Frequently, I find myself grappling with the concepts of sexuality and religion as well as how they are directly linked to one another within the contexts of tradition and conservatism. While the United States has made strides in equality for the LGBT community, an interesting paradox continues to rest in the realm of gay, bisexual and questioning students that attend Christian colleges and universities. While some may argue the idea will always be inherently problematic, it is a reality that nevertheless warrants frank consideration.
David Wheeler, a journalism professor at the University of Tampa and frequent contributor to The Atlantic, wrote an article Monday titled “The LGBT Politics of Christian Colleges.”
Even after simply skimming the title, I could hear the voice of a defensive opposition ringing in my ears.
“If you identify as gay or bisexual, why would you even go to a Christian college?”
“People have the right to express their religious freedom just as much as people have the right to express their sexuality!”
“If you don’t like what the college stands for, don’t go.”
In order to provide a counterclaim to these arguments, Wheeler quotes Stephen Peters, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that promotes for LGBT equality and activism. Peters said, “Religious liberty is a bedrock principle of our nation; however, faith should never be used as a guise for discrimination.”
While it’s true that the number of open LGBT students that willingly choose to attend conservative Catholic colleges make up a minority, the numbers do not diminish the importance of the issue itself.
The guise Peters is referring to directly correlates to a report published in December by the HRC that “drew attention to 56 colleges and universities seeking exemptions from federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual identity. These same religious schools also receive considerable federal funding in the form of grants and student loans.” The list included, but was not limited to, Spring Arbor University, Mississippi College, Charleston Southern University, Tabor College and Oklahoma Wesleyan University, among others.
When I read statistics like this, my mind wanders back to the metaphorical battlefield of sexual orientation versus religion — a disheartening combat with no clear winner in sight. It seems as though the tensions of this conflict will rage on for the foreseeable future, which causes me to question where the values love, acceptance and appreciation for others that I learned about in Sunday school are hiding. I’m continually hung up on the fact that I was always taught to welcome others as God will welcome us, so why does it appear as though this welcoming is only for straight people?
Romans 2:11 says, “God shows no partiality.” Why, then, is this statement brushed aside when religious conservatives and colleges think of the LGBT community? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer, but I hold steadfast to the belief that organizations like the Human Rights Campaign will continue to strive for it, thus altering a conservative societal mindset while simultaneously proving that equal treatment for all shouldn’t take a miracle.