The Newspaper & the Baptists + Addenda

There it was in the Lexington Herald-Leader of 08 April – front page above the fold, left corner, bold headline – Baptist School Ousts Gay Student. The paper, a Knight-Ridder affiliate monopolizing the newspaper-media in central and eastern Kentucky, ridiculed Southside Christian Church, the largest congregation in the city, back in December because services were not held on Christmas Day, a Sunday (paper technically wrong, however), and proceeded earlier this year to trash the governor’s prayer breakfast because the breakfast didn’t suit the H-L, its editors presumably considering themselves more religiously acclimated than the governor, an ordained minister, and all the others who took part in the annual affair, none of whom were ministers.

The University of the Cumberlands (formerly Cumberland College) in Williamsburg, Ky., expelled Jason Johnson, 20, a self-declared homosexual, on either the sixth or the seventh, according to the paper, which also noted that by the time the paper was printed on the eighth the young man had engaged a lawyer. Johnson had outed himself on his personal Internet Web page. The university is not a Baptist school; rather, it is an institution sharing the philosophy of and receiving funds from the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which shares the philosophy of and helps support the Southern Baptist Convention. This is doubtlessly the reason the paper played the account on the front page, as it did in the other cases. The mainstream media, of which the H-L is a far left outlet, despises most religious entities but reserves a special hatred for Southern Baptists, considered by many to be an integral part of the so-called “religious right.” The account might have been appropriate for the state-news section of the paper, but it most likely received front page attention because of the term Baptist…too good an opportunity to pass up to savage the school and the Baptists all at the same time.

The university policy that was violated by Johnson is stated thusly: "Any student who engages in or promotes sexual behavior not consistent with Christian principles (including sex outside marriage and homosexuality) may be suspended or asked to withdraw from the University of the Cumberlands." Johnson, apparently just three weeks before the end of the semester and for reasons known only to himself, brought the rule down on himself, forcing the school to either uphold its requirement or render it useless. Moreover, Johnson knew when he went to the university that the homosexual lifestyle was not acceptable. UC President Jim Taylor issued this statement: "At the University of the Cumberlands, we hold students to a higher standard. Students know the rules before they come to this institution. We've followed our policies and procedures in keeping with our traditional denominational beliefs. University of the Cumberlands isn't for everyone. We tell prospective students about our high standards before they come. We are different by design, and are non-apologetic about our Christian beliefs."

Regardless of what one believes about homosexuality, it needs to be remembered that UC is a private school and is not required to accept/retain students it deems as not belonging there. This does not mean that other homosexual students are not at the school. There may be a few homosexuals there, just as in the case of the military, in which they also are officially not welcome but may serve as long as they do not divulge their sexual preference. This is the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that President Clinton tried to reverse as almost his first official act after assuming the office, only to discover that not even he could change things, so strong was/is the aversion to homosexuals in uniform.

In the view of most Southern Baptists, homosexual behavior is an abomination that they deem defined as such in the Holy Bible throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Hatred is not the issue. The practice of sexual perversions is the issue. While government agencies (except the military) have been legislated locally and nationally into making homosexuals a protected group in a number of ways such as in housing, employment, etc., private entities can still make their own rules. Though they have been pressured almost beyond endurance, even the Boy Scouts have held their ground with respect to this issue. However, legal actions can produce amazing benefits. Johnson already has a lawyer, causing one to wonder if some sort of suit was not envisioned before his action, the obvious aim being to gain monetarily.

During the Patton administration in Kentucky, the state engaged an agency of the Kentucky Baptist Convention to care for young people and children whose lives had been disrupted in one way or another, their living at home no longer possible. When it was discovered that a KBC employee was a lesbian who had outed herself in some sort of public exhibition, she was fired, and the liberal outcry was that the KBC had violated her civil rights and could therefore no longer be engaged in the displaced-child program. Governor Patton stood firm in declaring that there would be no change. Actually, regardless of how he felt, the state had no provision for the service to the children. The employee was fired and the system remained. The same is true for UC, with an enrolment of over 1,700 students and where tuition and fees amount to $12,658; room and board: $5,526. Nearly 95% of the students receive some type of financial aid, with an average amount awarded per student at $12,797.

