Fear Over Losing Funding Very Real In Conservative Christian Colleges

According to NPR, Conservative Christian colleges are becoming more engaged in the LGBT debate than in previous years.  Previously, many conservative Christian colleges were insulated from many social issues that were raging on.  However, changing attitudes on sexual ethics and civil rights are making it challenging for Christian colleges to ensure broad compliance with strict expectations.  Plainly, this means that due to changing attitudes in society, students have become less likely to agree to most college’s faith statements outlining the college’s views on several social issues.  Many of these statements (especially from Conservative Christian colleges) prohibit homosexual activity and define marriage as between one man and one woman.

“Millennials are looking at the issue of gay marriage, and more and more they are saying, ‘OK, we know the Bible talks about this, but we just don’t see this as an essential of the faith,'” says Brad Harper, a professor of theology and religious history at Multnomah University, an evangelical Christian institution in Portland, Oregon.

Conservative Christian College
By Ejd24 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Some staff and faculty at many of these Christian schools have sought to balance a need to attend to students’ personal and spiritual needs coupled with a commitment to the school’s faith statements/position on sexuality.

Mary Hulst, senior chaplain at Calvin says,  “We love our LGBT people. We love our church of Jesus Christ. We love Scripture. So those of us who do this work are right in the middle of that space. We are living in the tension.”

Calvin College is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, which holds the value that homosexual practice is “incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture”.

Hulst leads Bible study groups with LGBT students to discuss passages that refer to same-sex relations.

Legal Implications

The largest concern for Conservative Christian colleges are really legal implications regarding LGBT rights.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  And while “sex” was previously interpreted to refer to gender, many courts are now interpreting and using it to protect LGBT individuals.  Very soon we may see this same principle applied to transgendered as well.

Additionally, Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972 state, “No person in the United States shall on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

This leaves colleges and universities challenged.  Their choice is to either follow the Word of God and lose tax-exempt status/federal funding, or “modify” their views.  If many colleges lose their tax-exempt status and/or federal funding, they will be either forced to close, or raise tuition.

“Every single Christian institution is wondering about that, and thinking, ‘What happens if we lose government funding?’ ” says Brad Harper, of Multnomah University. “Everybody has done the math about how much money you would have to raise if you lose government funding. You can’t do it.”