Just a week after Azusa Pacific University announced the removal of a ban on same-sex relationships, the evangelical Christian college has reinstated it.
The move to dignify the rights of queer students was first reported by ZU Media, the Azusa, Calif., university's student paper, which noted that an "underground support group" for LGBTQ students had existed at APU for years.
The group, called Haven, was unable to obtain recognition as an official student organization, But its members began pushing for an end to anti-LGBTQ discrimination at APU after former employee Mahesh Pradhan claimed to have been assaulted and harassed by colleagues who thought he was gay.
The university's code of conduct states that students are to refrain from sex outside marriage, and it defines marriage as strictly a union between a man and a woman. It also specifically says that “students may not engage in a romanticized same-sex relationship.”
“We thought it was unfair to single out queer folks in same-sex romantic relationships while it is impossible to enforce or monitor [whether other students are abstaining from sex],” Eric Green, an APU alumnus and co-executive director of LGBTQ organization Brave Commons, told ZU. “Queer students are just as able to have romanticized relationships that abide by APU’s rules. The code used falsely assumed that same-sex romances always involved sexual behavior. This stigmatization causes harm to our community, especially those serious about their Christian faith.”
Green coordinated conversations between queer students and administrators, which led to the change in policy. But that change has now been reversed.
“The changes that occurred to the handbooks around sexual behavior creates one standard for all undergraduate students, as opposed to differential standards for different groups,” Associate Dean of Students Bill Fiala told the student publication at the time. “The change that happened with the code of conduct is still in alignment with our identity as a Christian institution. The language changed, but the spirit didn’t. Our spirit is still a conservative, evangelical perspective on human sexuality.”
Fiala also said APU would initiate a program in support of LGBTQ students that would formally partner with Haven's meetings and involve educational outreach. The first week of meetings, 37 people attended, followed by 47 the second week of the fall semester.
However, the steps toward inclusion were quickly reversed, as announced in an email sent Friday, ZU reports.
The email from APU's Board of Trustees informed the university commuity that it would restore the code of conduct to its original language, reaffirming the ban on same same-sex romantic relationships.
“Last week, reports circulated about a change in the undergraduate student standards of conduct,” the email said. “That action concerning romanticized relationships was never approved by the board and the original wording has been reinstated.”
However, the fate of Haven remains unknown.
“The board of trustees’ decision to reinforce the policy banning romanticized same-sex relationships is heartbreaking to a lot of people in the APU community,” Nolan Croce, a co-leader of the LGBTQ group, told ZU. “However, this recent decision does not change the fact that the LGBTQ+ community on campus is still present and needs to be loved and cared for. Along with many others, I am determined to continue to support and care for my rainbow brothers and sisters in Christ in any way possible. What that [support] will look is yet to be decided.”
He said Haven will continue to meet Tuesday nights but will change its name; a new name has yet to be chosen. “Its purpose will be the same: to create a safe space on campus for LGBTQ+ students to engage in conversation and have fellowship with one another,” he said. "Most of the LGBT students I’ve met on campus, including myself, desire to keep God first in all that we do. In fact, some of the most devoted and confident Christians I’ve met at APU have been members of the LGBT community."