Wednesday, April 12, 2006

College Student Expelled for Being Gay

From the Lexinton Herald-Ledger:

The news that his boyfriend, Jason Johnson, was expelled from University of the Cumberlands was still sinking in when Zac Dreyer sat at a computer to spread the news.

“He is being asked to leave the university because he is gay,” Dreyer wrote Thursday on the Web site MySpace.com, the same site school officials used to confront Johnson. “Help get the story out there so that all the gays and lesbians at the university will no longer have to live in secrecy, in fear of having their dreams crushed in front of them.”

Within a few hours, friends and students at the small Baptist college in Williamsburg were commenting in blogs about Johnson’s expulsion. The buzz grew over the weekend, and by yesterday the issue drew reaction from legislators in Frankfort and on gay advocacy organizations’ Web sites nationwide.

Johnson, a sophomore majoring in theater arts, was expelled from the university Thursday because he declared online that he is gay. In a statement released last week, the university’s president, Jim Taylor said students are held to a “higher standard” and that “students know the rules before they come to this institution.”

But a copy of the student handbook provided by the university confirmed the policy was not spelled out in 2003-04, when Johnson chose to attend. The school did not provide a copy of the policy for the 2004-05 school year. The 2005-06 student handbook says: “Any student who engages in or promotes sexual behavior not consistent with Christian principles (including sex outside marriage and homosexuality) may be suspended or asked to withdraw.”

School officials said that although the 2003-04 policy did not explicitly mention homosexuality, it did say that students must “conduct themselves, on and off the campus, in a manner which is consistent with the objectives of the College and with its standards of conduct.”

I don’t know where this college gets their idea of “Christian principles” because I know of a lot of Christian denominations that do not see being gay as being inconsistent with their principles, which were, the last time I checked, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” There isn’t a codicil that says “unless he’s gay.”

The response from the bigots will be, “Well, he knew the rules; if he was gay, he shouldn’t have enrolled.” Bullshit. The only qualifier for getting into college should be meeting the admission standards, which should be based on academic performance and test scores and — in the case of many colleges — whether or not you have a pulse and can pay the tuition. Denying someone an education based on their sexual orientation is no different than barring a black student because of his race, and it is a violation of everything that this country supposedly stands for. Or at least it used to before the Religious Reich took over the Republican Party.

Johnson, who is considering legal action against the university, said students shouldn’t question their faith, but they should question their personal beliefs.

“What I would hope is that their faith is renewed because people are standing up for what they believe in,” Johnson said. “It has strengthened my resolve, my beliefs, my faith, seeing the love and support.”

I hope he does sue the school; I would. He might not win, but he would certainly make the school pay — in one way or another — for their sins.