In a fall update to faculty and staff on Sept. 10, 2015, Bethel College president Dr. Gregg Chenoweth announced that the Board of Trustees had approved a position statement in April regarding the issue of sexuality and gender identity. The “Bethel College Policy on Sexuality and Gender Identity” was approved by the Board of Trustees on April 23, 2015 and outlines the college’s position on the issues of marriage, same-sex attraction, and gender confusion. The policy affirms the lifestyle covenant, which all members of the Bethel community are expected to uphold, and explains how the college will respond to behaviors that are related to these issues and violate the covenant. While many institutions can be sued for acting according to their stated institutional beliefs and values, Chenoweth explained why Bethel is not in danger of such lawsuits. “Bethel received a religious exemption waiver from the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education for many of the changes in law regarding same sex practices on campuses,” Chenoweth stated in an email to the Bethel Beacon. Chenoweth also said that religious colleges are protected from lawsuits under the Indiana Religious Liberty Law. He said the basis for this protection is found in two questions:
- Does the government have a compelling interest in overriding a decision made out of its First Amendment rights?
- Would the First Amendment rights of the institution be substantially compromised by an overriding decision by the government?