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LGBT Rights, Religious Faith at Odds at Some Colleges

LGBT Rights, Religious Faith at Odds at Some Colleges

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The relationship between religion and LGBT rights is becoming an issue at some colleges and universities -- at liberal schools, administrators are dealing with concerns about student faith groups that are antigay, while some conservatives are decrying the presence of pro-gay groups on Catholic campuses.

At Tufts University in Medford, Mass., chaplain David O'Leary (pictured) is in discussions with leaders of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, a national evangelical Christian group, and its student chapter at the university, the Tufts Christian Fellowship. Concerns have been raised about the national organization exerting undue influence on the Tufts group and about discriminatory practices of both, reports The Tufts Daily, the university's student newspaper.

Four students filed a complaint in November with the university judiciary, saying the Tufts Christian Fellowship's policies conflicted with the university's nondiscrimination policy, which covers sexual orientation. The Christian group requires "sexual chastity" of members, but that is applied differently to gay and straight members, according to one of the students who lodged the complaint (since withdrawn while awaiting O'Leary's findings).

"Chastity is interpreted differently for straight people and queer people, being that if you're straight you can still be chaste and have a typical romantic relationship, holding hands and stuff, but if you're LGBTQ-identified, then no contact. You have to be celibate," Grainne Griffiths told the Daily. "That shouldn't be happening under a nondiscrimination policy which protects sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression."

Tufts, a private university, is now nonsectarian, but it was founded in 1852 by a liberal Christian denomination, the Universalist Church of America, which merged with the Unitarian Church in 1961 to form the Unitarian Universalist Association, one of the most LGBT-affirming religious bodies.

Meanwhile, an ultraconservative Catholic group has reported that 107, or 43%, of the 244 U.S. Catholic colleges and universities have a school-sanctioned LGBT student organization. TFP Student Action, an affiliate of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, has created an online petition calling for the schools to end support for such groups.

"Students are getting immoral messages from these clubs," said TFP Student Action director John Ritchie, in a statement posted on the organization's website. "A sort of dictatorship of tolerance is slowly squeezing out the truth, silencing Catholic teaching right on Catholic campuses. More and more Catholic college students are confronted with visible, active, and well-funded pro-homosexual clubs that openly contradict natural law and undermine moral values."

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