A major evangelical college campus organization is allegedly instituting a policy that would result in firing employees who support same-sex marriage.
According to a report published on Time.com Thursday evening, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA—a campus organization that runs evangelical Christian student groups at 667 colleges across the country—is prepping a series of “involuntary terminations” for staff members who disagree with a new slate of internal policies on sexuality. The policies, which are outlined in a 20-page theological document, condemn any sexual activity that occurs outside of a marriage between a man and a woman—including premarital sex and a same-sex marriage.
The report also detailed the account of at least one staffer who says she was fired because she saw the policy as discriminatory—in part because her child is transgender.
“We internally categorize these as involuntary terminations due to misalignment with InterVarsity ministry principles, which is a category we use for people who leave for theological and philosophy of ministry disagreements,” Greg Jao, an InterVarsity vice president and director of campus engagement, told Time. “Our goal is not to go, ‘Oh we want you to do the dirty work of firing yourself.’ I think our thing is, if you are in disagreement, then we are going to ask you, with integrity, to identify that and leave.”
InterVarsity, which employees around 1,300 staff, has since claimed the article is “wrong,” publishing statements on Facebook and Twitter.
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The statement confused many, however, especially the use of the term “civil marriage.” It’s possible that InterVarsity is making a distinction between the law that allows same-sex couples to wed—a “civil” marriage—and a theological position that affirms a same-sex union—a “religious” marriage. Thus, an InterVarsity staffer could hypothetically keep their job if they only support laws allowing for marriage equality, but not if they endorse theology that affirms such partnerships.
Still, it’s unclear if such a distinction would make any real difference in practice, and InterVarsity did not return ThinkProgress’ multiple requests for clarification, making the ultimate intent of the statement difficult to determine.
InterVaristy has a long history of policing the sexual relationships of their staff and student members. In 2011, a chapter at the University Of Buffalo was suspended after the group’s treasurer, a sophomore, was pressured to resign for being gay. And around that same time, a female InterVarsity staffer was fired for having a troubled marriage, even though the organization kept at least two divorced men on staff.
Regardless, the group’s anti-LGBT theology is increasingly out of step with the broader American Christian community. According to a 2015 PRRI poll, strong majorities of Catholics, white mainline Protestants, and Orthodox Christians now endorse the freedom to marry. Meanwhile, roughly half of religious Americans see no conflict between their faith and their support for LGBT equality, and denominations such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America now ordain LGBT people and allow clerics to officiate same-sex weddings.
And while most evangelicals still oppose marriage equality, those numbers are shifting. Prominent evangelical leaders have begun asking other members of their flock to reevaluate anti-LGBT theology, and a growing group of evangelical churches are being kicked out of conservative denominations for embracing their LGBT members.