In 2013, Grace University in Nebraska made headlines after it expelled a student for being in an openly gay relationship who thus violated the school’s code of conduct.
Cedarville is part of a subset of schools that are actively involved in efforts to retain traditional policies against homosexuality.“The Bible teaches that God designed sexual activity to be enjoyed inside the voluntary bounds of a biblical marriage,” said Cedarville University’s president, Thomas White, in an email.
Any activity that violates this intent “is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with a desire to disciple the student to maturity in his or her faith and to [lovingly] restore the student to good standing with the institution that they voluntarily chose to attend.”At the moment, there is no federal non-discrimination law that prevents schools from enforcing these policies.
Fifteen states plus the District of Columbia offer protections to gay and lesbian students, but they usually grant exemptions to religious institutions.
Page 15 of the new student handbook of Cedarville University tells students to obey “the laws of the land.” However, there’s at least one law the Ohio evangelical college doesn’t support: the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states.
The school’s “Commitment to Purity,” printed on page 12 of the handbook, begins, “We believe that God’s design at creation for sexual desire and orientation is within the bounds of a marriage union between a man and a woman.” Cedarville prohibits students from engaging in not only same-sex dating, but also “public advocacy for the position that sex outside of a biblically defined marriage is morally acceptable.”The forceful tone of this handbook reflects a growing sense among evangelicals that they are being persecuted for their beliefs.
Cedarville’s unequivocal rejection of gay marriage is consistent with the “human sexuality statements” for dozens of the 121 members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the nation’s premier organization of accredited evangelical higher-education institutions.Lots of Christian-affiliated colleges have either declined to take a political stance on gay marriage or adopted more-inclusive policies to keep up with the shifting legal landscape and evolving social trends.The first serious challenge to such policies came last summer, when the New England Association of Schools and Colleges asked Gordon College, a Christian school in Massachusetts, to review its ban on “homosexual practice” and determine whether it violated the association’s accreditation standards.Gordon announced in March that it had completed the review and decided to keep the ban in place.But as gay rights have gained wider acceptance over the past few years, many evangelical colleges have found themselves facing a predicament.Policies forbidding gay relationships have brought negative media attention and increasingly frustrated students, both of which could turn disastrous for religious colleges already struggling with tight budgets and uncertain futures.