Eight Minnesota colleges and universities took in more than $15 million in federal taxpayer money in 2014 while barring openly LGBT students from attending, and prohibiting LGBT people in employment — and it’s perfectly legal.
Last summer, the presidents of North Central University, Crown College, and Bethel University, along with dozens of other Christian organizations, petitioned President Obama to provide exemptions in his executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The schools wanted to be able to take federal money and still be able to discriminate.
“As leaders and supporters of faith-based service organizations, we ask that you include explicit religious freedom protections in any executive order providing nondiscrimination guarantees for LGBT employees of federal contractors,” the letter stated. “We have a variety of views on the merits of such an executive order. However, we are united in asking that any such executive order be written in a way that protects the religious freedom of faith-based service providers. Any executive order that does not fully protect religious freedom will face widespread opposition and will further fragment our nation.”
As schools that accept federal student aid, those three schools were concerned they might be affected. In fact, all eight schools that bar LGBT people in employment as well as enrollment accept federal student aid. Fortunately for them, the Obama administration has maintained a Bush era policy that allows them to receive federal money and discriminate.
Those three schools are among the eight Minnesota schools explicitly discriminate against LGBT students, faculty and staff: The University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Bethel University in Arden Hills, Crown College in St. Bonafacius, North Central University in Minneapolis, Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Oak Hills Christian College just south of Bemidji, Martin Luther College in New Ulm, and Crossroads College in Rochester.
In addition to seeking exemptions from Obama’s nondiscrimination order, Christian schools are also beginning to petition the federal government for exemption from Title IX which Obama administration officials have ruled (as have some courts) covers transgender students. Thus far, three Christian college nationwide have been granted an exemption to Title IX. None of those are in Minnesota.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, the eight Minnesota schools that discriminate against LGBT students, faculty, and staff took in a combined $15,400,000 in federal student aid, grants, and loans in 2014. Stories from LGBT students who came out during their career at these schools are common, and the practice of discriminating remains legal despite these institutions taking federal money.
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University of Northwestern
The University of Northwestern (not to be confused with the Chicago-based Northwestern University) dates back to 1902 when it was called Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School. It’s located in Roseville, just north of St. Paul. It is a non-denominational school. Billy Graham was the school’s second president from 1948 to 1952, where he founded the college’s radio station KTIS. That radio station led to the development of a radio network that extends throughout the Midwest.
Northwestern University is also the only institution of higher learning in Minnesota that not only bars openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual students, but also has explicit policies against transgender students as well. In fiscal year 2014, the University of Northwestern took in $3,071,058 in federal education loans and grants, according to USASpending.gov.
The application for admission includes a “Declaration of a Christian Community” and asks prospective students to agree to “stand together against all that the Bible clearly condemns: greed and materialism, dishonesty (plagiarism included), prejudice, social injustice… homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman, murder/homicide (including abortion)…”
It also states:
We support the sanctity of marriage (Ephesians 5, Hebrews 13:4). We define marriage as being a covenant between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:21-24; Matt. 19:4-5). We believe in honoring the holy sexual union within the context of that covenant (Hebrews 13:4). Believing that God redeems and restores through life in Christ, we walk alongside those that are seeking to overcome sexual sin (Romans 6-8; Galatians 6:2). As followers of Christ, we turn from sexual immorality in its many forms including but not limited to: pornography, pre-marital sexual relations, adultery, and same sex romantic intimacy and/or sexual relations. We come alongside those experiencing same sex attractions who choose to honor Christ by not pursuing those attractions, just as we come alongside all individuals who seek to live in purity before the Lord (Col. 3:5; Gal. 5:19-21; Rom. 1:21-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
It specifically bars transgender students as well:
We believe we are created by God in His image as two distinct sexes: male and female (Gen. 1:26-28; Matt. 19:4-5). We believe that each person glorifies God and affirms His infinite holiness and wisdom by living in alignment with his or her birth sex. While we acknowledge there may be confusion and brokenness for some individuals in this area, we do not affirm or support transgender identity or expression. Instead, we place our faith and trust in God’s redemptive plan.
