By Matthew Pertz, Opinion Editor
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those held by the university or other Collegian members.
President Sandra Gray asked the U.S. Department of Education in a letter dated Jan. 7, 2015 to exempt Asbury University from certain provisions of Title IX, the widely-heralded law that prevents educational discrimination based on sex. Among the portions of the law she would like Asbury to be exempt are those requiring equal treatment in admissions, facilities, athletics and employment in regards to “gender identity, sexual orientation, premarital sex/premarital pregnancy, and abortion.”
So the subtext of that letter says if you fall into one of those four controversial categories, at some point Asbury could choose to say we as a school don’t have to accept you, we don’t have to accommodate you and we don’t have to give you the same education as the straight and abstinent.
The underlying context here is our administration feels they can pick and choose which biblical crimes are more serious than others.
My issue here has little to do with the fact that our administration wants to punish the sexually immoral. The Bible lists sexual immorality as an abomination numerous times, and I have no scriptural basis to argue otherwise.
But scripture also lists dozens of other crimes that Asbury manages inconsistently, and these inequalities in institutional discipline make for a patchwork policy instead of a coherent plan for restoration.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans “it is necessary to submit to the authorities” but being arrested is only “subject to review within the University’s disciplinary procedures,” according to the lifestyle standards listed on Asbury’s website. Idolatry, occult, witchcraft, satanism and general heresy “should not be practiced.” Theft and plagiarism “are not acceptable behavior” but no retribution is listed.
My personal favorite from our school’s moral code: “Lying, dishonesty, gossip, slander, profanity and vulgarity (including crude language) are expressly prohibited in Scripture. Such speech is not helpful for building others up and should be avoided.” So God explicitly forbids this behavior and we have no recourse for offenders?
Ironically enough, Dr. Gray’s letter breaks our own community standards: “Asbury University community members are expected to uphold all local, state and federal laws.” Trying to dodge federal law in the name of Jesus Christ so we have the ability to boot gay people is, by Asbury’s own standard, unacceptable.
The underlying context here is our administration feels they can pick and choose which biblical crimes are more serious than others. And fighting for the legal wiggle room to exclude a certain brand of sinners from our school because their faults are more politically charged is shameful.
I’m not pushing for an immediate policy change. Newspapers are a poor medium for advocacy and my writing will never make anybody drink my Kool-Aid. But even in the age of Twitter and Matt Drudge, newspapers still drive conversation, and it’s time for a conversation between administration, spiritual life and the student body on how to deal with this institutional policy.
A discussion of this sort needs to include those impacted: gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, as well as those who have experienced pregnancies or abortions since they shoulder the brunt of Asbury’s policies on morality. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his famed “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” “a law is unjust if it is in icted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.”
If a gay man contributed to Asbury’s bylaws rejecting gay people, I’ll eat the paper this is printed on. But I have a distinct hunch that past ofenders of sexual immorality didn’t write our rules on sexual immorality.
And if our administration decides that the inconsistencies in our disciplinary standards don’t deserve a second look, then the limit of my frustration will have reached its end. Since we as an institution believe that God views all sin equally, we are called to do the same.
For as Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone.”