LGBTQ group puts local religious schools on shame list

cnnw-logoBy Christian News Northwest

If two Christian universities in Oregon must be “shamed” in today’s society for seeking to adhere to traditional values regarding sexuality, so be it. But both schools are contending that their stances are reasonable, despite whatever criticism they receive.

Newberg-based George Fox University and Portland-based Multnomah University were among 102 schools recently identified by a North Carolina-based LGBTQ advocacy group, Campus Pride, for allegedly openly discriminating against homosexual, bisexual or transgender students. Campus Pride declared the schools to be on the organization’s “Shame List” of the “absolute worst campuses for LGBTQ students.”

As reported by The Oregonian, Campus Pride used two criteria to identify the schools. Each must have either received or applied for an exemption to federal Title IX regulations, which prohibit schools that receive federal dollars from disrimination on the basis of sex. The organization also looked at schools that it claims has a past history of anti-LGBTQ actions, programs and practices.

George Fox received an exemption from Title IX housing and bathroom requirements in 2014. Two months ago, Multnomah was granted an exemption to certain Title IX requirements related to gender identity. In February 2015, the university had requested clarification regarding its Title IX exemption, which it has held since May 1989.

Shane Windmeyer, Campus Pride executive director, defended the complilation of the list with a statement on the organization’s website.
“Religion-based bigotry is careless and life-threatening,” Windmeyer wrote. “LGBTQ young people face high rates of harassment and violence, especially our trans youth and LGBTQ youth of color. The schools on this list openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth and many of these schools have requested or received Title IX exemptions for no other purpose than to discriminate, expel and ban LGBTQ youth from campus. It is shameful and wrong.”

Windmeyer said the “Shame List” aims to call out the schools for bigotry.

“Families and young people deserve to know that this list of schools are the worst for LGBTQ youth,” he stated. “They are not loving, welcoming, safe spaces to live, learn and grow — and nobody wants to go to a college that openly discriminates against anyone.”
In its statement of response, Multnomah outlined its perspective on the hot-button issue.

“Multnomah University does not disciminate on the basis of how students identify themselves sexually. The university asks that all its students be in alignment with its core values and doctrinal statement. In addition, every student at Multnomah is expected to abide by the university’s human sexuality understanding.”

That document outlines Multnomah’s affirmation that Scripture teaches — and Christian churches historically have maintained — that sexual relationships are designed by God to be expressed solely in a marriage between a man and a woman.

The Multnomah statement went on to emphasize that the school seeks to convey a Christ-centered and caring response on sexuality matters.
“Recognizing some students may deal with issues surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation, the university believes that community members are best supported if they are able to share their questions, struggles or self-understanding with trusted faculty administrators and staff. In all such personal issues, Multnomah University will respond with compassion, respect and grace while remaining consistent with the university’s core values, doctrinal statement and community life standards.”

Rob Felton, director of both public information and marketing communications for George Fox, noted that Campus Pride is a three-employee LGBTQ advocacy group based on the other side of the U.S.

“We’d question what these three activists living nearly 3,000 miles away really know about George Fox or any of the 102 schools they’ve ‘shamed,’ ’’ Felton said. “The criteria for inclusion in this list clearly wasn’t how a college treats its students on campus or even official policies. Instead, making the list appears to be politically motivated or just arbitrary.”

For example, Felton contends that several Christian colleges are on the list merely because they donated money to lobby against a California bill that would have taken away state grants from students who wished to attend faith-based universities. Trinity Law School and Westmont College made the list solely because they released statements against that California legislation. Grove City College in Pennsylvania and Wheaton College in Illinois are “shamed” only because of past guest speakers on campus, Felton said.

“This list is so arbitrary, if it were on any other topic, no self-respecting news organization would have paid any attention,” he said. “Unfortunately, it fits a false media narrative that Christians don’t love or treat LGBTQ individuals with respect. The truth is, LGBTQ students do choose to live within the community expectations of a Christian college like George Fox and find they are loved and accepted here.”

According to Campus Pride, George Fox was placed on the list because it requested a Title IX exemption to protect its ability to make transgender housing decisions in a manner consistent with the university’s religious beliefs.
“Our desire is to provide a campus environment that furthers spiritual, academic and personal growth,” said Felton. “Obviously, transgender housing is an emotionally charged topic and we need to provide safe and appropriate housing for all students. I believe our student life staff takes a very thoughtful and compassionate approach to addrerssing the needs of transgender students.”
Felton went on to say that the Campus Pride activists are perpetuating a myth —that religious colleges directly receive millions in federal funds.

Felton said George Fox does receive some direct funds for research that benefits the public, but that in most cases, the university’s students receive federal loans and are allowed to use those funds at any accredited college.

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