Professor Loses Job Over Divorce

Citing the Bible, Christian college fires professor for split with wife.

ByABC News
April 30, 2008, 3:40 PM

May 1, 2008— -- Wheaton College takes the Bible seriously: students and professors must sign a "covenant" pledging to lead their lives in accordance with Christian teaching.

So when Kent Gramm, a popular English professor at the Illinois school for 20 years, violated scriptures and skirted school rules, he had to go.

Gramm will be leaving the school because he got a divorce.

News of his impending departure has led to a campuswide debate over whether divorce now as common in America as intact marriages should be grounds for dismissal, and just how much employers may intrude into the personal lives of employees.

Both Gramm and the college were reluctant to speak with ABC NEWS about the professor's departure.

"This has just been really tough on my family and I'm no longer going to speak about it," Gramm said.

The school has employed divorced professors in the past, but faculty members must explain the reason for their divorce to determine if it's allowable according to New Testament tenets.

"I think it's wrong to have to discuss your personal life with your employer," Gramm told the Chicago Tribune Tuesday, "and I also don't want to be in a position of accusing my spouse, so I declined to appeal or discuss the matter in any way with my employer."

Sarah Clark, a spokesperson for the 3,000-student Christian liberal arts college outside Chicago, said the school would no longer be speaking about Gramm's departure. She did confirm that others in the past had been fired for divorces the college deemed unjustified.

On Thursday, she called ABC News to say that technically, the professor quit before action could be taken to dismiss him, which would have included a hearing on the matter.

According to the Tribune, school officials defend the rule based on teachings from Matthew 19 and writings by the Apostle Paul. The bible is open to interpretation on divorce but doesn't prohibit it. Valid reasons cited in scripture mainly focus on sexual indiscretion.

Gramm was given a year to find another job, but decided to leave now, he told the Tribune.

The student body is divided on his departure. Students told ABC NEWS they're torn between wanting to see a beloved professor remain on campus and maintaining the traditions that brought them to the college in the first place.

Gramm had been married for 20 years to his wife Lynelle.

"Many of us support the school and Dr. Gramm," said Tim George, 21, the student body president. "We respect Dr. Gramm because he is an amazing professor, but we respect the school's policy because it is based on the rules which guide our lives."