CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Harvard Office of Student Life has placed a Christian student group on administrative probation after it asked one of its leaders, found to be in a same-sex relationship, to step down as she would not agree to the group’s moral standards.
“After a thorough review and finding that HCFA (Harvard College Faith and Action) had conducted itself in a manner grossly inconsistent with the expectations clearly outlined in [the Office of Student Life’s] Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide, OSL has placed HCFA on a one year administrative probation,” spokesman Aaron Goldman said in a statement published by the Harvard Crimson.
While Goldman did not specifically outline how Harvard College Faith and Action violated the university’s policies, the co-presidents noted that they were told that the sanctions surround—in part—the Christian standards they have for those who lead the group. The student group is being accused of discrimination.
“Earlier today, we met with an administrator who informed us that the college would place HCFA on probation, citing our relationship with Christian Union, as well as our standards for leaders,” said Scott Ely and Molly Richmond in a joint statement.
According to reports, in September, a female student that had been leading Bible studies for HCFA was asked to resign after it was found that she was in a romantic relationship with a woman. The matter was brought before the Office and Student Life in December, which resulted in the group being suspended for one year.
Goldman says that HCFA will have to show that it is in compliance with Harvard’s nondiscrimination policies before it can be recognized as a student organization again.
Ely and Richmond state that they have not engaged in discrimination as they did not ask the Bible study leader to resign simply because she struggles with bisexual feelings, but because she would not agree to the group’s standards. The group mandates that every leader refrain from having premarital sex.
“We reject any notion that we discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in our fellowship,” they outlined. “Broadly speaking, the student in this case was removed because of an irreconcilable theological disagreement pertaining to our character standards.”
“Our theological view is that—for professing Christians who are in leadership—celibacy is the only option outside the bounds of marriage,” Ely and Richmond explained. “We have applied and do apply this policy regardless of sexual orientation.”
Christian News Network has reached out to Ely and Richmond for clarification on the matter. The resigned leader told the student newspaper that she believes she wasn’t asked to step down solely because of her bisexual orientation, but because she purposefully chose to enter a same-sex relationship in light of that identity. In other words, there is a distinction between homosexual temptation and yielding oneself to act on, rather than resist, that temptation.
The Harvard Crimson also notes that two other students had held leadership positions in HCFA who struggled with homosexual inclinations, but purposed to remain chaste and not pursue relationships with those of the same sex. They were not asked to step down.
The student paper had recently accused HCFA of giving “a platform to homophobia, conversion therapy and hate” for hosting Jackie Hill-Perry to speak to its members. Hill-Perry formerly lived as a lesbian, but through repentance and faith in the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ, she walked away from homosexuality.
“Hill-Perry’s beliefs represent neither love nor kindness,” an editorial published on Feb. 16 read. “Her talk extends a harmful narrative targeted at LGBTQ+ students that homosexuality is wrong. In fact, on her website, Hill-Perry claims that she was ‘saved from a lifestyle of homosexual sin’—hardly creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ members of our campus.”
As previously reported, a similar situation recently occurred at the University of Iowa, as officials de-recognized a Christian student group for not allowing a peer to serve in a leadership position because he refused to adhere to the group’s biblical beliefs as they pertain to sexuality. He rather informed group leaders that he intended on pursuing a same-sex relationship.
Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) sued the University of Iowa in December after being punished for abiding by its core Christian values. Last month, Judge Stephanie Rose, appointed to the bench by then-President Barack Obama, granted a temporary injunction in finding that while the school policy was valid, it was not being applied equally.
“The court orders Defendants to restore BLinC to registered student organization status for ninety days. Following this ninety-day period, BLinC may seek further action as necessary, and Defendants may respond by detailing any changes to the enforcement of its Human Rights Policy to registered student organizations,” she ordered.
Harvard University was named after the late pastor John Harvard, and in its early years, held the motto “Truth for Christ and the Church.”
“Let every scholar be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life. Therefore, to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning …” its student manual read.