A private Christian college plans to strictly limit its students’ rights to free speech about sexuality and gender, from their behavior to what they wear and what they can say on campus or even online , according to published reports.
If approved, the policy presented to faculty and staff at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, this month would not allow students to identify themselves by anything other than their biological sex. They would also be prohibited from questioning those restrictions or any other university policies, according to a leaked draft.
The proposal drew criticism from former students, including the Affirming Alum Collective, a group of Lee University alumni, who posted on Facebook that they were “deeply saddened and frustrated by the news anti-LGBTQIA+ policies” under consideration.
A university spokeswoman, Kendra Mann, released a statement to WTVC-TV and the Chattanooga Times Free Press saying the policy has been in the works for years and is consistent with long-held theological beliefs.
“The statement in question does not represent sweeping changes in Lee’s policy; it is an explanation of the beliefs that underlie a group of policies that have been in place for some time,” the statement read.
The school, which receives its funding in part from the Church of God, had planned to get more feedback before releasing its “Statement of Beliefs Regarding Human Sexuality and Gender” before the fall semester, according to the communicated.
The draft policy states that biological sex is binary and that “humans do not have the ability, or the observed right, to choose a sex.”
“No member of the Lee University community may publicly identify or behave as a gender that does not match their biological sex,” the project states.
“No member of the Lee University community may promote or advocate, in person, in writing, or online, sexual acts, behavior, or lifestyles contrary to Scripture, this Statement of Belief, or any other university politics,” he says.
The policy also prohibits sex between unmarried heterosexuals.
“I feel like this is just their last ditch effort to try, at the very least, to silence the students, hence why many of the policies in the statement are about advocacy and what you can and cannot say on public platforms in support of students and LGBTQ+ people,” said Taylor Lane, a lesbian who left school in December.
Former student Joie St. Hubert told WTVC-TV that it’s not right for the university to preach about love and inclusiveness and not practice it.
Current student Bethany Robinson also had issues with the proposal.
“It’s a Christian institution, so I understand the beliefs they have, but it should always be a place of community and love no matter what, because we’re Christians. And as Christians, we are supposed to love each other,” Robinson said.
Federal law prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity for education programs receiving federal funds, but religious schools like Lee’s are exempt if those protections interfere with religious tenets of the state. organization, according to the US Department of Education.
Lee’s policy is part of a national trend, according to Kaitlin Gabriele-Black, an assistant professor of psychology at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, who has studied the experiences of LGBTQ students at evangelical colleges.
“Focusing on these students, who represent such a small minority of students, appeals to the grassroots of schools like Lee and other evangelical Christian schools,” Gabriele-Black told the newspaper.
The Church of God is a Pentecostal Christian denomination with thousands of congregations and millions of members worldwide.
With pole wires