In light of the recent Supreme Court decision in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case there is a new debate about whether a christian college can deny admittance to LGBT students. There are many claims on both sides of the issue that cannot be supported by fact. Much of the controversy centers on the federal government’s ability to punish schools that discriminate based on sexual orientation. The issue of whether a school admits openly gay students depends largely upon what college you choose.
Don’t Religious Institutions Have the Right to Set Standards Based upon Beliefs?
Most Christian schools and the churches with which they are affiliated define marriage as being between a man and a woman; sexual relations are to be limited to marriage. Of course, it is difficult to regulate behavior, but many schools like Cedarville University attempt to address that dilemma by setting a policy of case-by-case reviews in an attempt to restore the students to right relationships with both God and the institution. They also hold that students come to a university voluntarily, knowing the school’s stance on homosexuality. That could be construed as a waiver. The Atlantic.com states that although fifteen states and the District of Colombia protect the rights of gay students, there is no federal anti-discrimination law. So, yes, a Christian college can adhere to its own beliefs in admission standards.
Can the Government Force Christian Schools to Admit Gay students?
Force is a strong word. The federal government can leverage schools into admitting homosexual students under some conditions. Most universities and colleges get a substantial part of their funding from the government. In addition, students get federal loans and grants to attend. If these funds were to disappear because of discrimination many schools might have to close. Another means of achieving compliance might be to refuse accreditation, as in the Higher Learning Commission’s standards, to schools who do not admit gay students. Some of the schools are revisiting their positions on homosexuality and others are trying to reframe the discussion. The Pietist Schoolman.com website points out that one school has changed its prohibition against homosexual relations to one against all sexual relations outside of marriage, omitting any mention of homosexuality. There is some thought that schools may go in the direction of their European counterparts and define marriage as civil or church, and since the church may not recognize civil marriages, sexual relationships outside Christian marriages would be forbidden. That means that they could refuse admission to one who openly admits to engaging in such relations.
How Do I Know if a Christian School admits LGBT Students?
The best way to know is to ask. If you don’t want the school to have access to your personal life, then research the website thoroughly. At this time there are no federal regulations against Christian schools setting their own standards for admission. Some Christian colleges have revised their policies and no longer discriminate. Others have decided to refuse federal funding so that they can retain their beliefs in the admissions process. The up-side to this for students is that you can choose which school you attend. You can forego a school that has exclusionary policies.
In the future, the government may dictate that all schools must admit all students. This can be accomplished by subtle and obvious methods. In the meantime, however, whether a school admits LGBT students is a matter for the school to decide, and many schools still opt for traditional Christian values.