Harding University President Issues Statement Against HU Queer Press March 6, 2011

Harding University President Issues Statement Against HU Queer Press

A week after anonymous gay and lesbian students at Harding University (a private, Christian school) put out an online magazine sharing their personal stories, the president of the university, David Burks, has issued a statement against it:

He finds the website so “offensive and degrading,” he can’t even say the site’s name because the word “queer” offends him.

Because I guess stories about love are degrading.

Because I guess stories that bring light to the harsh truth about “Christian values” should not be discussed.

Because I guess open discussion about a controversial issue must be stifled.

Because I guess since those students are gay, their personal stories don’t matter to the president of the school.

Harding is a private school. The administration can do whatever it wants — block the site, expel students who don’t live up to their bigoted standards, preach that homosexuality is immoral, etc. But as long as they keep doing that, students who know better will see through it all.

At least we live in a time when every student on that campus can still access the website — huqueerpress.com — on their phones…

(via Joe. My. God.)

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  • Jeff. B

    “It was important to block because of what is says about Harding”

    What? The truth?

  • I am always boggled that gays and lesbians even bother with Christianity; it should be clear by now that Christianity is a bigot’s wet dream.

  • Ryan

    At first I thought he wasn’t saying the name just to avoid having people visit the site, but no, he made sure to point out that just the very word queer is so intolerably offensive that he can’t possibly mention it. I’m not sure if you could call telling a group of people that they are so offensive that you can’t even say their name bullying, but I couldn’t help but think of that when he was talking about how they don’t allow bullying. He may talk against bullying all he wants but the message he’s sending with how he talks about queer folk is that they are offensive, immoral, vulgar and profane. Which not only encourages and rationalizes bullying.

  • Dakota Bob

    I wish the name Christianity was so offensive nobody could say it.

  • Elena Villarreal

    It’s hard for me not to respect this. I’d rather deal with someone like this than someone who beats up gay men when they think they can get away with it, or someone who opposes gay marriage because of some vague appeal to “tradition.” His rejection is baseless and irrational sure, but I think there’s something more here than an intellectually lazy effusion of disgust. He seems like he would be respectful towards a gay person, and maybe not even hateful. Maybe I’m wrong.

  • Steve

    He probably finds it offensive because the word has been somewhat re-appropriated and is freely used by especially younger people, either as a catch-all term for all kinds of orientations or as a synonym to “gay”. Though the tone and how uses it should make the meaning pretty clear.

  • One of the stories says “My hope is that Harding will become a place that everyone is able to have have the love and support that I did…Harding as started taking these steps, and I hope that they’ll continue to progress in a direction that will benefit all students.”

    Well, I suppose one can always live in hope.

  • Ethalsar

    Maybe it’s because I’m British and there’s something I’m missing here, but why is this acceptable in a ‘private’ institution? At what point does the law on equality get suspended to the point where to be openly gay means you risk being expelled?

  • Tizzle

    I’m glad he said he’s against bullying. I’m not especially a fan of anything else he said (or refused to say), but it’s something that needs to be acknowledged right now. Also, I’m not going to defend the accuracy of what he believes the bible says (there are gay christians who can do that), but he can believe it all he wants and even run his school the way he wants.

    I think at Harding, the important thing is not changing their policies, but just awareness. Not that my take on it is important. 🙂

  • Sean Santos

    He says that they had to block it, because it says bad things about them. What kind of respect for open discourse can you have if the university blocks criticism of itself willy-nilly?


    why is this acceptable in a ‘private’ institution?

    Firstly, in the US, there is no federal non-discrimination law that covers non-government (private) institutions and also covers sexual orientation. None. So unless there’s a local or state law involved, there’s nothing to stop any GLBT people from being fired, expelled, refused housing, or suffering other forms of discrimination in public accommodations.

    There is an act (ENDA) that is attempting to fix this, and give the same federal protections to sexual orientation as to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, and disability. It has been stuck in Congress for some time and who knows when it will pass, if ever.

    Secondly, even if there was such a law, private schools are still protected under the First Amendment. Freedom of religion+association is understood to mean that private schools with a particular religious agenda can discriminate using any criteria they want, including sexuality, religion, or even race. However, they may lose tax-exempt status if involved in race or gender discrimination.

  • Richard P.

    Sex is the creation of god and meant to be holy just as god is holy

    all things being equal, I guess we should not just irreverently flush the toilet, being that everything is created by god and should be holy. Should we be saying a little prayer before the flush?

    Whats really horrible about the whole thing is that people applauded at the end.

    Were so screwed….

