Last week Erskine College in rural South Carolina released a new policy (they call it a statement - but it is much more than that) on homosexuality. In it, the school details its opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage while saying gay people should be handled with "prayerfulness."
The school followed that statement with "context," tweeted at two gay Erskine College athletes - Drew Davis and Juan Varona - claiming that gay people were not being banned from campus.
Sadly, there are some key elements to this entire ordeal that the school's Board of Trustees and administration have offered no evidence that they understand. Hopefully the student body and faculty, who really make the Erskine Community that has embraced Davis and Varona, will fight back against this policy and demand it be rescinded. The policy does not reflect the positive community that the athletes, coaches, students and faculty at Erskine College have created.
The school didn't have to release this policy in the first place
Everyone is well aware of the passages in the Bible that talk about homosexuality. Conservative Christians have drilled it into our heads for decades. While some theologians try to parse the words to steer them away from homosexuality, we are all well aware that Tony Dungy and Pat Robertson believe Leviticus says gays are morally wrong for loving whom they love. Everyone also realizes a school tied to a church may feel this way too. For the Board of Trustees to highlight the language, and to push the school to make "institutional decisions" based on that language, is divisive and unnecessary.
South Carolina college bans homosexuality
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.
The policy ignores Christ's most important Commandment
"Love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these." That's not from me, that's from the Book of Mark and better exemplifies the teaching of Jesus Christ than any passage from Leviticus or the Book of Corinthians. Yet instead of following that, instead of following the words of Christ, the school released a statement pushing carefully selected rules that Christ never spoke about.
They also used a selective interpretation - not Christ's words but an interpretation - of a passage from the Book of Matthew to carefully exclude gay people and demean their relationships. In fact, Christ was responding to a question about DIVORCE in that passage! Yet the school's statement does not vilify or comment on divorce. The school twists the words of Christ about DIVORCE and applies it to gay people, strategically breaking one of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."
The bigotry of this Board of Trustees knows no bounds.
The policy targets gay people
There have been no statements from the school on the sins of tattoos. There are no pronouncements about the need to stand against the sport of football or serving pork in the cafeteria. Yet the Board of Trustees felt the need to make a statement about homosexuality, not these other sins also laid out in Leviticus.
Of course, they couched it in a statement about sexuality, talking about "adultery" and the sins of having sex outside of marriage. But here's where that rationalization falls apart. They leave the door wide open for straight athletes to have sex - they just need to get married. The statement, however, said the school refuses to recognize completely legal same-sex marriages. So gay people need to remain celibate for the rest of their lives, according to the Erskine College Board of Trustees.
You need only look at the Erskine College twitter feed for the smoking gun. When the school released a statement giving "context" to its policy, they tweeted at two students: Juan Varona and Drew Davis, the two gay athletes who came out a year ago. Because ultimately, that's whom they were targeting in the first place. Update: We have heard from someone at the school who says this tweet was a "mistake" and that it should have never happened. The tweet was deleted shortly after it was sent.
The timing could not have been worse
We hear all the time about the "distractions" that gay athletes can bring to a team. Last year after Varona and Davis came out publicly their team went on to win their conference and earn a berth in the NCAA tournament. No distraction there. Yet the school, in its infinite wisdom, decided to release this policy in the middle of the men's volleyball season despite knowing that two of the players on the team were the school's most publicly visible LGBT students. The school has consciously created a terrible distraction for their men's volleyball team, which now sits at 9-3 and has a home match on Tuesday.
The Board of Trustees and administration are hiding their true motives
This policy was not put forward because of a sudden spike in unmarried straight couples having sex. This policy was released and promoted publicly because two gay athletes came out, and there was a backlash from older alumni and conservative Christians. "The intent of this statement is not to reverse or undermine this familial aspect of Erskine's community," the school clarified. Yet that's exactly what it's done. For the Trustees to say they were not trying to pass a divisive statement, they are either completely oblivious to reality or flat-out lying.
They didn't talk to the two LGBT people from whom they should have sought insight
The release of the policy was in direct response to Varona and Davis coming out publicly. They were strategically smart to wait 11 months after their coming out to release the policy, but they should have asked Varona and Davis what they thought. My guess is - and this is just a guess - that they talked to very few if any out gay people before developing this statement. I would be curious to know how many gay people signed off on it, particularly in relation to how many straight people had input into it. How can you write an effective LGBT statement or policy without fully understanding people who publicly identify as LGBT?
The policy does not reflect the Erskine community
These Trustees aren't part of the community at Erskine College. They were likely part of the community in the '70s, '80s and '90s. But they aren't today. The students, the faculty, the coaches - these are the people who ARE Erskine. And from what I've heard from those people, they don't like this policy one bit. They understand everything I've said above. They understand the lack of need for the policy. They understand the emotional effect it can have on community members. Varona and Davis have told me they have gotten so much support from people at Erskine.
I implore the students and faculty at Erskine College to release their own policy on these issues, focusing less on divisive Bible passages and more on inclusive ones that build bonds and increase love. The Erskine community is far more about The Golden Rule and the words of Jesus Christ than a half dozen passages in Leviticus and Corinthians.