The Southern Baptist Convention is not known as a denomination that welcomes LGBT people with open arms, and their conservative social principles extend to affiliated colleges and universities, as well. Recently, two stories have emerged that highlight the conflict between these conservative beliefs and the reality that LGBT people exist and should be treated equally.
Back in April, Domaine Javier, a transgender woman from Riverside, Calif., appeared on an episode of MTV’s True Life, in which she was open about her gender identity. On August 30, she was expelled from the nursing program at California Baptist University for “presenting false or misleading information” about herself to the university both in the admissions process and during the university’s judicial process by identifying herself as female. Javier says that she applied to be on True Life in order to raise awareness about transgender issues. She also wants other transgender youth to know that they are not alone. Despite the expulsion from Cal Baptist, she says that she does not regret being open about being transgender and has received a very positive response to her appearance on the show.
On October 21, Shorter University in Rome, Georgia, approved a new “personal lifestyle statement” that requires employees to “reject […] all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible.” The statement specifies that “premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality” are included in the category of biblically unacceptable sexual activity. Although the university claims that the statement is not particularly different from pervious university “lifestyle” guidelines, one employee, who spoke to the Georgia Voice under the condition of anonymity, said that he specifically looked for references to “homosexuality” on the Shorter website before deciding to work there and found none. The employee, who is gay, knew that Shorter is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, but previously found the university to be comparatively progressive. Now, he feels that he cannot continue to work there and is concerned for LGBT students on campus. Though students have not yet been asked to sign anything akin to the statement presented to employees, many on campus worry that this will be the university’s next step.
Both Cal Baptist and Shorter Universities are within their legal rights in instituting and maintaining policies that exclude people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other generally protected groups. But these policies are still damaging to LGBT people. The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists is one organization that is trying to make the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as other Baptist denominations, more LGBT inclusive. The Southern Baptist tradition is the most conservative among Baptist groups in the United States. Both the American Baptist Churches and the Alliance of Baptists are far more socially progressive, and many churches from those denominations are affiliated with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. These groups have taken to heart the idea of change from within and have made their churches welcoming of all people.
GLAAD extends our support to Domaine Javier and all affected students and faculty at Shorter University and calls on both Cal Baptist and Shorter Universities to reexamine the impact of their policies that discriminate against LGBT people. We also ask that our readers inform us of any problematic coverage of either story.