  • Sean Santos

    (BTW, whatever bad things might be said about Colorado, we do have such non-discrimination laws, despite having had to escalate a case all the way to the Supreme Court to keep them. Also trying to get civil unions; I’m going to a meeting of our state senate’s judiciary committee tomorrow where they will discuss this.)

  • “Because I guess open discussion about a controversial issue must be stifled.”

    This. I find this to be the most frustrating thing about this whole “debate” — the unwillingness by so many to actually allow dissenting views to be heard. My post about being affirming resulted in being dumped from a site for Christian blogs. Despite still BEING a Christian blog, choosing not to toe the line simply resulted in me being removed so that message just isn’t heard. It’s frustrating, to be sure, and this isn’t something that has any real affect on my day to day life. I can’t imagine how painful garbage like that must be for people for whom it has a direct impact.

  • Jeff

    It isn’t a real Christian University. There’s nothing on their website about going to hell.

  • Sean Santos

    And because I was bored, here’s a link to a map that shows where in the US actually has non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation.

  • After he proclaimed that while some people believe the bible to have been written by bronze-aged desert dwellers seeking to control others, and that he does not share that notion, stating that he believes God “breathed” the words into the bible, and how it is God’s will, not the will of a modern democratic society that we must follow, I would love to immediately have been able to ask him about the parts of the bible that call for slavery, genocide, homicide, rape etc… with quoted passages! Let’s see if he’s willing to go all the way on this notion that we must follow the word of God and not our own will, or the modern standards of a democratic society.

  • dustin

    mr burks shouldnt be offended by the name of the website, after all it is a site about harding students. which half just happen to be queer!

  • Harding Student

    Yes, I am a student at Harding University. We sign a contract and must abide by it. We say we will remain sexually pure, no sex of any kind. The school doesn’t discriminate homosexuals alone. ANYONE who does anything involving sex is expelled (unless they are married), even if it’s just oral sex. There are kids who the students know to be gay and I haven’t heard of them being bullied.
    Another point I’d like to bring up is the fact that these students know what they are getting into before they are a student of Harding. Each student must read the rulebook before being allowed in, and in the handbook it states no sexual immorality, none. They still choose to go here.

  • Steve

    Another point I’d like to bring up is the fact that these students know what they are getting into before they are a student of Harding

    This doesn’t necessarily apply to gay students. Saying so is the same nonsense as saying gay soldiers knew what they signed up for with DADT.

    College is the time when most people figure out their sexuality. Gay or straight. In fact, the recurring theme of the magazine is that most of them became comfortable with their sexuality at Harding even if they had some idea that they were gay before. And some only realize that they are attracted to the same gender then.

  • Erp

    @harding student.

    These students might not engage in sexual activities with others; however, that doesn’t change their sexual orientation. Part of the abuse they complain about is that Harding University is not factual about homosexuality. It teaches that it is the fault of the parents, though current research shows this is not so. This must be distressing to those gay students whose parents are deeply loving.

    As for choosing to attend, students might be obeying their parents (I assume that is a virtue at Harding) or they might have hoped that Harding would have a ‘cure’ for their sexual orientation (about as likely as curing someone of left-handedness). I hope that the students do find security, perhaps within humanism, perhaps within more accepting Christian denominations. Perhaps they will marry though the person will be the same sex as them.

    BTW have you read their web site or are you just taking the words of others?

  • Allecher

    In case there are other Harding University students who are reading this, I wanted to point out that this is a Facebook page for the Searcy Freethinkers which you should find welcoming. There are also freethinker groups in nearby Conway and Little Rock. You are NOT alone!

  • Sean Santos

    The school doesn’t discriminate homosexuals alone. ANYONE who does anything involving sex is expelled (unless they are married)

    Except that a) if they mean “legally married”, they are letting the state discriminate for them (rather cowardly), and b) if they would not recognize a same-sex marriage, regardless of its legal status, then they are, actually, discriminating against GLBTs by not granting them the marriage exemption to this policy. If you’re going to discriminate against gay people, and you don’t have the conviction to admit to it, it’s hard to find much that’s worthy of respect in that.

    these students know what they are getting into before they are a student of Harding.

    Besides the fact that some people don’t really come to terms with being gay before entering college, it’s actually not true that they “know what they are getting into”. Before attending Harding, they probably don’t understand all that well what the attitudes and culture are like, or how difficult it might be to face the daily choice of either continuing lies of omission in the closet, or facing rejection by everyone around them. They are 18-year-olds who haven’t been in that situation; there’s no way that most of them are making a well-informed choice.