The Declaration is binding on admitted students: “I understand that, if I am accepted into University of Northwestern, I will be a productive member of the community and I will choose to live by the principles and expectations contained in this Declaration of Christian Community. I also understand that failure to live within these guidelines can result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from the University.”
The school is involved in anti-LGBT advocacy. Last year it hosted former homosexual Christopher Yuan, and the school hosted the national Exodus International conference in 2012 (Exodus, an ex-gay group, closed in 2013 and apologized to the LGBT community for the “pain and hurt” ex-gay groups cause). In 2012, students at the school held up signs stating why they were voting for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage as part of a Minnesota for Marriage initiative.
Stories of the experiences of LGBT students at the University of Northwestern demonstrate a difficult environment.
Jesse Allard, a diver and former student at Northwestern, recounted his experiences and reasons for attending after struggling to resolve his sexual orientation and religion. He had come out before transferring to Northwestern, thinking that God could change him.
“I also knew if I was going to follow through with being a heterosexual man of God, I would need to attend school somewhere that would help me be just that,” he wrote at Out Sports in 2013. “I made the decision to transfer up to what was then called Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, for my third year of college.”
On the declaration banning openly LGBT students from campus, he wrote: “I don’t remember signing any such document, but at the time (when I was trying so hard to be straight) I would have happily agreed to all of those things.”
Allard would eventually realize the mistake he had made in attending the University of Northwestern:
I moved onto campus in August 2011, and it only took me about three weeks to realize what a huge mistake I had made. I knew I could not keep up this facade any longer, but at the same time, if I were to come out and the administration caught wind, they would have the grounds to dismiss me from enrollment. Furthermore, I still could not figure out how to reconcile my faith with my sexuality. I knew if I was going to come out of the closet, I needed to be certain that I would still be walking with the Lord. At this point, I had begun to realize how quickly I have made decisions in the past. I made every effort to not sprint to an answer this time.
Allard found Soulforce, a group that reconciles sexuality and faith, and eventually went to a liberal arts college that doesn’t discriminate.
Bethel was founded in 1914 after the merger of the St. Paul-based Bethel Academy and a Chicago-based seminary for Baptists. It became Bethel College and Seminary, and then Bethel University in 2004. It is located in Arden Hills, and is affiliated with Converge Worldwide which is part of a Swedish Baptist tradition in the Upper Midwest but unrelated to the traditional Baptist traditions common in the American South.
In fiscal year 2014, Bethel took in $4,926,331 in federal money, mostly from loans and grants for students. The school also got a National Science Foundation grant in the amount of $67,309 for “Collaborative Research: From the learner’s perspective: Unpacking the why and how of model-based learning about biological systems,” and another $123,494 for a “Super-resolution plasmon-enhanced imaging and spectroscopy with patterned metallic surfaces and dynamic illumination.”
When applying, undergraduate students are required to sign a “Covenant for Life Together” which condemns same-sex relationships. Under “Living a Biblical Lifestyle,” the covenant reads: “The Bible also identifies character qualities and actions that should not be present in the lives of believers. For example: destructive anger, malice, rage, sexual immorality, impurity, adultery, evil desires, greed, idolatry, slander, profanity, lying, homosexual behavior, drunkenness, thievery, and dishonesty. We view sexuality as one of God’s good gifts. We believe that sexual intercourse and other forms of intensely interpersonal sexual activity are reserved for monogamous, heterosexual marriage. We recognize that sexual purity involves right motives as well as right behaviors.”
Bethel has allowed some dialogue about LGBT issues, including an official conversation with the provost in 2012. And while the school won’t officially recognize an LGBT student group, at least one exists on campus unofficially.
Student experiences on campus have been mixed. A Lavender Magazine profile called “Out on Campus” in 2012 spoke with some LGBT students at Bethel.
Levi Kotas, a transman who left Bethel one semester before he graduated, saw that he could help meet the need for a GLBT community on campus. “In 2005, the Equality Ride came to Bethel…they told me I wasn’t alone and instructed that I should go out and try to find more of a community. So I did that the only way I knew how. I wrote a letter to the administration and sent it to every single member of the board of directors, as well as the faculty and staff, and got the attention of everyone immediately. I said that whether they like it or not, there was going to be a Gay Straight Alliance on campus, and due to whatever rights I had as a human being, they couldn’t actually stop this group from happening.”
