Disability, the ‘good family’ and discrimination in the dismissal of a Presbyterian seminary professor

Authors

  • Valerie Hobbs University of Sheffield

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jld.35571

Keywords:

first amendment, disability, employment termination, religious institutions, the ‘good family’, discriminatory language

Abstract

Religious institutions in the USA, under the First Amendment, exhibit great strength in employment termination, given freedom by the Supreme Court to conduct their labour and employment practices with limited scrutiny. This article examines ways in which a Presbyterian seminary board report, justifying its decision not to renew a professor's contract, demonstrates discrimination in its use of the 'good family' ideal prominent within conservative Christianity. Focusing on intertextuality and representation of the professor's wife, a disabled woman, analysis presents evidence of an overall strategy of exclusion. The report consistently demonstrates support for negative witness statements about the professor and his wife while undermining the professor's accounts. The report's characterization of the professor's wife subsumes her identity under her husband's and assumes moral reasons for her disability and chronic illness, consistent with a nouthetic counselling ethos. Findings support the discriminatory potential of the 'good family' ideal, underscoring employees' unique vulnerability within religious higher education institutions. 

Author Biography

Valerie Hobbs, University of Sheffield

Valerie Hobbs is Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at the University of Sheffield. Her research focuses on religious language, and she is currently writing a monograph on religious language in contemporary contexts for Bloomsbury.

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Published

2018-12-04

How to Cite

Hobbs, V. (2018). Disability, the ‘good family’ and discrimination in the dismissal of a Presbyterian seminary professor. Journal of Language and Discrimination, 2(2), 133-161. https://doi.org/10.1558/jld.35571

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