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Collegiate Faith Gets Better

April 19, 2011, 3:10 pm | Posted by ggraves-fitzsimmons

This past October, we collected and published messages from faith leaders as part of our “Faith Gets Better” project. Faith leaders spoke directly to LGBT youth, reassuring them that they are accepted and have a place in faith communities. Today in the New York Times, Erik Eckholm looks at faith leaders at Bible colleges who are doing the opposite:

…[G]ay students are running up against administrators who defend what they describe as God’s law on sexual morality, and who must also answer to conservative trustees and alumni. Facing vague prohibitions against “homosexual behavior,” many students worry about what steps — holding hands with a partner, say, or posting a photograph on a gay Web site — could jeopardize scholarships or risk expulsion.

“It’s like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object,” said Adam R. Short, a freshman engineering student at Baylor University who is openly gay and has fought, without success, for campus recognition of a club to discuss sexuality and fight homophobia.

While it’s disheartening to see some religious institutions openly target LGBT students through expulsion and denial of students’ freedom of association, the Times editors who formulated the story’s headline “Even on Religious Campuses, Students Fight for Gay Identity,” went too far in generalizing about Christian colleges. Eckholm, highlighting the diversity of religious schools, profiles one seminarian who left a discriminatory school for a welcoming one:

David Coleman was suspended by North Central University in his senior year in 2005, after he distributed fliers advertising a gay-support site and admitted to intimate relations (but not sexual intercourse) with other men. He calls the university’s environment “spiritually violent.”

Mr. Coleman, 28, is now enrolled at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minn., which is run by the more accepting United Church of Christ. He still dreams of becoming a pastor. “I have a calling,” he said.

Coleman’s story uncovers the choice faith leaders in academia have: exclude students on the basis of sexual orientation, or welcome all who feel called into ministry. As more colleges and denominations choose to embrace all people, we can see collegiate faith getting better.

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