The students are very vocal about their opinions of Bethel. Kotas says, “I will openly say that Bethel destroyed my faith. Not necessarily in Christianity, but in Christians. There is zero faith from them anymore.” Mark Edinger says, “It’s hard to support an organization like Bethel that doesn’t support me.”
Crown College was founded in 1916 as the St Paul Bible Institute, then the St. Paul Bible College, and finally Crown College in 1992. It is currently located in St. Bonifacius in the far western suburbs of Minneapolis. Crown is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. It’s best known graduates are the founders of the Veggie Tales, a children’s cartoon featuring talking Christian vegetables.
Crown College bans anyone who is openly gay, lesbian or bisexual. In fiscal year 2014, the school took in $2,786,300 in education grants and loans.
During the application process, prospective students are asked “to acknowledge that you are committing yourself to full compliance [with the Crown Community Covenant] while enrolled at Crown College,
The Word of God also identifies character qualities and actions that should not be present in the lives of believers such as abusive anger; malice; jealousy; lust; sexually immoral behavior including premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality; impure desires; prejudice based on race, sex, or socioeconomic status; greed; idolatry; slander; profanity; lying; drunkenness; thievery; and dishonesty. According to Scripture, these qualities are not acceptable for the Christian, and therefore, are unacceptable for members of the Crown College community.
Additionally, the student handbook says that the college: “does not tolerate involvement in, participation in, or promotion of sexually immoral behavior such as premarital sex, cohabitation, adultery, homosexual behavior, or the use or display of pornographic, obscene, or suggestive materials of any kind (including materials found on the Internet).”
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are also banned from employment at Crown, according to the staff handbook:
The Bible is clear in its teaching on the sanctity of life. Life begins at conception. We are opposed to the destruction of innocent life through abortion on demand. Homosexual conduct is incompatible with Christian teaching and cannot be condoned. Therefore persons who engage in homosexual conduct and/or relationships may not be accepted for employment or continued employment.
Crown College has been active in LGBT advocacy including hosting a talk by “former homosexual” Christopher Yuan last year, and allowing members of the ex-gay Outpost Ministries to present in Crown College courses.
North Central University
North Central University was founded in 1930 as the North Central Bible Institute. In 1957 it was renamed North Central Bible College, and in 1998 became North Central University. The school is part of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal branch of Christianity. The most famous alumni include Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker.
In fiscal year 2014, the school took in $2,157,291 in federal education funds in the form of grants and loans.
Prospective students must affirm that they agree with the “Responsibilities of Membership in the North Central Community” when applying for admission. Those responsibilities include a ban on same-sex relationships.
Certain practices that are forbidden in Scripture are not permitted in the lives of the members of the North Central community. Sexual relationships outside of marriage, homosexual relationships, pornography, theft, drunkenness, dishonesty (including cheating and plagiarism), and disobedience to the government (except in those rare instances where obedience to civil authority would violate a biblically informed conscience) are examples of practices that are unacceptable.
North Central University refers students to Outpost Ministries for counseling on “gender issues.”
Stories of students being censured or expelled for being LGBT are fairly common over the last decade, so much so even the New York Times has covered the issue, and actor George Takei has protested on campus.
David Coleman was expelled in 2005 after he refused to seek “ex-gay” counseling, and after students tried to lay hans on him to “cast out the demon of homosexuality.” He returned in 2012 with a contingent from Soulforce to tell his story.
Another student, James Voss, wrote about his experiences at North Central University in a piece for Alternet in 2011:
I left for North Central University right after high school to become a youth pastor. The one obstacle of graduation was my sexual orientation. According to the university, homosexuals suffer a life controlling disorder that can be overcome through self-discipline, prayer, and by living a life centered in Christ and obeying the N.C.U Way. At a certain point I decided that I needed to love myself enough, and admit that I was gay and leave NCU.
Bethany Lutheran College
Bethany Lutheran College started as Bethany Ladies College in 1911, and became Bethany Lutheran College in 1927 in Mankato. It is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, not to be confused with the more progressive Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. ELS is closely tied to the conservative, and staunchly anti-LGBT Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. One of Minnesota’s most anti-LGBT former lawmakers, Allen Quist, is a retired professor from Bethany.
