Editor's Note: Guest blogger Becky Garrison is an American religious satirist and author whose books include Roger Williams Little Book of Virtues and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church (Publishers Weekly Starred Review). She is a 2012 recipient of a Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life.
In American Prospect, Kathryn Joyce chronicles the investigation into allegations of sexual abuse within the Bob Jones University (BJU) network. Included in this G.R.A.C.E. Report will be a number of LGBT people connected to the BJU network who are victims of childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault.
For those unfamiliar with the BJU network, they exercise dominance within the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) sub-culture, which is divided into camps around several different schools including BJU, Pensacola Christian College, Hyles-Anderson College (where convicted sex offender Jack Schaap presided until this past summer), Maranatha Baptist Bible College, and Baptist Bible College of Clarks Summit). Also, in their role as the lead plaintiff in the US Supreme Court case Bob Jones University v. IRS (1983), BJU established themselves as a defender of right-wing Christianity by asserting their right to enforce segregated dating and prohibit "miscegenation" on their campus. This campus became an obligatory campaign stop for Republican presidential candidates until the 2012 election when Mitt Romney declined to pay BJU a visit.
While BJU's role as a fundamentalist power player may have diminished, their interpretation of Title IX has brought to light another area of systematic abuse targeting LGBT people.
On the surface, Title IX should protect students from sexual harassment based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. However, any student enrolled in either Bob Jones Academy or BJU who chooses to go public with their LGBT status or knows of someone's LGBT's status but fails to disclose this information runs the risk of expulsion.
Since its founding in 2012, BJUnity has emerged as a network of people and resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and straight affirming people affected by fundamentalist Christianity. On their website former BJU students like Rachel Sherwin, Lance Weldy, and Kate Birney speak to the recent horrors they experienced at BJU when they chose to live their lives authentically as the gay or lesbian people they believe God created them to be.
The misuse of Title IX is not isolated to BJU, as other Christian colleges fail to comply with Title IX when it comes to the reporting of sexual assaults committed against "sinful women and "homosexuals." Some colleges such as Patrick Henry solve this problem by refusing to accept any federal funding, including student loans. Others like Bob Jones University continue to struggle with how to reconcile their biblical interpretation of "homosexuality" with their reliance on federal funding (including student loans) which requires them to be compliant with Title IX.
Photo: BJUnity at New York City Pride, 2012. Photo credit: Bill Ballantyne. Click to enlarge.