Google's evil karma: user agreements...

Historically, Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana has used Google Apps for email and calendars. It's basically Gmail and Google Calendar for businesses using their own domain name.

Google also gives 501(c)3 non-profit organizations access to Google Apps for free. You just have to submit some documentation regarding your 501(c)3 status. For quite a number of years, we have been using the free edition of Google Apps here at the church.

We continue to use Google Apps to this day. Recently, I needed to reapply for non-profit status with Google Apps. I was in the process of filing the necessary "paperwork" online when I ran into a snag...


To take advantage of the Google Apps for non-profits, I must agree that "My organization does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in hiring/employment practices." (Here's a larger screenshot.) I cannot, in good conscience, agree to their terms.

I have been very sensitive to the terms of service agreements for these cloud services for some time, and I take screenshots when I notice things that bug me. Compare Google's terms of service agreement for Google Apps, above, with that of Microsoft's terms of service agreement for (larger shot here):


Instead of four checkboxes, Microsoft clumps it all together into one statement that you must agree to: "My organization does not engage in discrimination in hiring, compensation, access to training or services, promotion, termination, and/or retirement based on rase, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, gender identity or expression, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, political affiliation, union membership or veteran status, other than allowed by law."

I'm convinced that Google knows very well that we are allowed by law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and so they have added that extra checkbox to target organizations like Clearnote Church.

When I noticed the Office365 terms of service agreement back in October, I sent the screen shot to Joseph Bayly with the following question, "I think the phrase "other than allowed by law" means that we can still use it, but… for how long?" He responded with the following: "Unbelievable. Pretty soon we'll have to run our own mail servers."

I'm convinced he's right.

Lucas Weeks

Lucas serves as an assistant pastor at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana. Although he pines for the warm, tropical weather that was familiar to him growing up in west and central Africa, he has since made peace with the harsher climates of North America.

Want to get in touch? Send Lucas an email!


Wondering if the same or similar EULA is required for those who purchase the use of the apps.

I would love to hear an attorney's opinion...seems to me the Google agreement is simply regurgitating ENDA language in an attempt to exclude those they feel are discriminatory.

Problem is (for Google, at least) discrimination involves a denial of someone's civil rights. Every profession has standards and/or certifications, and Christian churches are bound by biblical standards in their hiring practices. It is not a man's civil right to be an attorney if he never passed the Bar Exam. In fact, he would be acting illegally if he practiced law.

Words like "basis" are important. If churches are denied the freedom to hire based on biblical standards, that would actually be discriminatory since other organizations are allowed their own criteria for determining who is qualified. Why privilege one standard over another?

That being the case, it must be that Clearnote church is NOT discriminatory because hiring practices are based on biblical and confessional standards...I think you could sign it in good conscience if Google's services are what you want.

Martin Luther would agree. I came across the following quote from Bondage of the Will last week:

If I mistake the meaning here, blame the author who gave the definition, not me who examine it; for it is rightly said in the legal world that the words of one who speaks obscurely when he could have spoken more plainly should be interpreted against himself.

Definition of words is important. If you think Google has defined your hiring practices correctly, and choose not to sign it based on those stipulated terms; you are in agreement with Google that Christian churches hire/don't hire on the basis of discrimination rather than the standard of God's Word. 

We all know what our elected officials and multi-billion dollar businesses are up to...but they can only do it by manipulating the language...let's not be complicit.

Disclaimer: the above is not the rendering of a legal opinion nor offered as legal advice.

Why is it not enough for Google to confirm non-profit status and leave it at that? Why do they get into the civil rights thing? Wouldn't it make sense for them to also have a litmus test on abortion? Maybe they should just come out with the question they really want to know: Are you a Christian?

Certainly this is splitting hairs with respect to what Google is actually driving at, but as far as I know ClearNote Church doesn't actually make hiring/firing decisions based on so-called "sexual orientation" or "gender identity"; rather, the church would consider the repentance, or lack thereof, of someone tempted by those sins. CN Church would hire a qualified individual who happens to be tempted to same-sex intimacy, if he has repented of that sin; but would not hire him if he is unrepentant and living in slavery to it.


No, the same EULA is not required for those who simply pay for the services. We will be using Google Apps for the foreseeable future. We will just need to pay for their services from now on.


I agree that it's not discrimination, really, for us to base our hiring practices upon Biblical standards. But what this membership application points out is that the basis for our laws has shifted and will continue to shift from Biblical standards to... something else. So while I agree with what you say, I don't see how it helps.


My mind went through the same process yours did, but I think my final conclusion is still right. And I don't think it's splitting hairs; I think it's pretty clear what Google is driving at. Again, the agreement requires me to certify that:

"My organization does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in hiring/employment practices."

