A small Christian university in western New York has come under fire this week after two employees were fired for using their pronouns in work emails.
Raegan Zelaya and Shua Wilmot, both residence hall directors, were asked by administrators at Houghton University to remove the words “she/her“ and “he/him“ from their email signatures, in violation of a new policy. When the pair refused, they were fired.
An online petition has since garnered nearly 600 signatures in protest. Wilmot, who believes the termination was the result of a difference of opinion on how to live a Christian life, said, “There’s the professional piece to it, and the practical piece, and there’s also an inclusive piece, and I think that’s the piece this institution doesn’t want.”
In Zelaya‘s termination letter, the school said that she was fired for “refusing to remove pronouns from the email signature.” Both had added the words because their uncommon gender–neutral names have resulted in them being misgendered and addressed incorrectly in the past.
University spokesman Michael Blankenship told Fox News Digital that Houghton University has “never terminated an employment relationship based solely on the use of pronouns in staff email signatures.” However, he noted that it has removed any extraneous language, such as Scripture quotes, from email signatures in the past.
In response to the alumni letter, Houghton University President Wayne Lewis Jr., reminded students and staff that the school “unapologetically privileges an orthodox Christian worldview, rooted in the Wesleyan theological tradition.” Adding that employees are expected to understand and agree to the school‘s commitment to that tradition at the start of each academic year.
The firings come as schools and workplaces are trying to figure out how to deal with an increasingly politically charged environment where gender and sexual identity are coming to the forefront in everyday lives. On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis even declared that students and teachers in the state will “never be forced to declare pronouns.”
Last year, Yeshiva University in New York City was denied a bid by the Supreme Court to block an LGBTQ+ student organization from forming on campus. What should have been a sign of progress, however, seems to be taking a backseat at Houghton as it continues to adhere to its strict Christian values. The debate on what constitutes a welcoming and inclusive environment, or a violation of religious beliefs, ensues.
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