LGBTQ students face more harassment in Christian colleges, survey finds

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Veronica Bonifacio Penales, a hostess at University of Boiler, Baptist College in Waco, Texas, said she may be out on campus as a queue, but that doesn’t mean she feels supported.

Students may not face disciplinary action or lose financial aid to identify as LGBTQ, according to the Baylor website, but Penales, 20, said she has faced harassment, including from her dorm room. Notes are also included with homophobic messages on the door.

“They say they have preventive measures, but nothing is done,” he said of Boiler’s policies to protect LGBTQ students. “When I reported the discrimination, I was sent to a counseling center.”

Baylor spokesman Lori Fogleman told NBC News that she could not mention the specific incident, but said that students facing harassment call it the Title IX office, the Bias Response Team or, if they are in immediate danger, the Boiler University Police Can report to Penals said she reported the harassment to the Title IX office, which advises her to speak with a counselor.

“Baylor is committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students – including our LGBTQ students – because it is part and parcel of our University’s mission to educate our students within a caring community Calls for, ”said Fogleman.

The alleged harassment penalty suffered is not unique. According to a new survey by the Religious Dissemination Accountability Project, or REAP, an organization advocating for LGBTQ students, LGBTQ students in Christian colleges face more bullying and harassment and isolation, depression and Loss is more likely to be experienced. In taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities.

Gender-non-performing students are particularly at risk, the researchers found: Twenty percent reported bullying or harassment, compared to 5 percent of siegender students. Fourteen percent reported being sexually assaulted, while 2 percent of their peers were co-workers.

According to the report, overall, students in the queue were three times more likely to report depression and anxiety and three times more likely to commit suicide. More than 1 in 10 (12 percent) also reported that their school suggested they get counseling, suggested or mandated that they undergo “conversion therapy”, canceled their financial aid or scholarship, or their Other action or gender identity as a result of sexual orientation.

The research was based on a survey of 3,000 full-time students at 134 taxpayer-funded Christian colleges and universities, conducted by survey company College Pulse from February 28 to 28.

“The question we are always asked is, ‘Why would an LGBTQ student go to a Christian college?” Said REAP director Paul Southwick. “I think it’s like gaslighting, because the assumption is that they are not there. There will always be students queuing up at Christian College,” he said, “because there have always been young queuing people in those Christian communities.” “

“When you have a fundamentalist Christian parent, they want to send their children to Kristen College,” said 37-year-old Southwick, a lawyer with Paul Southwick LLC. “And they see if their father went there or their sisters went there, they were offered a scholarship. There is a legacy with that school.”

Twelve percent of students surveyed identified as nonheatrosexual and 2 percent as a gender minority – either nonbinary, gender, agender, transgender or nonsignificant.

While nearly 16 percent of 18–23-year-olds, who identify themselves as heterosexual, are close to LGBTQ students in Christian campuses, according to last month’s Gallup poll, REAP found. (Some 19 percent indicated in the report that they had not told anyone at school about their orientation or identity.)

Many Christian schools, while private, still receive federal funds in the form of grants and student financial aid, Southwick said.

During the Obama administration, LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections in education were greatly expanded under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But private colleges receiving federal funds can still claim exemptions on religious grounds.

“Ideally such discrimination would not be tolerated in culture, but we don’t live in an ideal world right now,” said Shane Windermeyer, co-founder of Campus Pride, a national organization for LGBTQ student leaders and campus organizations. said.

Under the Trump administration, he said, “Schools were told, ‘Don’t worry, you don’t have to claim exemptions – your religious right trumps everything.”

On January 8, less than two weeks before President Joe Biden took office, the Department of Education published a memorandum indicating that LGBTQ students were not explicitly covered under Title IX protections .

Biden has asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to review the policies of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the Trump administration.

According to REAP, one-third of the more than 2,000 four-year undergraduate institutions in the United States are religiously affiliated, including more than 200 Christian colleges that explicitly discriminate against LGBTQ students.

Often, those policies come across as student codes of conduct that prohibit same-sex relationships and LGBTQ advocacy. Many also prohibited gender-non-asymmetrical behavior, Southwick said, such as dressing in a way that does not align with one’s birth gender or does not use any other name.

Even holding hands or wearing make-up is as simple as a violation.

“Many 17-year-olds do not have an agency to choose their school,” he said. “And even if they do, many are committed to their faith – perhaps they hope they ‘get well’.”

He himself was one of those students: In 2005, Southwick graduated from George Fox University, a private Quaker school outside Portland.

“I did what these kids did – I struggled with my ‘same-sex attraction’.” “It got so bad that I had to be hospitalized. My campus pastor told me that my problem was with the devil and together we decided that I should go into conversion therapy. “

George Fox University declined to comment, but shared a statement by Mark Yarhouse, a psychology professor at Wheaton College in Illinois. Yarhouse criticized the REAP study and reportedly Southwick had a conflict of interest in pursuing it because he is representing a client who claims Fuller Theological Seminary discriminated him for being gay. A federal judge ruled in favor of the madrasa in October, but Southwick appealed the case to the 9th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals.

George Fox University’s Community Lifestyle Statement indicates that “marriage between only one man and one woman is God’s intention for the blissful fulfillment of sexual abuse… [and] Sexual behaviors outside of this context are inconsistent with God’s teaching. “

Despite his experience, Southwick says the goal is not to close schools like his alma mater.

“They perform an important function,” he said. “The purpose is to apply pressure from within, and from without, to apply them.”

Sexual orientation and gender identity should be added to any anti-bullying or anti-discrimination policies, Southwick said, and schools should stop punishing LGBTQ identities within their student code of conduct.

“If students can date directly, students in the queue should be allowed,” Southwick said. “If straight students can marry and live together, then gay couples should.”

In recent years, many Christian colleges have struck in a more harmonious tone, updating their code of conduct and speaking directly with LGBTQ students. But critics say he has only softened his rhetoric, not his treatment.

A Liberty University student told researchers they would feel “physically insecure” if their orientation became public knowledge, according to the report. According to the report, the student said, “I have heard people saying that they hang themselves and burn them.”

Liberty University did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

Most Christian schools are not so much, Windermeyer said. “Colleges should be seen as LGBT friendly today,” he said. “There are only a few Christian colleges that do not care. Most simply want to cloud the issue and come in support as they know it will affect recruitment and admissions. “

At the very least, Southwick wants LGBTQ student clubs to be treated like any other campus group with access to funding and space on campus.

Beiler’s statement on human sexuality does not address socialization, but “boiler students will not participate in advocacy groups that promote understanding of sexuality, which is contrary to biblical teaching.” Gamma Alpha Upsilon, Boiler’s informal LGBTQ student group, is recognized by the students. Some faculty but are not officially approved by the administration, making it ineligible for funding or space on campus.

A measure supporting a charter for the group passes both the student and faculty senate but the division of student life has not indicated a timeframe in which it will render a decision.

“This is a 10-plus-year fight for LGBTQ rights on this campus,” Penales said. He said, “They’ve put in a lot of effort but it’s tough when you know that your school’s mission doesn’t protect you. They talk of a big game when they ‘love their neighbor’, but they Doesn’t really run on that, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community. “

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