The school, a junior college until the 1960s when it became a four-year college, has long been associated with the mountainous Appalachian region, peopled by thousands of students who can’t afford expensive educations. Besides having the usual departments, it is unusual in that it has an accredited Pharmacy college. The campus spans approximately 70 acres and includes 32 buildings and 2 sports-field complexes. Former governor Bert Combs was a student at the school in the 1920s, stoking furnaces to pay for his education there.

Addendum: The plot thickens, as is usually the case, and Cumberland will probably suffer. It turns out, according to news reports, that the handbook in use when the student enrolled in 2003 didn’t have the specific allusion to homosexuality. That was added by 2005, and the student may or may not have known of it. Since there was a change, he probably knew about it, whether made in 2004 or 2005…if he read the handbook. The student’s homosexual boyfriend, who attends another school, has entered the arena (apparently one of those tell-all or contrive-all sites so problematic now with respect to Internet “pickup” projects by molesters, etc.) with his own account, probably his first expose.

The other angle has to do with state funds made available to the school’s pharmacy department – $1,000,000 to help with scholarships for pharmacy students only and another $10,000,000 to help with building a pharmacy building, this from a $100,000,000 pool for infrastructure development in the desperately poor coal-producing counties, with coal-severance taxes to pay off the debt. The pharmacy school will not be up and running without this money.

Kentucky includes 16 of the 100 poorest counties in the United States, measured by per capita income. Three of those counties abut the county where the school is located and the others are in the general area. Kentucky includes 29 of the 100 poorest counties in the country on the basis of household income. So, it is reasonable to try to use private institutions to help solve a problem in areas where no appropriate public institutions are located. However, the school has made a mistake in accepting state funds for other than scholarships given to students, similar to vouchers. The one openly homosexual member of the legislature has already raised a stink, notwithstanding that the state budget has been passed. The paper has weighed in this morning, although it actually carries little weight, Kentucky being a red state nationally with a natural instinct away from ultra-liberalism locally, regardless of party. It is axiomatic that the state ACLU will enter the picture, and that will be defining.

The UC president may have made his initial statement from out of state – Atlanta. It remains to be seen what will happen, but receiving state money for other than services rendered means receiving state instructions, and no school where religion is important should ever do that. Perhaps plenty of mistakes to go around, but the whole story is not out.

Ironically, this student is from Lexington. New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual/drunk who has recently been through a drying-out process, is from Lexington. There is an apparently inordinate homosexual population in Lexington.

Addendum: The saga of the University of the Cumberlands is both sad and fortuitous. This is a statement that the student wrote on his MySpace blog while still a student: "Next semester, I'll be transferring to the University of Kentucky to finish my degree in theatre. I'm very excited about being at home more often, and living in a bigger city and not having to go to Cumberland ... I am so ready to be out of here. When you get to the point where you almost wish that your school will kick you out, then you know you've got it bad." According to the president of the state senate, there were other statements like that one. This is what he said: "I have done a little research today and it appeared to me that this young man might very well be a provocateur in this entire thing. He had already put on his Web site that he was hoping they would kick him out of the university and he was going to leave the university and a lot of statements like that.”

Actually, as far as the subject itself is considered, the school was eligible for the grant. Quoted in the newspaper on 12 April: The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, the accrediting agency for all new and existing pharmacy schools in the United States, has an explicit guideline banning discrimination against gays. The guideline says that approved schools must have: "A policy on student affairs, including admissions and progression, that assures non-discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, lifestyle, national origin, or disability should exist." The council's revised guidelines, which take effect on July 1, 2007, add the phrase "sexual orientation" to the list.

So…at present, despite the paper’s claim, any school banning homosexuals could be approved, but beginning in July 2007 such would not be the case. The governor, legislature, and probably CU’s administrators might have thought they were in the right currently (and they are), but should have been cognizant of the fact that they would have hit the homosexual snag almost immediately.

Fortuitously, assuming the school will not receive the grant because of its own refusal or the inevitable lawsuit that would tie up things until July 2007, the taxpayers and school are well warned…unless some sharp lawyers get hold of this. In any case, the school should not accept the help, since, by its own rules, it could not and should not accept homosexuals in any area of education. Down the road a few miles from Lexington, Ky., the home of the expelled student, is Asbury College, a Methodist stronghold and highly respected school nationally. It has a policy proscribing homosexual behavior, virtually disinviting homosexuals. This may seem unduly harsh, but if one places himself in the shoes of a college administrator who has to deal with the problems, he might wonder. I didn’t get into the expelled student’s blog, but I did get into that of his “lover” at another school. Not pretty.