Bob Jones University is the latest of evangelical and fundamentalist colleges and universities to have its students and alumni form an unofficial LGBT organization. After quietly planning for months, BJUnity announced the launch of BJUnity.org and its organization to support LGBT and straight affirming alumni and students of fundamentalist Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Later this week, a number of LGBT+ alumni of BJU will gather for the first time under the auspices of BJUnity in a weekend conference culminating in their first-ever participation in New York City’s Pride March.
Marchers will be sharing their online petition calling for a public apology for a controversial statement calling for the stoning death of LGBT people, subsequent extreme rhetoric, and the systematic mistreatment by university administrators of LGBT+ students and alumni. In 1980, on the steps of the White House, the current chancellor of the school, Bob Jones III, notoriously proclaimed “I’m sure this will be greatly misquoted but it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.” He has never apologized or disavowed that statement and the university continues a long-standing tradition of anti-gay rhetoric and policies, including expelling gay students and banning gay alumni from its campus.
Violent words like those from over 30 years ago, have been creeping back into anti-gay preaching, especially since President Obama’s statement that he supports marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. In recent weeks, a handful of anti-gay pastors from around the country have called for LGBT people to be imprisoned behind an electric fence, to be executed, or to be beaten until they act “straight”. In spite of these recent anti-LGBT sermons, organizations like BJUnity bravely work to address the needs of LGBT students on campus and alumni across the country.
According to BJUnity’s web site:
BJUnity provides a safe harbor—a network of people and resources—for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and straight affirming people affected by fundamentalist Christianity.
BJUnity affirms and empowers lgbt+ from Bob Jones University and other Independent Fundamental Baptist organizations.
BJUnity confronts homophobia in compassion, dignity and love, with the objective to promote dialogue and change.
BJUnity joins several other student and alumni organizations formed to support LGBT students and alumni at evangelical and fundamentalist colleges and universities. Recently, Biola Queer Underground made headlines for operating a secret LGBT support group on the Biola University campus. One Wheaton, the organization of LGBT alumni from Wheaton College made headlines last year, and is currently the subject of a documentary, Let Your Light Shine, which is currently in production.
GLAAD supports organizations like BJUnity who are working within evangelical and fundamentalist colleges and universities to create a safe and supportive atmosphere for students, faculty, staff, and alumni. We will continue to lift up stories of people and organizations that are making our culture more understanding and supportive of LGBT people. We call on the media to continue to give voice to the LGBT and allied people connected with these schools.