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Asbury should reevaluate their reasoning

By Kerry Steinhofer | kerry.steinhofer@amnews.com

On Aug. 29, Campus Pride released a 2016 “Shame List” of 102 of the absolute worst campus for individuals who identify as LGBTQ to attend, due to discrimination within policies and programs on campus.

It came as to no shock to me, that Asbury University, my alma mater, was on this list.

Campus Pride is a national educational organization for LGBT and ally college students as well as groups building leaders and more safe, LGBT-friendly campuses in the United States.

In December 2015, the list was first published as a list of the 57 campuses that received or requested Title IX exemptions to openly discriminate against the LGBT communities on their campus.

Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer said the shame list isn’t to slander or exploit anyone, but to put pressure on campus administrations to ignite change so fairness becomes a priority.

“The schools on this list have requested Title IX exemption based on religion-based bigotry targeting LGBTQ and transgender people for no other purpose than to discriminate, expel and ban them from campus. It is shameful and wrong.” Campus Pride said on its website. 

Asbury University was placed on this list due to past known discrimination against LGBTQ students and the fact the school is applying to be exempt from Title IX, which protects people from discrimination based on sex.

Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” according to The U.S. Department of Education.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Education dated Jan. 7, 2015, Asbury University’s President Dr. Sandra Gray said, “As president of Asbury University, I write to request a religious exemption for the school from Title IX…”

The Title IX statement conflicts with the religious beliefs of Asbury, which is the reason why Asbury is requested an exemption.

In the letter, Gray says the university operates based on an understanding of the Wesleyan view of “sin, grace and the possibility of full salvation for Christ-like living.”

“Certain behaviors are expressly prohibited in the Scripture and are therefore unacceptable at Asbury,” Gray says in the letter. “These behaviors include sexual immorality (adultery, homosexual behavior, premarital sexual intimacy).”

She also states in the letter that individuals associated with Asbury must follow the lifestyle standards of Asbury, and engaging in the prohibited behaviors could result in immediate dismissal from the university.

Because of Asbury’s beliefs and the standards they uphold, “Asbury University will not recognize or support campus groups whose aim by statement, practice or intimation is to promote a vision of human sexuality that is contrary to our understanding of biblical teaching,” Gray said in the letter.

“Ironically enough, Dr. Gray’s letter breaks our own community standards: ‘Asbury University community members are expected to uphold all local, state and federal laws.’ Trying to dodge federal law in the name of Jesus Christ so we have the ability to boot gay people is, by Asbury’s own standard, unacceptable,” said Asbury University student Matthew Pertz in a recent article in The Asbury Collegian.

While Asbury has requested an exemption from Title IX, the application is still in the pending process due to more information and reasoning needed.

Although Asbury may not have an issue with wanting to exempt from treating people fairly and accepting everyone regardless of how they identity themselves, however, I, and I know I’m not alone, do have a problem with this.

This is an issue, and in my perspective, will always be an issue.

I have known and still know students on campus who identify with the LGBT community, and while some may not feel threatened by Asbury’s policies, there are some who do.

I don’t want Asbury to think that the LGBT students are above the standards they have placed, because that’s not what any of them think. They should reevaluate their reasoning behind wanting to be exempt from Title IX, because they are eventually going to neglect a group of people that have the ability to enrich the life of Asbury.

Administration and those in authority at Asbury should focus more on what’s going on internally within Asbury’s community and in individual persons’ lives, rather than what is perceived externally. There are more issues to be addressed that deserve Asbury’s time and care, rather than being overwhelmingly concerned about the topic of “sex.”

Asbury student Johnathan Baker also contributed to this article.