November 12, 2013, Greenville, SC — last week, Bob Jones University released an internal memo announcing that it would spend a week of mandatory chapel messages discussing “same sex attraction” and “a biblical response,” beginning November 11. Yesterday, Dr. Stephen Jones, president of the school began his talk by reading a letter that a student allegedly received anonymously from another student. It read:
Dr. Jones went on to say “Well that was last week, and we still don’t know who wrote it… And I am telling whoever wrote it even if it is the person himself looking for attention, you have 24 hours to talk to your supervisor about it and own up to it. If you don’t, … you won’t be part of this student body because that represents nothing of the spirit of Christ, and that will not be accepted here. And there’s 24 hours from now for whoever wrote that to come clean.”
In a statement to the press today, BJUnity’s founding executive director, Jeffrey Hoffman said “BJUnity is encouraged to hear that there is now an apparently ‘zero tolerance policy’ for this kind of homophobic hate speech by students to other students. But this kind of letter is not unexpected in a school whose Chancellor remains unrepentant for telling an AP reporter that ‘homosexuals should be stoned to death as the Bible commands’ and for more than thirty years of similar messages he has consistently preached from the chapel pulpit at BJU, complete with mocking diatribes many of us recall vividly years later. In typical fashion, there is a mixed message and double standard at play here. Nearly two years ago, the LGBT+ alumni of BJU who later launched BJUnity began an online petition drive demanding an apology from Bob Jones, III for exactly this same kind of hate speech. He has yet to acknowledge such a petition exists, let alone offer a sincere apology. But this student, if caught, gets to take the fall? I plead for my old friend Stephen to consider a more compassionate response to this alleged letter writer. If his father isn’t going to apologize, why should he expect any different behavior from a student? We at BJUnity would like this student to apologize to the student(s) he or she has harmed, but we would not call for their expulsion. We believe it is bad enough that students graduate with an unaccredited degree that is often a liability rather than an asset, but for Bob Jones University to expel students for sharing the exact same message they hear regularly from the pulpit is an astounding double standard.
“Today on BJUnity.org (http://bjunity.org/who-we-are/rachel-sherwin/), class of 2012 student Rachel Sherwin tells how she was ‘denied re-enrollment’ (expelled) for acknowledging her Same Sex Attractions to school administrators. Dr. Stephen Jones told students yesterday that he has gay friends and that they are among ‘the nicest people I know,’ but Rachel Sherwin’s story tells how gay students who are honest about their orientation remain unsafe on the campus, even while living celibate as the rules at BJU require. With its recent enrollments declining precipitously, perhaps BJU ought to reconsider its historical practice of quick expulsion for arbitrary ‘spiritual problems’ that don’t have anything to do with the school’s rule book. Creating a safe space and nurturing environment where students can grow in grace would be a new direction we could all celebrate.”
To date, BJUnity’s online petition has gained nearly 2,000 online signatures and hundreds more paper signatures at several LGBT Pride rallies in the Greenville area (http://www.change.org/petitions/chancellor-bob-jones-university-apologize-for-stating-that-homosexuals-should-be-stoned-to-death) demanding an apology from Bob Jones University for the inflammatory, violent rhetoric that has characterized the school’s messaging towards and treatment of its gay alumni and students for decades.
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 nor 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. BJUnity (http://bjunity.org) is working for dialogue and substantive change on these and other issues at the university, while offering an affirming alternative to LGBT+ students and alumni.
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.
Is Bob Jones University’s “Gay Chapel Week” A Farce?
November 12th, 2013