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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Transgender Professor Fights Dismissal at Christian School

March 2, 2007

Please join the American Family Association of Michigan in sending a message to thank Spring Arbor University for their refusal — in the eyes of young students — to legitimize and enable mental, emotional, and spiritual confusion:

https://community.gospelcom.net/Brix?pageID=9619

Gary Glenn, President
AFA-Michigan


“Spring Arbor University, a small, evangelical Christian school 75 miles west of Detroit, fired the 55-year-old associate professor earlier this week after a 15-month dispute over (his) transgender lifestyle…citing conduct that’s ‘inconsistent with the Christian faith.’ ‘We believe it’s their decision to make as a private Christian institution,’ said Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan. ‘This is an adult role model for teenagers whose parents thought by sending them to a Christian school, they were not likely to be exposed to such lifestyle choices and emotional problems.’ “


ASSOCIATED PRESS
Lansing, Michigan – March 2, 2007

Transgender professor fights dismissal at Christian school
by David Eggert, The Associated Press

SPRING ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Julie Nemecek has long, manicured fingernails and wears a blond wig, makeup and dangling earrings.

She’s also legally a man. Julie, formerly John, says she gained a lot emotionally after starting to live openly as a woman in recent years — cross-dressing, getting hormone therapy and, a week ago, legally changing her name. But she lost something as well: her job.

Spring Arbor University, a small, evangelical Christian school 75 miles west of Detroit, fired the 55-year-old associate professor earlier this week after a 15-month dispute over Nemecek’s transgender lifestyle. It previously had decided not to renew Nemecek’s contract after the spring semester, citing conduct that’s “inconsistent with the Christian faith.”

An ordained Baptist minister who once led churches in Chicago and Grand Rapids, Nemecek attends church regularly with her wife of 35 years, Joanne. Nemecek is legally a male and doesn’t plan to have a sex-change operation, partly to continue the marriage.

The school isn’t saying much publicly because Nemecek, who wants the job back and damages for pain and suffering, filed a sex discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A mediation hearing is scheduled Tuesday in Detroit.

In a recent statement, the school said: “Our curriculum integrates faith in all aspects of our liberal arts education, and we expect our faculty to model Christian character as an example for our students.” The school, which is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, says her transgender lifestyle violates its employment qualifications. It will pay Nemecek through the end of the academic year.

Nemecek says Spring Arbor has retained gay or divorced employees, despite stances against homosexuality and divorce, but she suspects there’s concern because of biblical passages such as Deuteronomy 22:5. It says men who wear women’s clothing are an abomination to God. Transgender people often are included with the traditional biblical view condemning gay relationships, Nemecek adds.

“You can prove almost anything if you take a handful of verses and pull them out of context,” Nemecek said in an interview at the couple’s condo in Spring Arbor, a community of 2,200 outside Jackson. “If I lived as other people saw my body, it would be at the expense of my head and my heart and my soul. I just can’t do that and live a life of integrity and peace.”

Nemecek says she knew about her gender issue since childhood but chose to hide it, not understanding what “it” was. Nemecek thought wanting to be feminine would go away after getting married. But as John, he occasionally cross-dressed on trips and kept it from his family.

After the Nemeceks’ three grown sons moved out, John started researching gender issues in 2003. He was diagnosed with gender identity disorder, decided he could no longer live a lie and told his shocked wife. Joanne, 55, didn’t know if she could stay in the marriage, especially when John wanted to transition further into living as a woman. She thought John’s lifestyle was sinful but eventually changed her mind after learning more about his condition.

“The person I love and care about the most is Julie. This is the right thing to do. I gave up the fight,” said Joanne, who sometimes catches herself referring to Julie as “he” or “him.” Julie says she’s attracted sexually to Joanne. “Part of the standards of care that I’m following is to live in a way that your public persona matches how you see yourself,” said Julie, dressed in a white blouse and black sweater vest. “For me, it’s just like a huge load has been lifted off my back as I’ve been able to live as Julie.”

Being Julie, however, hasn’t been easy. The Nemeceks had to leave their Baptist church, where Julie sometimes filled in as a minister. When Spring Arbor learned of Nemecek’s transgender issue in 2005, it let her keep working this school year but with less pay and responsibility.
She taught classes over the Internet instead of on campus and wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or female clothes on campus or speak with co-workers or students about being transgender.

The job reassignment, according to the school, was an accommodation and chance for Nemecek’s “restoration” because of her 16 years of work at the school “and our desire to act in a Christ-like way.” The agreement didn’t last long. Spring Arbor sent Nemecek a letter in October saying she’d broken the contract by visiting campus in makeup and wearing a university T-shirt to a local grocery store.

“If we allow you to continue these appearances that manifest your current transgender circumstance, we open ourselves to questions of inconsistency in upholding our Christian beliefs,” Randy Rossman, the school’s director of human resources, wrote Oct. 26. Nemecek filed the discrimination complaint five days later.

The dispute has spurred a slew of letters to the local newspaper. Nemecek got positive e-mails and also letters criticizing her lifestyle, citing biblical verses. One suggested she commit suicide. A supporter of Nemecek is Drew Hinkle, a gay student at Spring Arbor who organized a recent rally on her behalf. “Julie’s situation was an amazing opportunity and still is potentially for the school to reaffirm its position on diversity,” says Hinkle, a junior from Bedford. “Instead, they chose not to take a position of understanding and got very cold.”

But conservative groups are backing the decision to fire Nemecek.“We believe it’s their decision to make as a private Christian institution,” said Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan. “This is an adult role model for teenagers whose parents thought by sending them to a Christian school they were not likely to be exposed to such lifestyle choices and emotional problems.”


RELATED LINKS:
Spring Arbor University: http://www.spring.arbor.edu
American Family Association of Michigan: http://www.afamichigan.org
National Center for Transgender Equality: http://www.nctequality.org

Read the original AP story here:
http://www.mlive.com/newsflash/michigan/index.ssf?/base/news-42/117285534832800.xml&storylist=newsmichigan

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