Harding University is an insanely conservative Church of Christ-affiliated school in Searcy, Arkansas, just north of Little Rock. It’s one of those schools that, as a private institution, has the right to set its own policies. Unfortunately, as with any private Christian university, there will be students whose parents encourage them to go there, because of their beliefs, but who do not conform to the rigid, wingnut ideal encouraged by the school. Specifically, there will be gay students who are discriminated against just because of who they are, because even in a faith-based school in the hinterlands of Arkansas, where religious indoctrination, rather than education, is the number one priority, college is a time when many gay students finally find the courage to live with integrity and honesty. They are not misbehaving. They are who they are, and no number of poorly informed school policies will change that fact.
In that spirit, a group of LGBT students and alumni at Harding have created a zine which seeks to make their voices heard in the dark, lifeless halls of that place. Here is their opening letter:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the administration immediately blocked access to the zine with their internet filter, and when asked for comment, said the following:
Harding University is a private Christian university whose mission and policies are rooted in biblical principles. All students are given a copy of the handbook and know about our mission and policies before their first day on campus. The student handbook states that the university holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to God outside the context of marriage and that sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the university.
Based on that policy, university administrators felt that having this website available on campus goes against said mission and policies. In addition, the handbook states that any literature distributed on campus must be approved by the Office of Student Life and must state the name of the sponsoring organization. These pamphlets were both printed and distributed anonymously with no prior approval, and the website is an online version of that pamphlet.
You see, fundamentalist wingnuttery dies when reality is allowed to shine in. Schools like Harding are only able to thrive if they do everything in their power to reject the real world outside their walls. That’s why their handbook has policies like this:
Harding University holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to God outside the context of marriage. Sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the University. Visiting in the residence of a single member of the opposite gender, even though others are present, without permission is prohibited.
Staying overnight in a motel, hotel or any such arrangement with a member of the opposite gender will result in suspension, although explicit sexual immorality may not have been observed.
Students are prohibited from possessing or displaying pornographic materials of any type. This includes the use of vulgarity, profanity, and any offensive language or offensive symbols.
Students are not allowed to social dance or go to dance clubs, bars, or other inappropriate places of entertainment.
The illegal, unauthorized use or abuse of Harding University’s telephone, computer or network system is prohibited.
Men and women are discouraged from excessive public displays of affection.
But what’s funny is that, due to the Harding administration’s puerile reaction to the publication, it’s getting far more attention than it ever would have. People all across the country today are disseminating the brave words of these Harding students and alumni, shining a light on the sad state of affairs in this backwoods clown college, and letting the students, administration and alumni of Harding and similar schools know that yes, LGBT people are there too.
Do yourself a favor and read through the zine, as it’s really a stellar publication. Alumni tell the stories of the truly insane crap that the “school” peddles to gay students, the anti-scientific way they go about “counseling” gay students, and students tell the stories of what religious abuse really does to gay people. They talk about what the closet is like, and they even take some time to explain the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to fundamentalist morons who apparently have never heard of a concordance.
Enjoy, and share it far and wide. And to the intellectually bereft scolds who run Harding: enjoy your little moment of shame. That sound? Other schools laughing at you.