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Azusa Pacific University's LGBT Compromise Will Damage Religious Freedom, Evangelicals Warn

Azusa Pacific University's LGBT Compromise Will Damage Religious Freedom, Evangelicals Warn

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler speaks at the school's convocation ceremony in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)

By Al Mohler
September 28, 2018

Last week, Azusa Pacific University (APU) announced that it had removed language from its student conduct code prohibiting "public LGBTQ+ relationships for students on campus." The school still claims to uphold biblical sexual morality, but it has relaxed its conduct standards and created a "pilot program to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ students on campus."

Evangelical Christian leaders warned that this capitulation could damage religious freedom for other Christian colleges in the future.

"It's setting a precedent for legal pressure -- and worse -- on others," Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) told PJ Media on Tuesday.

"The state of California will use APU's capitulation as a new baseline for Christian colleges," an anonymous APU staffer told PJ Media. "When Biola [University] or Master's [College] objects to future legislation curtailing religious liberty, legislators will say, 'But Look at APU! They're Christian and they don't have a problem with homosexuality.'"

APU has the freedom to set its own policies, but this change to the conduct code has tremendous implications for the culture war battles across America. Azusa Pacific did not just allow "public LGBTQ+ relationships," it did so while claiming to keep defending biblical Christian principles. LGBT organizations could use this example to demand a similar capitulation, weakening religious freedom in the name of "equity."

Last year, the underground LGBT support group Haven partnered with the LGBT organization Brave Commons to discuss these issues with Azusa Pacific's administration. "We thought it was unfair to single out queer folks in same-sex romantic relationships while it is impossible to enforce or monitor [whether other students are remaining abstinent]," Erin Green, a recent APU alumna with Brave Commons, told the student paper ZU News.

"Queer students are just as able to have romanticized relationships that abide by APU's rules. The code used to falsely assume that same-sex romances always involved sexual behavior. This stigmatization causes harm to our community, especially those serious about their Christian faith," Green argued.

Assistant Dean of Students Bill Fiala, Ph.D., explained the capitulation in terms of "equity," without suggesting any loss of religious freedom.

"The changes that occured to the handbooks around sexual behavior created one standard for all undergraduate students, as opposed to differential standards for different groups," Fiala told ZU News. "The change that happened with the code of conduct is still in alignment with our identity as a Christian institution. The language changed, but the spirit didn't. Our spirit is still a conservative, evangelical perspective on human sexuality."

In other words, Fiala's argument is that Christians can maintain their biblical sexual morality while accepting -- and perhaps even celebrating -- romantic same-sex relationships that come short of sexual activity.

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