A Christian group at Harvard University has been placed on probation after it barred an openly homosexual individual from serving in leadership with the group.
As reported by the Harvard Crimson, the school's student newspaper, Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA), which describes itself as a “Christ-centered community at Harvard,” was placed on “administrative probation” for a year “after the organization pressured a female member of its student leadership to resign in September following her decision to date a woman.”
Harvard spokesman Aaron Goldman said a “thorough” investigation by the school revealed that “HCFA had conducted itself in a manner grossly inconsistent with the expectations clearly outlined in [the university’s] Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide,” earning the one-year punishment. While Goldman did not elaborate on how the group had run afoul of the school's guidelines for officially recognized student groups, the Crimson reported that the suspension “is almost certainly tied to the Sept. 2017 resignation of a female bisexual former assistant Bible course leader.”
The paper goes on to explain that “HCFA leadership asked the woman to step down from her position after they learned she was dating another female student.” The group's move violated “guidelines laid out in the Harvard College Student Handbook, which stipulates recognized campus student groups cannot discriminate on the basis of 'sexual orientation,'” reported the paper.
Addressing the suspension, HCFA's co-presidents Scott Ely and Molly Richmond issued a statement saying: “We reject any notion that we discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in our fellowship. Broadly speaking, the student in this case was removed because of an irreconcilable theological disagreement pertaining to our character standards.”
The Crimson reported that “HCFA’s character standards — outlined in an internal six-page document—do not specifically address or mention homosexuality. Two bullet points listed under the heading 'Sexual Purity' suggest HCFA leaders should refrain from sex before marriage and also give general advice about relationships.”
Included in the HCFA's character standards is the admonition that leaders “use wisdom in your dating life. Be aware not only of the importance of honoring God in your romantic relationships, but to set a good example and model for other believers who will look to you for implicit guidance as a leader.”
Asked what “theological disagreement” led to the bisexual woman’s dismissal from HCFA leadership, Ely and Richmond referred to the group's stance on extramarital sexual relationships. “Our theological view is that — for professing Christians who are in leadership — celibacy is the only option outside the bounds of marriage,” the leaders wrote in an e-mail. “We have applied and do apply this policy regardless of sexual orientation.”
The Crimson reported that the woman in question said she believed “she was not asked to step down from her position because she is bisexual. Instead, HCFA leadership pressured her to resign because she chose to actively pursue a same-sex relationship.”
According to the Crimson, at least two past Harvard students who identified as homosexual held leadership positions with the Christian group. However, neither pursued same-sex relationships while in leadership. One of the students, Tyler Parker, “said in an interview that he remained 'chaste' during his tenure as an HCFA leader,” reported the paper. The other student leader, Veronica Wickline, who said she is bisexual, “pursued a relationship with a man while helping lead HCFA.”
Reading more like the convoluted plot for a daytime soap opera than a reasonable conflict with a rational resolution, HCFA's predicament highlights the increasing difficulty that Christian organizations face at universities such as Harvard, where over-reaching efforts at cultural correctness have replaced an erstwhile commitment to authentic diversity and an environment conducive to liberal arts learning.
Adding to the controversy is the news that Harvard's decision to place HCFA on probation came just five days after the group hosted an appearance on campus by Jackie Hill Perry, a Christian “spoken word artist” who said she left a lesbian lifestyle through faith in Christ. Fox News reported that the event “was targeted by LGBT student activists as 'hate speech' on campus.”
As for Harvard's decision to crack down on HCFA, Kirsi Anselmi-Stith, a spokesperson for the group Harvard College Queer Students, told the Crimson, “We condemn any and all discrimination against BGLTQ individuals, and appreciate that the University is taking this situation seriously." Condemnation is only allowed to go in one direction at Harvard, apparently, where "tolerance" apparently means hate toward ideologies and people who are not politically correct.
Harvard spokesman Aaron Goldman said that in order for HCFA, which has at least 200 student members, to reverse its probationary status with the school, it must prove its compliance both with Harvard’s non-discrimination policies and with “stated expectations regarding local governance.”