Alex Blaze

Conservative Campus Queers Revolt

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 04, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Baylor University, Christian beliefs, federal government, LGBT, queer, Westmont College

I posted a few weeks ago about Westmont College, which forces students to promise not to be gay, oberlin-kiss-in.jpgand the letter alumni and professors wrote talking about the negative effects of the school's homophobia. Even though the school receives federal money (at least) in the form of federally sponsored student aide, money that the government usually uses to keep universities from discriminating along the lines of race and sex, colleges are free to discriminate when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and keep the federal money.

Earlier this week, Arkansas's Harding College blocked a website that criticized the school for being homophobic. The author talked about considering suicide at the school, and said gays at Harding are "threatened with re-orientation therapy, social isolation, and expulsion." Today the president of Harding justified the school's decision to block the site:

I believe him in the beginning where he says the decision to block was more about the reputation of the school than anything else. University presidents are rarely more than glorified fundraisers, so they understand marketing more profoundly than theology.

He went on to call the site "offensive and degrading," which is the way someone who doesn't like gay people would see any sort of pro-gay rhetoric.

But the part that's the most cringe-worthy to me is when he makes the "it's all out-of-wedlock sex that we're against" (which he then contradicts when he says the Bible is against homosexuality). I mean, seriously? I always hear from the Christian right that schools should be about the three R's, and at this school they're actually devoting time and energy to controlling the private parts of their students? And they think they should be applauded for that?

At least the discussion, such as it is, is happening and the LGBT students at Harding can probably find some resources online that aren't blocked if they're looking for them.

Lots of kids choose a college before they're really aware or understand their own sexuality and identity, and there's lots of financial pressure for some kids to go to a religious school. The simplistic argument that if they don't like a school's rules then they shouldn't go there just doesn't take the reality of the American university system into account.

So I don't see why the federal government can't enact some financial pressure to get the school the change. And Harding could always forgo all federal funding, as Grove City College does, so there's still a choice.

Students at Baylor University, a Christian school in Texas, are petitioning to get their gay group officially recognized by the school:

It's been a constant source of friction between students, faculty and staff. In September of 2010, a national tragedy sparked a turning point for Baylor senior Samantha Jones.

Jones, who is openly gay, says the bullying and suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi served as a wake-up call to gay students around the nation. Jones says Baylor's reaction to the tragedy left much to be desired.

"We didn't get an e-mail saying, 'This is someone who you can approach if you're struggling with this,' ...nothing," Jones says. "And that hurt even more."

Jones decided what Baylor needed was a Sexual Identity Forum, a student group where the topics of homophobia, hate crimes and suicide could be discussed among fellow students. In November of 2010, Jones filed her first request to create an officially recognized student group.

Jones says she knew the path to acceptance would not be easy. According to Baylor's Statement on Human Sexuality:

"Baylor University welcomes all students into a safe and supportive environment in which to discuss and learn about a variety of issues, including those of human sexuality. The University affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God. Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm. Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior. It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching."

Jones says she tried to make it clear in her application that her group wasn't about advocacy, but discussion. The university didn't agree, and her application was denied twice. Jones says the last denial came on Wednesday in the form of an e-mail.

"This latest time they said that students weren't responsible enough to hold forums about controversial issues like sexuality," says Jones.

It's astonishing that there are people who take the "please think of the children!" mentality and apply it to college students. One would think, based on the promiscuous way they're used, that arguments about teh childrenz are just ways of controlling other people's behavior and have little to do with the actual well-being of children.

img src, and it's from Oberlin College. Not every college is Oberlin College

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James Savik | March 4, 2011 1:20 PM

I went to Mississippi College in Clinton, MS during the early eighties. During the late 70s, they would follow you around on the weekends and would expel you if they caught you at a gay bar.

Of course Str8 bars and sex were frowned upon too but nobody got expelled for it.

I still find it hard to believe that anybody with gay family members would say such strange and hurtful things. @James -- who would follow students around on weekends - that is very interesting.

When they say the rule is the same across the board, it's always worth finding the ratio of LGBT people (or just assume it's 5% since it's not like people will come out for this exercise) to unmarried straight students and see if it bears out when it comes to punishments and expulsions. I'm gonna doubt it.

Brad Bailey | March 4, 2011 2:57 PM

If all the laws you enact treat adults like 10-year-olds, eventually those same adults start acting like 10-year-olds.

That's what all the theocrats in the Bible Belt want, including the president of Harding University. They want obedient little sheep who submit easily to church authority.

That's the price you pay for all the warm fuzzies you feel when join their flock.

Such places really are not institutions of higher education--I'd not trust anything they "teach" when it's all filtered through a lens of religious dogma.