As far as Google is concerned, it would be an act of courage for a current or existing employee to state that he was a homosexual. But that's practically the definition of someone who is unrepentant concerning these particular sexual sins. It seems clear that this agreement is meant to silence the one (Clearnote Church) and protect the other (the sodomite).

Thanks Lucas.

Two thoughts were behind my question. The first you touched on. Difficlt as it might be for some ministries, they can pay for it. My second thought was how close the day might be when this option is also only available by signing such an agreement.

Craig French, very helpful comment. I'm immediately taking it as legal advice:)

I'd be curious if folks think a Christian could justly sign the following typical employment contract under the same reasoning Craig uses:


Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment
...Your attention is drawn to the rules, policies and procedures set out in the Company's Employee Handbook... The Employee Handbook does not form part of your Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment. You agree to abide by those procedures, policies and rules and any additional or amended policies, procedures and rules, which may be issued from time to time by the Company and understand that failure to do so may result in disciplinary action being taken against you.


Then from the said Employee Handbook:


Equal Opportunities
[Company X] is an equal opportunities employer. It is the responsibility of management, supervisors and all employees to establish and maintain a working environment, Terms and Conditions of service and employment practices and procedures, which will ensure that no employee or job applicant receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of race, religion, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, sexual orientation, marital status, age or disablity.

All applicants for employment and candidates for transfer and promotion must be considered on the basis of the relevant skills, qualifications, aptitudes and abilities they posess.

Any employee who believes that he or she is being treated less favourably on the grounds of race, religion, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, age or disability is encouraged to raise the matter....


My feeling is that it is inherently contradictory and unspecific, and so will use Luther's dictum and interpret it in a way that enables me to obey God.


Sorry, Lucas, I just saw this:

I agree that it's not discrimination, really, for us to base our hiring practices upon Biblical standards. But what this membership application points out is that the basis for our laws has shifted and will continue to shift from Biblical standards to... something else. So while I agree with what you say, I don't see how it helps.

I agree that the basis for our laws is shifting. For this very reason I disagree that what I wrote is unhelpful. Signing this agreement (and others like it) is helpful in that it establishes a consistent practice which, if ever challenged, has a sound argument in its favor calling into question the legitimacy of such regs. Ironically, we deny ourselves a seat at the table by choosing to not agree to these terms.

The nice thing about a nebulous blob of clay is that it can still be shaped. These PC-driven regs/clauses are still blobs of amorphous clay. The best way to keep them from setting is opposing the tide by accepting the terms so arguments will be based on law. At that point, courts and lawmakers are faced with a conundrum: to give teeth to the regs they'd be faced with the unsavory task of weighing in on a theological debate. If we don't accept such terms, we establish an accepted practice that will eventually snowball into precedent, which will require clarification from courts, which will lead to "lawful" persecution.

Wise as serpents.


Your comment was very helpful, and I thank you for it. I kept working and working on a response, and, finally, it blossomed into another post! So let's carry on the discussion over there.

Thanks again!

I agree that such agreements can be signed, although I'd suggest we send a follow-up e-mail to Google's headquarters/legal department specifying what we mean by this and that word in the contract. Or, having a page on our church web site defining the terms of our various contracts and sending each software company/cloud agency notification that our user agreement is bound by the terms of what's on that page we put up.


Abram's point is a good one. It turns on the left's equivocation. They want "sexual orientation" to mean "homosexual desire" when they want to rely on public pity for its victims, and "sodomy" when it comes to how the law is interpreted once the law gets passed.
Hence, I think Clearnote can ethically adopt the public meaning---"homosexual desire"--- since the church does not discriminate on that basis, except in task-specific contexts (e.g. childcare) that are generally exempt from discrimination laws (a producer can discriminate against white in choosing an actor to portray Martin Luther King). Clearnote hires men with adulterous desires; it simply does not permit adultery and requires the men to fight their desires.
Sending a note is also good, for two reasons. First, Google can always just say, "We will not serve Clearnote because that is our right as a private business," which it is. Don't they have the right to refuse to serve religious, or black customers? I think they do---it's just in employment that they can't under federal law-- tho I might be wrong.
Second, Google might try to cut off Clearnote on the grounds that Clearnote violates their user's agreement. There, they would be wrong. If they or Clearnote brought suit, that would be a good thing. Unless dismissed on other grounds, a court would have to rule for Clearnote or damage the equivocation by saying that "sexual orientation" means "perverse sexual acts". Since losing would be no worse for Clearnote than simply giving up, Clearnote would not have to spend much on the case.

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