The school took in $916,587 in federal funds in 2014, all of it education loans and grants.
Bethany’s standards of conduct prohibit “public promotion” of homosexuality, though there is “room for discussion” of LGBT issues:
We recognize that human sexuality is a wonderful gift from God, which He has given as a blessing to be used solely inside of marriage.
Again, following the law of Christian love that compels us to love and honor God first, and also to respect and love one another as ourselves, we naturally understand that this gift from God is to be reserved for relations between a husband and wife. All abuses of this gift, such as premarital sex, extramarital sex, and homosexuality will not be tolerated, but dealt with in a spirit of repentance and forgiveness, as the Scriptures instruct. Though there is much room for discussion and education of these subjects, there will also be no toleration of any public promotion of those things which contradict the Bible’s instruction regarding human sexuality.
Bethany has even created a guide to tell people just how sinful LGBT people are.
Oak Hills Christian College
Oak Hills Fellowship was founded in Bemidji in 1927 as a nondenominational ministry teaching the “Bible without denominational emphasis or bias,” and in 1946 opened the Oak Hills Christian Training School. Since then the college has undergone a series of name changes including Over the Oak Hills Bible Institute (1959), and Oak Hills Bible College (1985) and today is known as Oak Hills Christian College (1998).
Oak Hills Christian College took $330,550 in federal education loan and grant funding in 2014.
Homosexuality is forbidden at Oak Hills and employment applicants must affirm they understand that:
As an applicant for employment or for a volunteer position at Oak Hills Christian College and its ministries, I recognize, understand, and agree to pursue righteousness in order to live by the moral and ethical standards as set forth in Scripture. I further declare that with regard to my personal moral and ethical character and conduct as of this date, I am not engaging, will not engage, nor have I been in the past five years engaged in sexually immoral (fornication, adultery, rape, homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, and the like) or abusive (physical or sexual) conduct, as defined by Scripture or state law. I do declare that the above statement is factual and true. By checking “I agree”, I declare that I meet the moral and ethical standards of Oak Hills Christian College.
Students must sign a similar declaration:
By contrast, followers of Jesus Christ will repent and flee from sinful attitudes or actions such as: Sexual sins: immorality, lust, adultery, homosexuality, immodesty, orgies, pornography, sexual violence (Leviticus 18, Colossians 3:5, Romans 1:24-27).
SEXUALITY God is the creator of our sexuality, and values it very highly. As followers of Christ we need to submit ourselves to God’s teaching in regard to this matter. God commands everyone to remain sexually pure until marriage, and to honor marriage between husband and wife (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Hebrews 13:4). In obedience to God and out of respect for each other, we expect all students to live sexually pure, exemplary lives which will not distract or offend one another or raise moral question. This includes living together unmarried. The Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27), yet it is not more sinful than heterosexual sin. Sexual sin should NOT be targeted for humor or condemnation. Students will be assisted to the best of our ability, to become or remain 14 sexually pure, and/or faithful. If you have been hurt by others or struggle with sexual sin of any kind, you are not alone; we will help you experience God’s forgiveness and healing grace
The tiny college of only 175 students enrolled has had LGBT students attend in the past, and some have started a Facebook page to generate a dialogue on the school’s anti-LGBT stance.
Martin Luther College
Martin Luther College was founded in 1995 when Northwestern College in Wisconsin and Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm merged. It is run by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, one of the most anti-LGBT branches of Lutheranism. It has an enrollment of about 800 students.
Martin Luther accepted $969,014 in federal education loan and grant funding in fiscal year 2014.
“Sexual immorality” is grounds for suspension of expulsion, according to the student handbook: “The following are examples of sinful or dangerous situations which could result in a decision to suspend or dismiss: alcohol violations and drunkenness, sexual immorality or impropriety, theft and/or abuse of property, fraud, the use of illegal drugs, violence, harassment, academic irresponsibility.”
