(Chloe Goodman is a guest writer for the Bison. This opinion piece is part of an “opposing viewpoints” series regarding Harding’s Title IX exemption petition. Click here for Cameron Ross’ opposing viewpoint.)
Over the summer, President Bruce McLarty sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on behalf of Harding University officially claiming an exemption from Title IX, a law banning discrimination based on sex in schools that receive public funding or whose students are attending using federal loans.
Throughout the years, Title IX has come to include the protection of LGBT students and even more recently, Christian schools that have sought exemptions from Title IX are being forced to come forward with that information.
Despite the public controversy surrounding Title IX exemptions over the past few years, Harding University’s claim passed quietly.
In the letter, Harding explains that the exemption is necessary to uphold the university’s “religious tenets.” However, Jesus did not instruct his followers to oppress any member of the LGBT community. Crack open a Bible and what you’ll see instead is a man who spent his time with the marginalized members of society, the prostitutes and beggars left without a community. It would be a violation of the central tenets of Christianity — if Christians strive to follow in the steps of their namesake — to deny anyone a spot at the table, much less the rejected members of society.
This claim of exemption is not, therefore, based on religious tenets but on fear and elitism. Many modern American Christians are vying for the role of victimhood and remain hypervigilant for restrictions on their right to freedom of religion. But let’s not confuse your run-of-the-mill religious liberties with the matter at hand. The freedom they’re really worried about is the freedom to discriminate. Refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding is fundamentally different from refusing housing, financial aid, counseling, or enrollment to individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
If you care to peruse Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament, you won’t find any scripture where Jesus says, “Love all the people that you deem perfect and holy and good enough to come to the table.” Jesus does not lay out the qualifications for someone seeking a relationship with God or seeking community in his name. Holding up hoops for people to jump through for salvation? Turns out, that’s not love.
Jesus actually instructed that we love God, love people and help the vulnerable. In the face of countless studies conducted on the well-being of LGBT youth, there is no question that LGBT youth are more susceptible to mental illness, have a greater risk of suicide and are more likely to be thrown out of their homes, harassed, bullied and sexually assaulted. They make up 40 percent of the homeless youth population despite constituting only 5 percent of the general youth population.
The worst mass shooting in U.S. history was not against the “widely persecuted” Christians. It was against gay people. Forty-nine people were left dead on the floor of a nightclub a mere 12 days after Harding sent its letter claiming a right to discriminate.
Needless to say the LGBT community is vulnerable. The question now is whether or not we care, and the response from Harding is an unequivocal, “No.”
Harding has LGBT students, make no mistake. They attend Harding for a litany of reasons and most probably come expecting spiritual and academic opportunity, but Harding has proved itself a campus of exclusivity and apathy.