Press Contact: Jeffrey Hoffman, Executive Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BJUnity Marches, Empowers Gay Alumni and Students from Fundamentalist Bob Jones University
BJUnity is an affirming alternative for LGBT+ alumni and students of Bob Jones University
June 27, 2012, New York, NY — In a watershed moment for gay alumni and students of fundamentalist Bob Jones University, more than fifty lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight affirming alumni, spouses, significant others and friends gathered in New York City from across the United States and Canada for a weekend conference June 22 – 24 culminating in their first-ever appearance in New York’s Gay Pride March under the banner of BJUnity. This newly-launched not-for-profit provides an alternative to disenfranchised LGBT+ alumni and students of the strict fundamentalist college. 39 of those in attendance processed down Fifth Avenue last Sunday, sharing their petition for an apology and demand for a change in the school’s rhetoric concerning issues of gender and sexuality with the March’s onlookers. Others of the group cheered from the sidelines, taking photographs and video and using social media to share those images with the large national LGBT+ network of alumni and friends who were unable to attend the NYC event. Filmmaker Markie Hancock was on hand to capture the day’s events for her forthcoming documentary “Let Your Light Shine” which documents the explosion of LGBT+ alumni support groups for conservative Christian colleges springing up across the United States. On Saturday, the eleven-person Board of Directors of BJUnity met in person to shape the course of the New York not-for-profit’s initiatives over the coming year. An overwhelming response from within the network of BJU alumni on Facebook and other social media sites, proves a newfound empowerment for many LGBT+ people who until recently have lived for too long in isolation and fear.
BJUnity Executive Director, Jeffrey Hoffman issued the following statement “by asserting our unswerving presence, unequivocating compassion and unconditional love, we are changing the conversation about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people within fundamentalist Christianity. For decades, Christian fundamentalism has been a bastion for the most extreme homophobic rhetoric and virulent hate speech against LGBT+ people around the United States. Most recently, shocking sermons delivered by fundamentalist preachers in North Carolina and in Kansas garnered media attention for the vitriolic prejudice against gay people that so many fundamentalist preachers routinely express. Numerous documented statements from fundamentalism’s best known leaders, like Bob Jones III, have caused untold harm to many, many gay and transgender people around the country. Through its network of franchise churches, Bob Jones University wields tremendous influence and control throughout the Independent Fundamentalist movement, which encompasses Charles Worley’s and Sean Harris’s North Carolina churches, Curtis Knapp’s Seneca, Kansas New Hope Baptist Church, and a whole host — thousands — of other independent fundamental (IFB) churches across the United States and around the world.”
Responding to a statement released by Bob Jones University last week (http://www.foxcarolina.com/story/18840474/bob-jones-university-statement-on-bjunity), Hoffman continued “though we have clearly stated our organization’s mission to provide a safe harbor for LGBT+ people affected by fundamentalist Christianity, to affirm and empower those same people and to confront the rampant homophobia within fundamentalist institutions like BJU; though we have published nearly thirty personal stories documenting the ways that gay people have been singled out historically for special approbation from the University’s chapel platform and for persecution within the discipline/counseling system at BJU, the university’s spokesperson apparently missed the point of our work. Let me clearly state that while issues like marriage equality and non-discriminatory policies of inclusion in the workplace are important to many of our constituency, our purpose is to call attention to the plight of LGBT+ students in the university’s environment — many students have been given no other choice than to attend BJU by their families — and to provide new hope for their inclusion and affirmation. We will continue to change the conversation. BJU’s statement itself proves that the change has already begun: after six months in which the school’s administration has publicly ignored our formation via our previous blog, although they were clearly aware of it, the media will not allow them to continue their strategy to pretend we do not exist. We are gratified by this turn of events and we look forward to a time when LGBT+ students at Bob Jones University will no longer live in fear.”
BJUnity’s web site BJUnity.org launched last week.
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+ people 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 is a not-for-profit charitable organization incorporated in the State of New York.