Homosexual rights measure rejected at William Jewell
By Allen Palmeri
February 3, 2004
LIBERTY – William Jewell College students Jan. 27 rejected a measure that would have amended the Student Bill of Rights to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In a rebuke to homosexual activists and their supporters on campus, students voted 279-266 to leave the Student Bill of Rights unchanged.
The Student Senate in November voted to approve a student vote to amend the non-binding document. Student Senate President Tim Perkins, a member of Grace Community Church , Smithville, acted in accordance with his beliefs as a Missouri Baptist and vetoed the Senate action. Perkins said he was called to in no way tolerate or promote sin in his own life or the lives of others, explaining that his decision stemmed from his belief system.
“Everything we do as humans is about morality," he said.
Homosexual supporters responded to his veto by gathering the required 106 signatures on a petition to override Perkins’ veto and allow a student vote on the issue.
The close vote suggests a divided campus. Conservative Southern Baptists in Missouri see the vote as another example of the college’s increasing tolerance of unscriptural behavior. It was this trend that led Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) churches to sever ties with the school in 2003, costing the institution approximately $1 million a year.
The divided student vote leaves William Jewell’s leadership in a quandary over how to balance the school’s religious mission with the academic freedom of a liberal arts institution that is apparently bent on the acceptance of homosexuality.
MBC leaders have concluded that academic freedom at Jewell has gone too far. The student body government’s procedure concerning the homosexual movement on campus has long been a point of concern with MBC churches. Equally troubling to Southern Baptists in the state was the school administration’s apparent unwillingness to take a firm stand against the lifestyle. MBC leaders point to homosexual support groups meeting on campus as one example. Angry William Jewell leaders have criticized the MBC for its stand, saying the convention is trying to run the institution.
When “The Vagina Monologues," a play including lewd sexual content, was performed on campus last February, MBC leaders ruled that the college had broken step with the fellowship of the convention.
While admitting that the issue could come up again in 2005, Perkins is confident that the will of the people has been heard.
“There were a total of 545 students who voted, which is a great voter turnout," he said.
Adding the language to the bill of rights would do nothing to end the stigma against homosexuals, freshman Colleen Montgomery told the Kansas City Star. “In a way," she said, “it almost gives false hope that things will change."
Sophomore Angela Prather said she was tired of debating the question. “It’s an important issue," she told the Star, “but we’ve already discussed it, and we need to move on."
Freshman Bill Voorhuis told the Star that the debate almost did more harm than good, prompting anti-homosexual remarks. “I don’t like to see that side."
The Star included no comments from students explaining why they voted to keep the bill of rights unchanged.
Now that the students have had their say on the matter, the carefully crafted 36-word statement that Perkins came up with in December will help him preside over the Student Senate. That statement reads:
“I am in no way in favor of the mistreatment or abuse of homosexuals. However, I am also called to in no way tolerate or promote sin in my own life or the lives of others."
Perkins remains convinced that students on a divided campus such as William Jewell’s need to focus on higher ideals to come together as one.
“Maybe one day we can live together as a community seeking after Christ, and our actions of love toward one another will make such a thing as a Student Bill of Rights unnecessary," he said.