January 28, 2003
LIBERTY – Sexual orientation will not be included in the Student Bill of Rights at William Jewell College after a Student Senate vote Tuesday narrowly failed to get the necessary three-fourths majority needed for passage.
Had the measure garnered the required 15 votes (the vote was 12-7 to include sexual orientation in the document), the issue would have gone before the entire student body for a vote in February. This marks the second time in five years that homosexual activists and their supporters have attempted to include sexual orientation in the document. The issue has divided the student body and left the administration at odds with Southern Baptists in Missouri, including the nearly 2,000 churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
"This is further evidence of how the homosexual movement is making a major effort to gain acceptance into the mainstream of American society," said David Clippard, MBC executive director. "This continuing indoctrination, with acceptance as its goal, is a process that begins in grade-school classrooms. I call upon the administration of William Jewell to become more proactive in injecting a Christian world-life view into the minds of their students."
William Jewell is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, USA, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and the MBC, but not the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). William Jewell receives approximately $1 million a year (about three percent of the school’s annual budget) from the MBC.
The MBC Executive Board’s Inter-agency Relations Committee has launched an official inquiry into the pro-homosexual activity on campus and is expected to report back its findings at the executive board’s April meeting.
MBC leaders have repeatedly called on the William Jewell administration to take a strong stand against what many see as a growing homosexual influence at the school. William Jewell President David Sallee said the school would not give in to outside pressure and defended the students’ right to debate and vote on the homosexuality issue.
"The administration’s lack of a stance equals an assault on the biblical family," said Kenny Qualls, MBC associate executive director and head of the convention’s family ministry. "First Peter 1:16 says you shall be holy for I am holy,’ so God is holy and His Word commands us to be holy. We are to be conformed to the Word not conformed to the world. There will never be revival without God’s people being committed to God’s Word in the area of holiness and purity.
"I rejoice that the sexual orientation clause in the Student Bill of Rights was barely defeated, but overall my heart is still broken. The leadership of William Jewell will be held accountable for their silence. They have an opportunity to stand for holiness, righteousness and what a biblical family really means. Missouri Baptists are still waiting."
If it had passed, it would have carried no legal weight, but would have served as a reflection of students’ expectations. The administration has already stated that it will not recognize homosexual groups on campus, but continues to encourage debate on the subject and has even allowed pro-homosexual activists to speak at school events.
For example, Paul Duke delivered William Jewell’s 2002 baccalaureate address. Duke has been a key spokesman for the pro-homosexual faction within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and is a former New Testament professor at the CBF-supported Mercer University McAfee School of Theology in Georgia.
The issue is not about judging whether homosexuality is right or wrong, said B.J. Cardin, a member of the Student Senate who introduced the sexual orientation amendment for consideration.
"That’s as basic of an argument as I can make to people, that it doesn’t represent every student on campus like it’s supposed to," he told The Kansas City Star.
"I don’t want people to regurgitate what their mom and dad said, what their youth pastor said," Cardin added. "I want it to come from their own minds, and that’s all that is really important."
The homosexual issue has split the student body, although it is unknown how many students are on either side.
"I see a connection between Jewell’s religious connection and passing this," said Lindsey Gronewold, a senior class representative who voted against the measure. "This (homosexuality) is a choice, and morally it’s not right."
Another student, Alexandra Hutchings, a junior English major, expressed her anger in a letter to the editor of The Hilltop Monitor, the student newspaper.
"The truth is that Jewell needs me and the handful of like-minded students if they want to appear diverse," she wrote. "And Jewell needs students like B.J. Cardin who are willing to question something that isn’t right. Hopefully he had more patience for students opposed to his amendment than I do. And I like a challenge. Believing in God – in fact, being Baptist – does not give anyone the right to criticize a person’s sexual preference. If you believe in God, let him do the judging."
After implying that Time magazine would withdraw its naming of William Jewell as its "Liberal Arts College of the Year" for 2001 if it returned to campus to see the pro-homosexual measure fail, Hutchings closed with this thought:
"Good luck recruiting new troops to fight homosexuality with only the Bible to justify your war. "I’ll be watching you fail, megaphone in hand."
Some students were seen leaving the senate meeting in tears, according to Kent Cochran, a neighbor to the college and a member of First Baptist Church, Raytown who attended the meeting.
"One young man came running down the stairs saying, ‘I hate this school. This school is stupid."
Cochran said he was also observed two girls holding hands and at one point one of the girls placed a hand on the other’s lower back, while two boys holding hands, stopped to embrace – all in front of at least three school administrators who monitored the meeting.
He said the administrators said or did nothing about the students’ behavior.
Qualls said he joins a lot of Americans and a lot of Christians who do not believe that sexual orientation is on an equal footing with other forms of discrimination.
"No one had a choice on their sex or gender or handicap, and I believe homosexuality is a choice someone makes.
"I understand that students are going to have debate and dialogue on topics in today’s society, but I’m looking to the leadership of William Jewell to make a stand based upon what the Bible teaches for the benefit of the students."
Sallee offered a different view.
"I tend to think, ‘What better place to have a tough conversation about a difficult issue than a Christian college campus?’"
The debate is between students and the college should not manipulate it, he told the Star.
"I think there are people out there who say because you are having this conversation the college is not Christian … but while this is an important conversation, it’s a small piece of what we at Jewell are about."
Both Clippard and Qualls are urging Missouri Baptists to contact William Jewell’s administration and trustees and let them know that "this clear falling away from the teachings of the Bible" is not acceptable.
"I’m shocked that this kind of thing would be debated on a Baptist college campus," Clippard said. "… It may be a liberal arts school, but it is a liberal arts school that receives Cooperative Program dollars. I believe there needs to be some accountability to the Missouri Baptists that support them."
Sallee was questioned about the pro-homosexual activity when the Executive Board met in Jefferson City in December.
"We want your students to hear, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’" Qualls said. "I think the spotlight is on the students and also on the faculty and you as the administrator of William Jewell. I think you ought to stand up and say this is what we believe and what the Bible teaches. I find nothing in Scripture where the opposite view of what God said is brought before the people."
Charlie Burnett, chairman of the Inter-agency Relations Committee and pastor of Harmony Heights Baptist Church in Joplin, agreed.
"We want to be able to treat this fairly and understand it," he said, "but there are certain things we stand for. At the top is that God’s Word is very solid, true and inerrant. We will have to dig into this deeper and would like your cooperation in this matter."
Sallee held firm in his defense of the William Jewell position.
"We offer a great liberal arts education," he said. "We are proud of the multiple views that are presented. You can find people on all sides of the issues. If we’re going to provide students a good education, we’ve got to give them multiple views. Kids need to hear both [Jim] Talent and [Jean] Carnahan and Paul Duke and then make a decision for themselves."
Committee member Gary Barkley asked Sallee "Does what you are doing make it institutional acceptance?" Barkley added that he believes students need to be guided, not indoctrinated in that process.
Sallee responded that some will "see it the way you see it and others will not. As educators, we deal with multiple issues and multiple points of view."
If the administration does not take a stand, William Jewell will take a step toward losing its distinctive as a Bible-based Christian school, Qualls warned Sallee.
"Missouri Baptists want to know: What is the William Jewell philosophy and is it a philosophy we want to agree with?" Qualls asked.
The William Jewell administration has also come under fire for allowing a theatrical production on campus called "The Vagina Monologues." The production tells the story of a diverse group of women, each bluntly exploring a specific aspect of the female body part.