Baptist college cancels vote on pro-gay policy
December 09 2003 1:00 AM ET
Arguing that it would "create a tolerance of sin," the student senate president at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., has canceled a campuswide vote on whether to add sexual orientation to the list of protected characteristics in the campus's student bill of rights. "I am in no way in favor of the mistreatment or abuse of homosexuals," Tim Perkins said in a statement made to student senators. "However, I am also called to in no way tolerate or promote sin in my own life or the lives of others." The decision comes just weeks after the Missouri Baptist Convention broke its ties with the historically Baptist-affiliated college over the issue of homosexuality. After a year of debate at the college, the student senate voted last month to approve a student ballot issue on an amendment that would have added sexual orientation to the list of protected characteristics, such as religion and gender. The senate attempted to override Perkins's veto, but failed to reach the required two-thirds majority vote.
Last month the Missouri Baptist Convention withheld about $1 million in funding it has provided the college annually, an amount that accounts for about 3% of William Jewell's budget. About 1,400
students attend William Jewell. Among the issues that persuaded convention leaders to sever
financial ties to the college were an earlier attempt to add the proposed amendment to the student bill of rights and the production of The Vagina Monologues, a play about women's sexuality and other issues. School officials said the issues had been topics of student discussion and did not pertain to college policy. The college protects all students, and discrimination for any reason is not tolerated, college officials have said.
In a statement that Perkins made to senators Wednesday, he said the debate was not about whether homosexuality was a sin, but about discrimination. If discrimination means not allowing someone living in sin to hold office in a campus organization, Perkins said, then he believes "God has clearly called us to discriminate in such a manner." Despite the failed override, students have not given up on the idea
of adding sexual orientation to the bill of rights. Joel Fitch, a senior student senator, already has started another petition drive. He said that with enough signatures--equaling 25% of the number of students who voted in the last general election--he could bypass senate approval to bring the amendment to a student vote.