National speakers gather for LGBT demonstration
Biolan's Equal Ground confronts admin’s responses to the Nashville Statement and reparative therapy with campus demonstration. | Kyle Kohner/THE CHIMES
ARTICLE UPDATED ON DEC. 6, 2017 AT 6:00 P.M.
Requesting a formal apology for a homosexuality seminar allegedly supporting sexual orientation change efforts and a denouncement of article seven of the Nashville Statement, Biolan’s Equal Ground organized a demonstration today outside the Biola Avenue entrance.
A call for change
The requests come from a letter sent to administration by the Tyler Clementi Foundation on Nov. 28, which included asking administration for a response by Dec. 1. BEG, alongside the Tyler Clementi Foundation, invited clergy members, scholars, theologians and previous Biola students to share their perspectives on the possible damages that can come from theology, according to executive director of BEG and faith programs coordinator for the Tyler Clementi foundation Erin Green.
The demonstration also sought to support and care for LGBT students on campus.
“This rally was not for Biola, this was for the students on this community, the LGBTQ students who are currently here and suffering... to let them know that we support them and that we are here as a safety net for them... if they are afraid to approach administration or any faculty or anything like that within the school,” Green said.
After gathering for a small prayer meeting on Metzger Lawn, organizers and participants moved outside the gate to the sidewalk. Several speakers discussed their viewpoints, including former Biola student Sammy Schwimmer, who shared a spoken word poem, and founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation Jane Clementi, who focused on the role of Christian institutions in social issues.
“I believe that students should be upstanders and speak out when students are being harmed and I believe that this administration is harming not only the gay students but all students by teaching that reparative therapy is OK,” Clementi said.
BEG and the Tyler Clementi Foundation also requested an apology for inviting author and speaker Alan Shlemon to speak in a homosexuality seminar, where he reportedly endorsed sexual orientation change efforts, such as reparative therapy, according to Green.
Standing against reparative therapy and article seven
“Reparative therapy has been proven not to be effective, but to not only [be ineffective], but be even more harmful to student’s life, and this is really life threatening things. And the administration has not taken it seriously,” said Mitchell Gold, board member of the Tyler Clementi Foundation.
The seminar was intended to provide Christian and secular arguments and research for homosexuality in the Bible for an apologetics class, according to manager of media relations Jenna Loumagne in an email.
“The seminar hosted on Sept. 29-30 was not a seminar in support of conversion/reparative therapy,” Loumagne said in an email. A guest lecturer from outside the university, Alan Shlemon, included a reference to conversion/reparative therapy in his presentation as part of providing multiple viewpoints, however, he did not share the research in support of conversion/reparative therapy.”
After the lecture, administration refused to publish the seminar online, according to BEG’s request letter. Out of respect for those who paid to attend, administration informed BEG that they do not post paid events online, according to Loumagne in an email.
Despite not signing the Nashville Statement as an institution, 10 Biola professors signed the statement within 30 days of its release in September. BEG claimed article seven, which states, “WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption,” does not align with Biola’s official policy on sexuality.
“So basically we wanted to point out the incongruency between Biola’s own policy with having Sustinere on campus... versus the Nashville Statement article seven itself... which says that you cannot identify as gay and Christian at the same time,” Green said. “We see this dissonance occurring between certain professors with power and privilege and tenure versus Biola policy.”
According to Loumagne in an email, administration has responded to the Tyler Clementi Foundation, including the seminar specifically by saying Biola does not endorse reparative therapy.
“Biola University is a Christ-centered institution founded on truth, love and grace and seeks to be a community where all students, staff and faculty can thrive,” Loumagne said in an email. “In response to the Tyler Clementi Foundation demands, a representative from the university spoke with a representative from the foundation on Friday, Dec. 1. The university informed the foundation that the university stands with them against any type of bullying and that the university will be thoughtfully considering their requests.”