Erskine College, a private school of around 600 students in Due West, South Carolina, is pushing back on media reports that say the school has put a "ban" on or is inhospitable to gay students.
In March of 2014, two of the college's students came out in a profile piece written for the site OutSports.com. At most colleges their story would not be rare, but Erskine College is a small school in a small town in a traditionally conservative state. The school is also aligned with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and one of its three mission statements reads:
Erskine College exists to glorify God as a Christian academic community where students are equipped to flourish as whole persons for lives of service through the pursuit of undergraduate liberal arts and graduate theological education.
On February 20, the school released a Statement on Human Sexuality which was in direct response to the two students coming out according to The Washington Post. That one-page statement begins, "We believe the Bible teaches that monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is God’s intended design for humanity and that sexual intimacy has its proper place only within the context of marriage."
The document then proceeds to cite biblical verse to bolster those beliefs and concludes by saying, "members of the Erskine community are expected to follow the teachings of scripture concerning matters of human sexuality and institutional decisions will be made in light of this position."
"...members of the Erskine community are expected to follow the teachings of scripture concerning matters of human sexuality and institutional decisions will be made in light of this position."'
Headlines followed stating that the school "denounces homosexuality" and "bans homosexuality in the name of God." In response, Erskine College published a post on Friday giving "context" to its Statement on Human Sexuality. The school says its human sexuality statement "describes a position ... [but] does not prescribe a policy and does not ‘ban’ any individual or class of individuals from attending Erskine."
Friday's release also states the school's human sexuality statement is merely "a point of reference" and any "dialogue can and should be pursued with civility and respect."
The school says that its position on homosexuality is neither "unusual" or "unexpected" given its Christian affiliation while also underscoring a desire to "treat all persons justly with grace, dignity, and compassion."
Speaking with OutSports.com on Thursday, Juan Varona, one of the two students who came out in the site's profile piece last year, said Erskine's release of the Statement of Human Sexuality left him "disappointed" adding he had only ever received kind treatment by everyone on campus.
Varona said he feels like the school "took several step backwards" and expressed hope of "progressing towards a future where everyone can be treated as an equal."