Eastern University President Bashed Over Letter to Obama

Robert Duffett signed on to a letter asking for a religious exemption to an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees.

Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees.

It didn’t contain an exemption for religious-based organizations. Before the order was signed, religious groups asked Obama to give them an exemption. One of the people who signed the letter was Robert Duffett, president of Eastern University. And now some alumni are pissed.

Eastern is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA (a Mainline Baptist group headquartered in Valley Forge). Nearly 800 alumni signed a petition online asking Duffett to remove his signature from the letter, which asked Obama to “protect the rights of faith-based organizations that simply desire to utilize staffing practices consistent with their deep religious convictions.”

Duffett says Eastern is welcoming of LGBT students. In a response, Duffett wrote that he signed the letter because he supports the separation of church and state: “This means no government has the right to determine theological views and practices of religious institutions.”

“We’re confused,” petition organizer Ryan Paetzold told the Inquirer of that argument. “We don’t believe the right to discriminate has any bearing on that.”

Employees at Eastern could be fired for “moral turpitude,” which includes both homosexual conduct and sex outside marriage. But Duffett says no employee has been fired for those offenses.