A private Christian college in Cleveland, Tennessee is trying to ban sex between students before marriage and implement a policy that won’t allow students to identify as anything apart from their biological sex, revealed a leaked draft report.
Lee University authorities could also forbid students from questioning these rules or any other university policy.
The draft policy claims biological sex is binary and that “humans do not have the ability, or observed right, to choose a gender”.
It also states that “no member of the Lee University community may publicly identify or behave as a gender that does not correspond to his or her biological sex”.
The draft policy also stated that no Lee University student or community member could “promote or advocate, in person, in writing, or online, for sexual acts, behaviours or lifestyles that are contrary to Scripture, this statement of belief, or any other university policy”.
The leaked proposal has sparked outrage among students, including those from the queer community, and teachers alike.
Affirming Alum Collective, a group of alumni from Lee University, posted on Facebook that they were “deeply saddened and frustrated by the new anti-LGBTQIA+ policies under consideration”.
“I feel like this is just their last-ditch effort to try to, at the very least, scare students into silence, hence why a lot of the policies within the statement are about advocacy and what you can and cannot say on public platforms in support of LGBTQ+ students and people,” Taylor Lane, a 22-year-old former student, was quoted as saying by the Chattanooga Times Free Press newspaper.
In a statement, university spokesperson Kendra Mann said the policy has been in the works for years and is in line with the long-standing theological beliefs of the university.
“The statement in question does not represent sweeping changes in policy at Lee; it is an explanation of the beliefs underpinning a group of policies that have been in place for quite some time,” she explained in the statement.
Ms Mann explained in an email to Chattanooga Times Free Press that “members of the Lee community have worked on this statement for the past few years. We met on 9 May with faculty and staff to look at the statement and discuss it.
“Our plan was to have our family meeting about it, engage in dialogue with other stakeholders, gather feedback from all discussions and publish the statement before our fall semester begins,” she continued.
Many students said it was hypocritical of the university authorities to preach love and inclusivity but not practice it.
Bethany Robinson, a Lee University student, was quoted by WTVC-TV as saying that the university is a “Christian institution, so I understand the beliefs they have, but it should still be a place of, like, community and love no matter what, because we are Christians. And as Christians, we’re supposed to love one another.”
“Zeroing in on these students, who represent such a small minority of students, appeals to the base of schools like Lee and other evangelical Christian schools,” said Kaitlin Gabriele-Black, a researcher who works with LGBT+ students at evangelical colleges.
“We know that evangelicals, white evangelicals, largely oppose trans rights, and so this can play out at the university level.”
The private Christian university gets part of its funds from the Church of God, a Pentecostal Christian denomination with millions of members around the world.
Additional reporting by agencies
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