Margaret Hartmann — At many Bible colleges and evangelical Christian universities, homosexuality is considered a violation of the school’s fundamental values. Yet, many gay students are pushing administrators to allow them to be open about their sexuality, without much success.
The New York Times reports that many of the schools have vague rules against “homosexual behavior.” On evangelical campuses, where sex outside of marriage is banned for all students, it may be permissible to say you’re struggling with same-sex attraction, but acting on those feelings is grounds for expulsion. However, the line is hazy for homosexual students. A student may be disciplined for promoting their gay identity, even if they aren’t having intercourse.
Jean-Noel Thompson, the vice president for student life at Abilene Christian University in Texas, says the school wants to “give help and guidance” to those who are struggling with homosexual feelings, but won’t tolerate “a student who in e-mails, on Facebook and elsewhere says ‘I am publicly gay, this is a lifestyle that I advocate regardless of where the university stands.'”
Harding University in Arkansas recently banned an online queer zine on campus. The school tried to block the site on its servers, but the zine went viral among students at religious colleges. Harding’s president, David B. Burks, told students that “we are not trying to control your thinking,” but that “it was important for us to block the Web site because of what it says about Harding, who we are, and what we believe.”
An obvious question is why gay students choose to attend a school that they know fundamentally oppose homosexuality in the first place. The Times reports:
The question, students say, is unfair. Many were raised in intensely Christian homes with an expectation of attending a religious college and long fought their homosexuality. They arrive at school, as one of the Harding Web authors put it, “hoping that college would turn us straight, and then once we realized that this wasn’t happening, there was nothing you could do about it.”
Some students transfer and often wind up joining more liberal churches or becoming atheists. The ones who stay and push for more tolerant policies fight an uphill battle. Saralyn Salisbury, a lesbian Baylor University senior, participates in weekly gathering of the Sexual Identity Forum, even though the school refuses to acknowledge the club. “The student body at large is ready for this,” she says. “But not the administration and the Regents.” While many young evangelicals are more accepting of homosexuality, for now the schools are run by administrators who believe the only moral reaction to same-sex attraction is to push students to suppress their feelings, not explore them.