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Lesbian Sues North Park University for Discrimination
by TRACY BAIM
2003-12-10

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Pictured Barbara Kelly and Attorney Soule.

Just a few blocks west of Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood, affectionately known as lesbianville, is the home of a small private religious school whose leaders believe they have a right to discriminate in hiring based on sexual orientation and religious beliefs.

Barbara Kelly disagrees, and she has filed a complaint with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations against North Park University, founded in 1891 by the Evangelical Covenant Church, and located at 3225 W. Foster Ave.

Some of the school's gay student group members wore pink last Friday in support of Kelly, and they have reportedly been meeting on a course of action.

Kelly, a psychologist and professor, said she was denied a teaching job in North Park's School of Adult Learning because of her sexual orientation and her interpretation of Christianity. Kelly was recruited by North Park for a full-time, tenured teaching slot after successfully teaching there as an openly gay adjunct faculty. Kelly was awarded the Outstanding Teacher Award at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology for the past three years.

One North Park official noted that, as a result of teaching part-time at North Park, Kelly received consistently positive evaluations from [its] very diverse group of adult learners. Kelly believed and was told she had passed the application and interview process initiated by North Park with flying colors. The University then halted her employment contract between July 6 and July 9, 2003, and Kelly said she was told hiring an openly gay professor on a full-time basis was simply viewed as too controversial by the school.

"It is personally devastating to have hard-earned opportunities snatched away like this," Kelly said. "I think I have the qualifications necessary for the job and, as far as I know, was the only candidate. It was North Park that initiated my recruitment for a full-time job, knowing that I was gay. Especially in view of that history, the blatant nature of the discrimination is very disturbing and demoralizing." After being rejected for the job because she is gay, University officials suggested that Kelly "help" the University better deal with the issue of sexual orientation but not as a full-time faculty member, according to Kelly's attorney, Jennifer K. Soule of Soule, Bradtke & Lambert.

North Park University is a liberal arts school with just under 3,000 students.


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