Back in the days before everyone had their own blog, you could be expelled from public school for starting an underground newspaper. A high school friend of mine was. And while I suppose that’s still a possibility, it seems unlikely in a world where anyone can publish with some free software and a little interest.
Last week Harding University censored an “underground student website” dealing with gay and lesbian issues at the Church of Christ school in Arkansas. University President David B. Burks later defended the decision to censor HUQueerPress.com.
Here’s the story via the school’s sanctioned student newspaper, The Bison:
The e-zine, which was also distributed to several students in the dormitories in the form of a pamphlet, detailed the anonymous experiences of gay and lesbian students at Harding.
HUQueerPress.com was blocked on campus at about 4 p.m. Wednesday. The site included testimonials from current and former students, some of which included explicit sexual detail and offensive language.
In Thursday morning’s statement, Burks reminded students that sexual immorality of any kind, whether heterosexual or homosexual, was prohibited at Harding, citing pg. 11 of the Harding University Student Handbook.
“Harding University holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to God outside the context of marriage,” Burks quoted. “Sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the university.”
In spite of the university’s regulations, several students, former students and the national LGBT community have protested the actions, declaring them unconstitutional. On Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Harding blocked the site due to “objectionable material,” a petition was posted on Change.org to “Tell Harding University: Don’t Silence LGBT Students.”
I grew up in the Church of Christ. It’s among the most theologically conservative Protestant denominations, though it lacks a typical denominational structure. This move by the university—a university that has curfews for students living in the dorms and, if I correctly recall the stories of a friend who went to Harding, doesn’t allow boys in the girl dorms—really comes as no surprise. And neither does the public response.
Coincidentally, this action comes on the heels of the open letter by gay and lesbian alumni of Westmont College.
(Hat tip: The Christian Chronicle)