The student life handbook states that the school will investigate any allegations of homosexuality and encourages those on campus to report suspected violations:
The College holds to the unchanging truth of the Bible that sexual intercourse is reserved for the marriage of one man and one woman as his gift and for the sake of families. The Bible condemns as sin premaritalsex and the defiling of God’s gift of sex through pornography,sexually suggestive behavior, sexual harassment, or in homosexual acts. Martin Luther College is committed to investigating all possible violations of this policy about which the school knows or reasonably should know (also referred to in this policy as “alleged violations of this policy”), regardless of whether a complaint alleging a violation of this policy has been filed and regardless of where the conduct at issue occurred. The College’s ability to investigate in a particular situation, or the extent of the investigation in any given situation, may be affected by any number of factors, including whether the complainant is willing to file a complaint or to consent to an investigation, the location where the alleged or suspected conduct occurred, and the College’s access to information relevant to the alleged or suspected violation of this policy. The College is nonetheless committed to investigating all alleged and suspected violations of this policy to the fullest extent possible under the circumstances
The college even has courses in how to evangelize members of the LGBT community such as “Elective 4: Sharing Christ with Someone Living a Homosexual Lifestyle,” taught by Pastor Tom Trapp and Suzie Neas. The course description states: “How do you communicate Christ with Christian and non-Christian friends, classmates, co-workers, and relatives who struggle with homosexuality? Hear from someone who left the homosexual lifestyle and found peace with Christ.”
Scott Cooper, an openly gay football linebacker who attended Martin Luther before attending Augsberg college, recounted his experiences in an article for Out Sports:
My siblings and I went to Lutheran grade school, Lutheran private prep school, and a few of us even went on to Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, to pursue a career in the WELS ministry. I studied scripture and doctrine basically non-stop for 20 years. To say my life revolved around the church was an understatement. All of my friends, family, and teammates were WELS and affiliated with the church. It was my world. I didn’t know much else beyond the small church bubble I was in. But I never really felt like I fit completely….
I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I was gay. Even though I had these feelings and knew, I was a smart enough kid to know not to tell anyone around me about my feelings. Anti-gay therapy and hours of counseling would have probably followed. So for my entire upbringing, I tried to suppress who I was and just do what I was told. Being preached at that any gay would go to hell scared the crap out of me. I didn’t know what to do. I prayed to God to change me, but the change never came. All the hate and the condemnation really made me hate myself; I was not content with myself as a person.
But once I got into college, I really started questioning faith, God, and the Bible. I didn’t just lie down and take the beating anymore. After getting to know other people in the gay community (secretly, because I couldn’t let anyone at Martin Luther know), I started to become more comfortable with who I was and what I could be: and that is I could be myself. I had to make a tough choice to leave the church and everything I knew, or else stay and suffer. I left Martin Luther, left the WELS church, and suffered through the condemnation and rejection of my family, the rejection of my friends, and the letter from the Pastor telling me I’m going to hell now. My parents hardly talked to me, and my dad signed the letters from the Pastor and church elders that condemned me to hell. Going through that was tough, and I’d be lying if I say it didn’t hurt. I do have a thick skin, and I stand strong, but constant words of condemnation are never easy to hear.
Crossroads College got its start in 1913 as the International Christian Bible College (1913) in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. In 1971 it moved to Rochester and in 2002 was renamed Crossroads College. It is a nondenominational college but draws singificantly from Christian Churches or Churches of Christ. Crossroads has encountered significant financial and accreditation problems in the last few years, and is in talks to merge with other Christian colleges.
Crossroads accepted $276,159 in federal education grant and loan funding in 2014.
Under Lifestyle Expectations, students are prohibited from “homosexual behavior” and violators could face penalties that include: “Suspension, dismissal, probation, fines, community service, and removal of privilege to participate in activities in which you represent the College.”
The expectations state: “Scripture also prohibits certain behaviors and community members should avoid them. They include backbiting, cheating, dishonesty, drunkenness, gossip, immodesty of dress, lying, occult practices, profanity, sexual promiscuity (including adultery, homosexual behavior, and pre-marital sex), theft, and vulgarity (including crude language).”
The student handbook also forbids “homosexual acts”: “Sexuality and Relationships – Crossroads encourage healthy interactions between men and women and desires to strengthen a biblical sexual identity for its students. Behavior that falls outside biblical intentions such as premarital sex, intimate touching, adultery, homosexual acts, and pornography or other explicit materials are not appropriate and is not acceptable for Crossroads community members.”