    Each student must read the rulebook before being allowed in, and in the handbook it states no sexual immorality, none.

    That’s a funny policy. One does wonder what proportion of Harding students have premarital(/extramarital) sex anyway, and what proportion of those get caught. That kind of policing seems hard to take seriously.

    More to the point, does the handbook also say that the university will not tolerate criticism of how it approaches gay issues? That a serious treatment of the problems that its students encounter, can be dismissed as “offensive”? Because the stand it’s taking here is not just against homosexuality, but also about the ability to discuss the subject openly.

    Does the handbook say “We will lie to you about homosexuality, promoting theories that were debunked decades ago and junk research, and if you try to correct us we will block your website and denounce your measured criticism as offensive and degrading (without, of course, explaining why it’s degrading)”? I somehow doubt that the handbook really covers everything at issue here.

  • Arachobia

    So much double standards. The “I don’t approve of bullying part” especially.

    But watch the cunning ‘I won’t say homosexual relations are bad out right, but I’ll hide behind saying that god wants people to be married before they do anything sexual.’ Yeah, cause Christians don’t want gays to be married, so this is just a less bigoted way of saying gay sex is deviant.

  • mitch

    This is amazing to me. How is it that a Christian University doesn’t get to have standards and opinions but everyone else does? Even if their view on homosexuality, beastiality, pornography, affairs, etc. are only opinions (which they aren’t’ they are more than that, they are beliefs), why is it that they don’t get to have those opinions and everyone else does.?

    It seems that in order to be “open-minded” you have to believe that homosexuality is right and that you don’t have a “choice” about being defined by your sexuality. Why is that? I would much rather have the choice then not.

    I’m still trying to come at this open-minded, but as I read this is what I see. Someone want to help me out?

  • Slider33

    Wow– H.U. feels like *they* are the victims here? They feel like they are the ones being degraded and humiliated?

    “They don’t want to control your thinking”, but they blocked the site anyway.

    Oh the humanity.

  • Steve

    Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean it’s valid or legit. Especially if that “opinion” results in actions that actively hurt people. Like in this case – for example by forcing them to be in the closet, constantly telling them there is something wrong with them or by subjecting them to “therapy” (as told in the magazine)

    Also, Christians (or believers in general) have this strange notion that just because an opinion is based on religious conviction, it magically becomes exempt from criticism. The opposite is the case. It deserves more scrutiny that one arrived at through thought and logic.

  • martha

    Mitch, I like what Harlan Ellison says about opinions: Everybody has opinions: I have them, you have them. And we are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble. It’s like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks.

    The opinion of this University is not informed, it is without research and without understanding. The research shows homosexuality isn’t a choice. To believe it is because it would be nice is bibble-babble.

  • Randy

    now unless things have changed private institutions can discriminate however they please. The Southern Baptist school I attended for 8th-9th grade only allowed whites, as did several other private schools. They recieved not State or Federal funds so they could do as they pleased. If you compare this to the Citidel and VMI cases and their banning females, the Citidel was a federal landmark which somehow made the exclusion illegal and VMI recieved federal funds so it also was illegal. Things may have changed since I was there, but that was the law of the land in the 80’s.

  • anon

    I went to Harding University for part of my undergrad and applaud Dr. Burks response to this issue. Every student has read and understands clearly the expectations and beliefs of the school. I completly understood if I was to have premarital sex, smoke, drink that I would be expelled. Although these are all legal in America, I chose to enroll in Harding University and abide by their rules. If you are not okay with what they want their students to abide by or are not comfortable with what is said during chapel, simply do not go there. OR transfer to a state school, where I am currently surrounded by hundreds of homosexuals every day. I think Harding is a wonderful school and wishes every day that I could be back at a school that is so supportive and filled with love.

  • Former Student

    Anon, grow a brain. There are just as many homosexuals at Harding, percentage wise, as there are at any of those state schools that you seem to think are crawling with heathens and sinners. You are regurgitating the brainwashing of the Harding administration! Every day in chapel, we were told about how horrible that state colleges supposedly were. I’ve met nicer people with better morals at state schools than I ever met at Harding.

    You think Harding is filled with love and a supportive environment. Well, Harding is definitely not a supportive or loving environment for women, minorities or gays. Although I’m sure its a fine environment if you happen to be a white, heterosexual Republican male. I went there, I know. As a woman, I was told all the time I was inferior to men and my only job was to find a husband at college.

    Quit talking about how wonderful Harding is. Many of us out here know better, and we will continue to challenge those who tell lies about this supposedly wonderful Christian school.

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