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March 9, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 10
 
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Methodist college punishes, then fires Transgender dean
Methodist college punishes, then fires Transgender dean
"Having the right to do something doesn't necessarily make it right to do," says Marc Adams, executive director of HeartStrong, Inc.

"You would think that after all of the apologies our country has had to make and all of the reparation checks they've cut that they would have learned this lesson by now."

Adams is referring to the firestorm brewing after the recent firing by the Methodist Spring Arbor University of Dr. Julie Nemecek, Associate Dean of Adult Studies. A calculated effort to make her disappear began almost immediately after she informed the University of her diagnosis in 2005 culminating with her termination last month.

"Spring Arbor University's attempt to seduce Dr. Nemecek in to the lifestyle they are comfortable with and firing her when she chose to follow her own heart is sickening," Adams continues. "Religious educational institutions are not known for exercising real unconditional love and this incident is no exception. SAU will now be known for the disrespect of its employee and piety instead of an institution for higher learning."

HeartStrong, Inc., is a national non profit co-founded by Adams more than a decade ago and its sole mission is to provide support to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered students and others who are persecuted at religious educational institutions worldwide. The HeartStrong Outreach Team has self-driven more than 336,000 miles in eight years doing outreach and educational work.

In June of 2006, in standard religious school fashion, SAU issued Nemecek a restructured contract demanding adherence or face termination. The new contract conditions punished her by cutting her salary by twenty percent and forced her to virtually disappear from campus and all SAU related activities. The contract also required Nemecek to undergo University monitored counseling presumably to try to keep her from continuing her journey.

On December 30, 2006, Nemecek was informed the revised contract was not being renewed when it expired in June 2007, SAU would not renew it. However, after changing her name from her birth name to Julie Nemecek last month, SAU fired her.

Nemecek has hired an attorney as well as filed complaints against SAU with the EEOC. A mediation attempt is scheduled for this week. Should SAU fail to do what is right, Nemecek is prepared to go to court. HeartStrong, Inc. and others fully support her.

"I am supremely confident," Nemecek says, "that, should mediation fail, our litigation will prove that the university willfully violated my rights and caused serious harm to my health and professional reputation. (My wife) Joanne and I are willing to lose everything to prove what is just and right. For us, it is a matter of justice, faith, and life itself."

Alexander Pangborn serves on the board of directors for HeartStrong and is Transgendered. "As the son of a Methodist pastor, I view it as a Shame when a religious educational institution rejects those perceived as different, and it is even more disappointing when an institution allegedly dedicated to the expansion of the mind rejects such an obvious opportunity for learning. Dr. Nemecek's dismissal from SAU demonstrates discouragement of individual critical thinking- a cornerstone of higher education."

In a statement released Sunday, Drew Hinkle of the Spring Arbor Gay Straight Alliance, a Spring Arbor community organization not affiliated with Spring Arbor stated, "SAU made a mistake in first demoting Dr. Nemecek, not renewing her contract, and then firing her. SAU has done nothing but shown the world their hostility and lack of respect toward the LGBTQ community."

SAU has failed to respond appropriately. They have chosen to spend University money on a public relations firm in a different city which only issues vague responses.

"They are hiding," Adams says. "It is typical behavior for religious schools to go from persecuting someone aggressively in private to hiding in a closet when the persecuted find the courage to fight back."

"We are ecstatic that Dr. Nemecek is not allowing herself to be dismissed," he continues. "Her public refusal to be persecuted shines a light to everyone in the Spring Arbor community. The message is loud and clear that persecution and unjust actions by SAU against her are actually unjust actions against everyone like her and who respect her. And, like her, HeartStrong will not be silent."

HeartStrong, Inc. has instigated a letter writing campaign to the university and organizations which provide its accreditation.

A HeartStrong press release

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