Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where I received my Doctor of Ministry degree in 2009, received an exemption last week from the U.S. Department of Education concerning protective measures related to Title IX.

According to The Washington Post, school officials asked to “dismiss discrimination complaints filed by LGBTQ+ students that the university said were ‘inconsistent’ with the institution’s religious values.”

According to Baylor’s website, the university still operates under the 2009 Statement on Human Sexuality. In the statement, the university affirms the “purity of singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and woman as a biblical norm.”

In addition, the statement suggests, “Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior. It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.”

Finally, Baylor “encourages students struggling with these issues to avail themselves of opportunities for serious, confidential discussion, and support through the Spiritual Life Office.”

As Good Faith Media documented in a video series about the dangers of conversion therapy, many Baylor students find themselves pushed towards churches and programs engaged in conversion therapy or a similar program operating under a new name.

As the series revealed, many of these students felt marginalized and discounted by the university. Once pushed toward these harmful ministries, many suffered from severe depression, leading some to suicidal ideation.

The exemption now offers Baylor cover if any LGBTQ+ student attempts to file harassment charges, using Title IX as a basis for the allegations. Baylor continues to state that its main objectives are to ensure every student, including LGBTQ+ students, is safe and free of harassment.

However, the university’s actions in requesting an exemption provide cover in cases where charges of harassment arise. In other words, Baylor’s LGBTQ+ students have no guarantee their complaints of harassment will be heard and/or investigated.

A group of students and alumni are asking Baylor to reconsider its position regarding LGBTQ+ students. A group of students, faculty and alumni wrote a letter urging the university “to end the harmful, separate, and unequal treatment of LGBTQIA+ people in the Baylor family and to take all necessary steps to ensure that LGBTQIA+ students on campus are protected from sexual harassment in all forms.”

Furthermore, they asked Baylor “to correct the statements made in Baylor’s letter to DOE regarding the University’s Baptist faith traditions, especially statements that disregard the University’s history and the central nature of the Baptist faith.” (Note: I signed the letter.)

Good Faith Media contacted Baylor, inviting President Linda Livingstone to be a guest on the Good Faith Weekly podcast, but she did not immediately respond to our request.

Baylor’s most recent actions are concerning for a variety of reasons. However, the blatant disregard for how much its positions against LGBTQ+ students harm them and place their health in jeopardy is quite alarming.

For the most part, my experience with Baylor students, alumni, faculty, and leadership has been highly positive and productive. Within the Baylor family, I have found loving and caring individuals who genuinely love people and advocate for justice.  Most want to advance the common good for all.

For these reasons, I am left confused about why Baylor continues to take such a rigid stance against its LGBTQ+ students, alumni, and allies. The only reason I can decipher is the growing influence of some Baylor-adjacent individuals and groups attempting to claim the mantle of “centrists.”

Pushed as an alternative to the theological and political left and right, centrists claim they have a middle way. They claim they are conservative on some issues (advocating for marriage between one man and one woman) and liberal on others (supporting women in ministry—even though “support” does not always mean “advocate”).

While this middle ground may sound appealing, the reality is that a “centrist” position is apparently not inclusive.

Anytime religious convictions are used to limit and jeopardize human rights and safety, then those convictions should be reconsidered for their value and worth.

Jesus did not come for the wealthy elite to remain as they were; he came for the marginalized and oppressed. Jesus came for Baylor’s LGBTQ+ students.

If Baylor truly wants to follow the teachings and example of Jesus, then it needs to abandon its rigid stance against LGBTQ+ students. That bold action would open the door for Baylor to accept, love and affirm Baylor’s LGBTQ+ community.

This is the way of Jesus and his Gospel.

Editor’s Note: This column was edited at 10:50 a.m. to reflect the multiple voices that contributed to the letter urging the university “to end the harmful, separate, and unequal treatment of LGBTQIA+ people in the Baylor family and to take all necessary steps to ensure that LGBTQIA+ students on campus are protected from sexual harassment in all forms.”

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