The Brethren Church’s stand against the LGBTQ community, and its impact on AU

The Collegian has a very important story in it this week about the consistent attempts of students to get an LGBTQ student organization approved by Ashland University, and how university administrators and the Board of Trustees are making that difficult.

According to the Collegian, the organization — Eagles for PRIDE — seeks to make AU an accepting community, one in which everyone has a place regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

This is not the first time students have tried to get an officially recognized and funded LGBTQ student organization on campus. They’ve been doing that, and getting turned down, for decades. It happened when I was the editor-in-chief of the Collegian all the way back in the late 1990s. It happened again when I was the faculty adviser of the Collegian sometime between 2008 and 2011.

Students would often gain a provisional charter, only to be strung along by the university and its Board of Trustees before ultimately being denied its official recognition, which is necessary for it to receive university funding.

This Collegian story says that the university has written a proposed social issues policy aimed at student organizations. That policy, according to the Collegian, was shared with Faculty Senate and Student Senate, and says “clubs that promote lifestyle choices, activities, and belief systems that are contrary to these historical Brethren values will not be approved for institutional funding or recognition.”

In case you’re curious about Brethren values when it comes to the LGBTQ community, you should check out the Church’s own social issues policy. It addresses homosexuality starting on page 20.

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 1.18.36 PM“Brethren affirm Scripture to teach that marriage is between a man and a woman and that within the marriage relationship is found the ultimate expression of sexual love that promotes the flourishing of an intimate relationship between two people,” the Brethren Church’s Social Issues Statement says in its introduction on homosexuality.

It goes on to say that the Brethren Church does not allow unmarried sex and is wholly against homosexuality. And like that introduction to this section says, the church has concluded that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 1.18.54 PM“All of the above brings us to the necessary concluding question,” the Social Issues Statement says. “If unmarried sex is out, and same-sex sex is out, and being married is not an option, what is left? The Brethren suggest two alternatives while recognizing the extraordinary difficulty of both options: celibacy as sexual restraint and conversion of sexual orientation.”

Now, there are 15 states in the country that have outlawed such conversion therapies. There are also six cities in Ohio — Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus, Athens, Lakewood, and Dayton — who have also outlawed conversion therapy. That should tell you all you need to know about the church’s reliance on conversion therapy (a side note: You should read the book Boy Erased by Garrard Conley, which is about the hideous nature of conversion therapy. It was also turned into a movie).

Sadly, it’s not hard to see that the Ashland University Board of Trustees, of which 51 percent of its members are appointed by the Brethren Church, will never allow a student organization focused on the LGBTQ community. These students will never be allowed to officially attempt make the campus a better community for everyone, regardless of sexual preference or gender identity.

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