Campus News

Bethel makes Campus Pride ‘Hall of Shame’ list

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Bethel College’s name is on yet another college list, but this one isn’t so friendly. Campus Pride, an LGBTQ campus advocacy group, recently compiled what they call their “Hall of Shame.” According to the site itself (www.campuspride.org/ShameList), “The Shame List identifies the 'absolute worst campuses for LGBTQ youth' in the United States. The colleges & universities listed have chosen to openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth and have requested Title IX exemptions to perpetuate the harms of religion-based bigotry.” Bethel College made the list, among other religiously-oriented colleges and universities that have applied for the exemption for religious reasons. Last December, the Bethel administration made the news in the South Bend Tribune for its request for an exemption to the United States Department of Education’s Title IX, which states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Bethel received the exemption on the grounds given by regulation 34 C.F.R. § 106.12 of Title IX, which states: “this part does not apply to an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization to the extent application of this part would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.” But Campus Pride disagrees with this regulation. Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, is quoted on the Hall of Shame Web page as saying: “Religion-based bigotry is careless and life-threatening. LGBTQ young people face high rates of harassment and violence, especially our trans youth and LGBTQ youth of color. The schools on this list openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth and many of these schools have requested or received Title IX exemptions for no other purpose than to discriminate, expel and ban LGBTQ youth from campus. It is shameful and wrong.” When asked about his reaction to Bethel's inclusion, vice president of student development Shawn Holtgren said he wasn't surprised. He said that he recognizes that Bethel's community standards could be seen as bad by those who do not hold them. Holtgren also said that he feels that no official action really needs to be taken on Bethel's behalf. "Bethel has always accepted all students and we're hospitable to all who attend," he said. Holtgren mentioned he personally knows and has actually mentored several LGBTQ students on Bethel's campus, calling it a "privilege." "They love Jesus," he said, "and are grappling with what it looks like to be a Christian who may experience same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria or questions related to sexual orientation or identity." Holtgren went on to say, "Every organization, business or entity has standards and ways of behaving and belief systems. We're not different. We're an opt-in community. People can choose to be a part." However, an opt-in community was not Campus Pride's main criticism of these schools. Bethel's entry on the list reads "Bethel College has qualified for the Shame List because it holds an exemption to Title IX, allowing the college to discriminate against its students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy or receipt of abortion while still receiving federal funds." However, Holtgren pointed out that Bethel as an institution does not receive federal funds. He said that federal funds go to students for them to choose which university they wish to attend. As for what he wanted students to know about the issue, Hotlgren said "They will know we're Christians by our love and how we behave as we debate these issues, and we should. [We] should be marked by charity and respect."
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