official.
Once the church attendance issue had been discovered, Graves was told that he would have to change his religious affiliation or the university would have to terminate his employment. On the recording of that meeting, the same voice can be heard telling Graves, “You would not have been hired in the first place because of the church attendance policy requirement.”“I chose to stick with my religion.” At that time, after only two days on the job, Graves was fired by Cornerstone University.
Jeff Herman, director human resources, said, “We have a process we go through [when hiring new employees]. We try to follow it as best we can. It is a process.” Herman felt that overall the university handled the situation in a “professional, appropriate way. We are who we are.”
WOOD-TV 8 reported that Graves had filed an employment discrimination lawsuit with the Kent County Circuit Court. The case was, however, settled out of court and because of a settlement noindisclosure agreement between the two parties reached this past January, neither side can talk specifically about the case. However, Rex M. Rogers, president of Cornerstone University, told The Herald that the timing of the situation was “relatively recent.” WOOD-TV Target 8 investigator Henry Erb said that the interviews conducted with Graves were from last June and at no point during the story would Cornerstone officials talk to the station.
Although law prohibits hiring discrimination based on religious beliefs, there are rights set forth to protect religious organizations in these cases. According to Timothy Visser, attorney and adjunct business law professor at Cornerstone University, the school falls into this category. “A religious organization like the college has a religious right,” he said.
Rogers said that he was pleased with the way the situation was handled once the error had been discovered. “Our people handled this matter professionally and appropriately with a Christian spirit,” he said. “They did a very good job.” He also cautioned the Cornerstone community from jumping to conclusions about the situation. “When you hear or see something on the news you’re getting a very limited piece of information, or even misinformation,” he said.
Commenting on e-mails he had received from members of the CU community, he said, “I cautioned those I wrote back to about making snap judgments. They don’t have all the details.”
During an interview with The Herald, Rogers stressed that the university’s employment policies are a matter of self-definition, not judgment. “What we don’t want to imply is that because we’ve defined ourselves a certain way that means we’re pointing fingers at somebody else,” he said.
Other Christian colleges, such as Calvin, have similar hiring standards for faculty members, but the standards for staff members at some of these institutions are more lenient. When asked why Cornerstone holds the standards it does, Rogers said, “A staff member at this institution can be just as influential in modeling and teaching a biblical worldview, and ministering to and counseling a student as any faculty member. We want all of our community to be involved in our mission and thoroughly supportive and committed to the same belief system.”
When asked why these principles do not apply equally to students, why, for example, Catholic students are invited to attend the university, Rogers said, “Students are receivers of the product, not the deliverers of the product.”
Rogers said he sees the situation as the university being true to its core values and beliefs. “If the message someone takes away from it is that Cornerstone is faithful to its faith, then OK,” he said.