LGBT activists at a Christian university in California are demanding that the school remove clauses from its student conduct policy that they believe discriminate against LGBT individuals.
At a vigil held this week in support of former employee Mahesh Pradhan, who is suing the university for wrongful demotion and claims he was harassed and assaulted by colleagues who believed he was gay, a group of students delivered a letter to administrators at Azusa Pacific University that demanded four things, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune has reported.
The letter not only demanded a full investigation and action against the employees who allegedly harassed the former line chef but also demanded recognition of the LGBT student group Haven as an official university student group. The letter also demanded the "removal of clauses in the student handbook that discriminate against the LGBT students," and that the school institute campuswide LGBT training for its staff and incoming students.
Although students do not have to be Christian to attend APU, all students are expected to comply with " lifestyle expectations" outlined in the student handbook, the Undergraduate Catalog and "any additional policies related to living in the APU community," according to the school's website.
The school's Student Standards of Conduct bars students from doing such things as jaywalking and hazing to engaging in overnight stays with members of the opposite sex. In sticking with traditional Christian teachings, the school's policy also specifically bans same-sex relationships.
"Students may not engage in a romanticized same-sex relationship," section 9 of the policy states.
Additionally, section 11 of the policy states that "[s]tudents may not engage in unmarried sexual behavior."
"The university only recognizes the marriage between a man and a woman," the document reads.
In a statement provided to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, APU spokeswoman Rachel White explained that "APU adheres to a traditional definition of marriage."
"We are transparent about our belief," White was quoted as saying. "Each student must look at the university's values and decide if APU is the right place for them. It's an individual choice."
However, the lawyer for Pradhan argues that the policies outlined in the student handbook were directly related to the abuse that his client suffered. Attorney Arthur Kim argues that the policies violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
"(APU is) an educational institution that is open to the public that interacts with the public and yet it insists on imposing its own specific religious beliefs on everyone whether or not they believe it," Kim said.
Erin Green, a senior at Azusa Pacific University who is a gay Christian, told the news outlet that she doesn't have "time for patience and for tolerance."
"I am asked oftentimes by Christian universities to be patient while the universities are trying to make progress in this area, but as a gay Christian, honestly, I don't think we have time for patience and for tolerance," Green said. "People's lives are at stake. If they aren't self harming or being harmed by others, they are dying on the inside."
The identity statement explains that as an "evangelical community of disciples and scholars who embrace the historic Christian understanding of Scripture, Azusa Pacific University holds that sexuality is a gift from God and basic to human identity as well as a matter of behavioral expression."
"We hold that the full behavioral expression of sexuality is to take place within the context of a marriage covenant between a man and a woman and that individuals remain celibate outside of the bond of marriage," the statement reads. "Therefore, we seek to cultivate a community in which sexuality is embraced as God-given and good and where biblical standards of sexual behavior are upheld."
The identity statement also includes eight "foundational principles from the Bible."
"In Scripture, several sexual behaviors are expressly forbidden, which include but are not limited to: fornication, adultery, incest, unnatural sexual intercourse, and homosexual acts (Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:7-23, 20:10-21; Matthew 5:27-28; Romans 1:20-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:17-19; Colossians 3:5)."
As Christian conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart, the founder of the blog Caffeinated Thoughts, notes in a post, APU students are expected to sign a statement of agreement with the school's policies when they apply.
One question on the application asks if they agree to abide by student standards of conduct. Vander Hart argues that "no one forced those students to attend APU."
This is not the first time that LGBT activists and students have pressured a Christian college to capitulate on its statements and principles on sexuality and marriage.
"For those who ask 'how has gay marriage impacted you?' We can point to stories such as this. There are some who want to make us conform. Right now Christian colleges and universities are feeling the most heat, but it will not stop there," Vander Hart wrote. "Christian-based institutions must be allowed to retain their identity or else they cease to be Christian-based."
According to The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pradhan alleges that during his tenure at the school, he was called a "faggot" and even hit in the behind with a wooden paddle by his supervisor. Pradhan also accuses former colleagues of locking him in a freezer and cornering him in a restroom.
"He does not deserve harassment," Vander Hart assured. "If this happened, the school should follow its policies regarding such behavior (and they may have already)."
However, Vander Hart explains that if Pradhan's demotion was a result of him trying to impose his own values that contradict the school's principles, "they have every right to discipline him for that."