A kerfuffle of sorts erupted in Indianapolis this past week with Indiana Wesleyan University at its heart, even though the local university did nothing wrong, different or even controversial, with the given exception that acceptance of Christianity and its tenants by some have always tended to roil many.
IWU has been doing contract work for the state the past eight years providing retraining and education for workers who lose their jobs when employers move their work to foreign countries. The state program became familiar to many in Grant County with the loss of local factories as business moved to places with cheaper labor.
After eight years, someone in the Indiana Attorney General’s office decided that because IWU takes it role as a Christian institution seriously and retains the right to hire or not hire people based on its and the prospective employee’s religious principles, the contract suddenly was found to run counter to state law.
There is a wide array of vocations available in our state, in most of which the hiring and personal belief systems of employees and employers are kept apart. But it is an absurdity to suggest that those organizations dedicated at least in part to religious faith — the sort of beliefs that give meaning and guidance to life whether one is a Jew, Muslim, Christian or even Humanist — cannot participate and contribute to the work of the state where we all share citizenship, residency and hopefully a concern for the well-being of others.
By their very definition, religious beliefs cannot be checked at the gate when one walks into the public square, workplace or classroom. When we pass through the door to be with others, we do not cease being married. We can’t purge our individual perceptions, knowledge and experiences or become biologically brown-eyed instead of blue. Religion and the personal questions of why, where we came from and where we are going, are part of what make us up as people. All people are entitled to be there in the public square and participate in community; even Evangelical Christians.