Student Groups at Christian-Identified University Seeking Softer Policies on Homosexuality

WAYNE, Pa. — Two student groups at a Christian-identified university in Pennsylvania are asking that the school soften its policies on homosexuality, including removing language in its student handbook that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Members of Eastern University’s “gay-straight alliance” club known as Refuge, as well as its Political Activism Club (PAC), teamed up to host “LGBT Solidarity Week” on campus March 13-17. Prior to the event, the groups also sent correspondence to the university board to ask that changes be made to the student handbook in accordance with recommendations from the Human Sexuality Task Force.

“This movement would like to advocate for changes that it does not feel are controversial, so as to make Eastern a more inclusive place for LGBT+ students,” a post on the Oddysey website reads.

The groups have requested, among other changes, that the university remove “homosexual conduct” from its citations of prohibited “moral turpitude” in the faculty handbook.

“Gay people are just normal people with the same beliefs and career goals as everyone else. People should not have to choose between their career and who they love,” they wrote. “Second, it is important for LGBT students to have mentors who are familiar with their experiences. It’s hard to be out as an LGBT person in a Christian community, and it would be amazing for LGBT students to have professors who they could talk to about it.”

The students have also requested that the school remove language defining marriage as being between a man and a woman as they assert that it is not agreed upon among Christians.

“At this point in history, the interpretation of the biblical teachings that have to do with homosexuality is not universally agreed upon,” they contended. “While the traditional stance is probably more common, there are many biblical scholars, including Eastern’s own Tony Campolo, who support gay marriage.”

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“For the university to take an official stance on the issue of homosexuality does not encourage open conversations about this issue, especially since the university does not take an official stance on other commonly disputed theological issues,” Refuge and PAC opined.

The students have likewise put forward that Eastern University should allow those who identify as “transgender” to choose whichever housing arrangement they prefer—male or female dorms—and that the policy manual should remove the phrase “the anatomical sex of the student” in regard to placement.

“[T]he university should continue moving in the direction of full inclusion of trans students by removing this phrase from the policy and continuing to work with students on a case-by-case basis to find a good living arrangement for every student,” they wrote.

Denise McMillan, the communications director for Eastern University, told the Christian Post in a statement that discussions about sexual matters have been underway with students for the past three years.

“In 2014 Eastern University’s president formed a task force to engage the community in a multi-year dialogue on issues related to human sexuality,” she said. “That discussion is ongoing …”

According to the Eastern University website, the American Baptist-affiliated school aims to take the “whole gospel to the whole world through whole persons.”

“We recognize the Bible, composed of the Old and New Testaments, as inspired of God and as the supreme and final authority in faith and life,” it states. “We submit ourselves to carrying out our mission under its authority and seek to apply biblical principles to all facets of human aspiration and action, including the centrality of personal transformation.”

Jesus said in Matthew 19:4-5, “Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh?'”

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