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South Carolina college with two out gay athletes bans homosexuality in the name of God

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After two volleyball players came out as gay, Erskine College, its Board of Trustees and its athletic department were pressured to make the school an inhospitable place for gay athletes.

Update: Erskine College has defended its anti-gay policy, calling it neither anti-gay nor a policy.

Last year we featured the stories of Drew Davis and Juan Varona, two gay Erskine College volleyball players who had found acceptance from their teammates in the small school in rural South Carolina. After we wrote about them the team went on to the NCAA tournament, one of only six teams in the country to appear in the postseason.

Now Erskine College has issued a new official statement that is expected to drive a no-gays policy at the school and create an atmosphere where LGBT people do not feel safe:

Christ affirms that marital union is to be between a man and woman (Matt 19:4-6). 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 (1 Thes. 4:3-5, Col. 3:5-7). Sexual relations outside of marriage or between persons of the same sex are spoken of in scripture as sin and contrary to the will of the Creator (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-11).

We believe the Bible teaches that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful and therefore ultimately destructive to the parties involved. As a Christian academic community, and in light of our institutional mission, 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.

The statement also offers a perfunctory olive branch about "prayerfulness" toward "same-sex attraction" and "gender identity."

According to the school's Web site, "the Student Services and Athletic Committee submitted and the full board approved a Statement on Human Sexuality. The administration will add the statement to its official manuals and determine how it will be integrated into campus culture and procedures."

The school is clearly reacting to pressure from a group of conservative Christians who have been pressuring the school to eradicate gay people from the campus. Erskine College is associated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Varona took to social media to express his disappointment with his school's position. He shared his thoughts with Outsports:

"The release of this statement makes me disappointed because I have never received anything but kind treatment from everyone at this school, and my sexual orientation is no secret. So it took me by surprise.

"I feel that in the time that we are living right now, where even in the conservative state of South Carolina same-sex marriage is legal, the school took several steps back instead of progressing towards a future where everyone can be treated as an equal, which is a future most of the country is moving towards.

"I understand the religious stand on adultery, which is part of the Ten Commandments in the Bible, and that would apply to heterosexual and homosexual people. But when I saw the mention of sexual orientation being an issue, it just made me sad and worried for other gay people who might be struggling with confidence to come out."

We see this over and over and over again, where the younger athletes are accepting of their gay teammates, but some older administrators and coaches try to make the gay people feel unwelcome in sports, on their teams and on their campuses.

It's insightful that Varona would mention the Ten Commandments. There's another Commandment among the 10 that's given higher priority in all versions of the Bible: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."

We're assuming this means that Erskine College will also ban all of its athletic teams from practicing or competing on Sundays. That's unfortunate, because on Sunday, April 19, the men's volleyball, men's golf and women's golf teams have tournament games scheduled. The following Sunday four teams - softball, women's lacrosse, women's tennis and men's tennis - have matches scheduled.

For the school to ban homosexuality but not ban these competitions on the sabbath would be the highest form of hypocrisy.