WAXAHACHIE — Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization that supports the LBGTQ community on college campuses, released a university “Shame List” in which Southwestern Assembly of God University appeared on. The shame list claims to include the “absolute worst campuses for LGBTQ youth” in the United States.
According to an Aug. 4 letter addressed to SAGU President Kermit S. Bridges by Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, the University has received Title IX exemptions. The exemption allows the university to govern admissions, housing, rules based on martial or parental status, athletics, employment and other areas without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, and other criteria.
Although SAGU did not make original press deadline, Bridges has since released a statement regarding the list.
"Like many institutions on this list, SAGU is a Christian university with a distinctly Christian mission. Our policies align with the teachings of the Assemblies of God," Bridges said. "These policies are clearly articulated to prospective students, who choose SAGU because they want to attend a university whose mission and educational practices align with their faith.
"For 240 years our nation has protected the freedom of religious groups to exercise faith apart from government intervention," the SAGU president continued. "The United States Constitution and the Title IX statute both allow for faith-based schools like SAGU to follow our deeply held religious tenets.
Lists like this attempt to shame individuals and organizations who hold views different than their own. However, the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution reflect our nation’s appreciation for diverse ideas and institutions in society, even if they do not align with the society at large."
Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of Campus Pride, said most schools are "shocked" to learn of placement on the list.
“Most people are shocked when they learn that there are college campuses still today that openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth. It is an unspoken secret in higher education, how they use religion as a tool for cowardice and discrimination,” said Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of Campus Pride. “This list uncovers the religion-based bigotry that is harmful and perpetrated against LGBTQ youth on these campuses.
“Ultimately these campuses are dangerous for vulnerable LGBTQ youth and others," he added. "All families and youth deserve to know this information – and so do corporations who do business with these campuses – from those who hire and recruit, vendors who contract food service, sell books, make donations and in any other way provides goods or services to a college or university."
An SAGU senior who wishes to remain unknown noted his opinion of the issue.
“I believe that SAGU could be perceived that way for many reasons. It is a Christian university that is private, reserving the right to refuse education to any student," the senior said. "When students enrolled at the university, they signed a document stating that they are Christian. To be upfront, SAGU does refuse education to those who are not Christian. We are a Christian university designed to develop ministers in the vocational ministry fields and secular workplace."
Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL