Battle over pronouns in email results in two fired from Christian university

Former employees of a New York Christian university alleged their termination was a result of the school being “trans-exclusive,” but left out some important details while playing the victim over pronoun use.

Houghton University, a Christian school in western New York, became the target of alphabet activists after two former residence hall directors leveled accusations against the school for upholding “conservative values.” Speaking with The New York Times, Raegan Zelaya and Shua Wilmot asserted that they had been fired in April for including “she/her” and “he/him” pronouns respectively in their email signatures in violation of university policy.

“I think it boils down to: They want to be trans-exclusive and they want to communicate that to potential students and the parents of potential students,” charged Wilmot, who noted his and Zelaya’s gender-neutral names were among the “professional and pastoral reasons” they included the pronouns. “There’s the professional piece of it, and the practical piece, and there’s also an inclusive piece, and I think that’s the piece this institution doesn’t want.”

For her part, Zelaya contended, “We live in a very divided world right now where everything is this or that, right or left, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. As Christians, I think we’ve gotten so caught up in these ideas of, ‘This is what I should be advocating for or upset about,’ that we forget to actually care for people.”

Houghton is affiliated with the Wesleyan Church, a Methodist denomination, that asserts “maleness and femaleness are universal human categories.”

An article from the church entitled, “A Wesleyan View of Gender Identity and Expression,” expressed, “Based on our biblical and theological study, there is no argument for a ‘third gender’ among humans. Gender confusion and dysphoria are ultimately the biological, psychological, social and spiritual consequences of the human race’s fallen condition.”

While such a statement may seem to support the fired employees’ position and the Times’ coverage as to why they were let go, it did not paint the full story nearly so well as Zelaya’s termination letter that circulated the internet.

Activists who shared the document online considered it a gotcha against the university as it stated Zelaya’s refusal to remove her pronouns. Of course, the letter from Human Resources associate director Nancy Stanley pointed out other reasons, including the fact that the residence hall director had already quit.

“You previously tendered your resignation advising that you did not intend to return next year,” Stanley wrote before adding, “However, as a result of your refusal to remove pronouns in your email signature in violation of institutional policy, and false and defamatory statements attributed to you in the recent Star article, please be advised…you are being relieved. of your duties effective immediately.”

The statement attributed to Zelaya came from an April 14 post by the Houghton Star, just five days before Stanley’s letter, that discussed the announced closing of the Mosaic Multicultural Center.

“If anything it feels like it just further demonstrates that the university is only interested in the kinds of diversity that are convenient for marketing purposes,” Zelaya had said. “It is outrageous to have diversity as a pillar in our strategic plan when we are actively cutting the programs and spaces that help empower diverse students to succeed.”

Furthermore, while the terminated employees played the victim and garnered the signatures of nearly 600 alumni to support them, university spokesman Michael Blankenship made clear that the pronoun policy was part of a broader rule to keep email signatures strictly professional.

“Over the past years, we’ve required anything extraneous be removed from email signatures, including Scripture quotes,” he stated and added to Fox News Digital, “Houghton remains steadfastly committed to offering the Christian education that our students are promised.”


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