Two gay athletes come out at a private Christian college in South Carolina, what could possibly go wrong? A lot, apparently. Last week, Erskine College issued a statement after two male volleyball players came out as gay. The school said:
“We believe the Bible teaches that monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is God’s intended design for humanity and that sexual intimacy has its proper place only within the context of marriage...members of the Erskine community are expected to follow the teachings of scripture concerning matters of human sexuality and institutional decisions will be made in light of this position.”
In shorter terms, because people at Erskine College have interpreted the Bible in such a way that it believes that being gay is a sin, no one at Erskine can be openly gay without facing the possibility of punishment. After some people criticized the school for “banning” gay students, the administration clarified, saying that the statement reflected a position, not a policy, but the damage had already been done.
Contrary to what the Erskine administration appears to believe, it is possible for religious schools to have a positive relationship with the LGBTQ community. Here at Boston College, the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC) has been part of UGBC since the mid-70s, and has helped to create a more inclusive campus environment. Though GLC and the BC administration continue to butt heads over certain topics, it has been integral in making BC a more welcoming place for people of all sexualities. BC also has an extensive list of clubs and groups dedicated to the same cause. These groups include Allies of Boston College and the GLBTQ Undergraduate Society, among others. There is even a society for faculty and staff members who identify as LGBTQ.
In complete opposition to the Erskine statement, BC says, “Boston College, as a Catholic and Jesuit University... is committed to the intellectual, social, and spiritual development of all our students. The University seeks to foster a campus culture that welcomes diversity, embraces inclusivity, promotes dialogue, and creates a safe and supportive environment for all.”
While some attempt to justify their bigotry with religion, others realize that the purpose of religion is to promote justice and human dignity, which cannot be done in an environment that fosters ignorance and intolerance.
Some people believe that Christianity and the LGBTQ community will forever be at odds with one another, but a 2011 study from the Public Religion Research Institute found that more than half of American Catholics agreed with the statement: “homosexuality is not a sin,” and this number is growing. Rejection of the notion that being gay is inherently sinful is further proof that religion and sexuality can coexist without adversity.
While Erskine College takes a step backward, other religious individuals and institutions are moving forward, embracing all members of their communities, regardless of sexual orientation. It has become clear that the use of scripture to promote discrimination and hate is intolerable, as the same scripture can be used to promote unity and care for the whole person.