So tonight I was writing a Church Marketing Sucks entry about my former employer, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (nothing ground-breaking, I just noticed they were preaching to the choir with their online advertising), and I came across this news item from October 2004: Minnesota Upholds Billy Graham Firing of Lesbian Sara Thorson.
Basically, Sara Thorson was fired from the BGEA in 2002 after coworkers saw her kissing another woman in the parking lot. Thorson worked in bulk mail processing and had nothing to do with the organization’s evangelistic mission. According to court documents, she had worked at the BGEA since 1971. Regardless, she was fired.
I heard rumors about this when I worked there, and I’d probably recognize Thorson if I saw her. But I never heard the actual story. I also probably knew her manager and the lawyer who dealt with the whole thing.
It’s a peculiar policy decision, one I don’t entirely agree with. From a legal perspective it makes sense, but from a practical perspective it’s grating, especially from an employee’s point of view. How are you supposed to know what’s a fire-able offense? At least Bethel University has a lifestyle statement you sign so when you work there you know what to expect (though I don’t know if I want to encourage that kind of rules-based approach either). I’d love to hear the inside story—from the manager and the lawyer and Thorson and Billy Graham himself (who I imagine hears very little about these kind of day-to-day operations).
What’s even more peculiar is the lack of coverage. If Billy Graham sneezes the press covers it. I’m surprised more people haven’t talked about it.
(Feb. 11, 2005 UPDATE: On the advice of a good friend I toned back some of my comments here, partially to offer a more balanced perspective and partially to take my own advice.)