LIBERTY, Mo. (BP)–William Jewell College students voted 279-266 Jan. 27 against an amendment to the student bill of rights prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The student senate, in November, approved a student vote to amend the non-binding document, but the action was vetoed by the senate’s president, Tim Perkins, a member of Grace Community Church in Smithville, who said he acted in accordance with his beliefs as a Missouri Baptist to stand against sin in his own life and the lives of others. “Everything we do as humans,” he said at the time, “is about morality.”
However, homosexual activists and their 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.
Conservative Southern Baptists in Missouri regarded the vote as an example of William Jewell’s increasing tolerance of unscriptural behavior, a trend that led Missouri Baptist Convention churches to sever ties with the college in 2003, costing the institution approximately $1 million a year in support.
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 homosexual lifestyle. MBC leaders point to homosexual support groups meeting on campus as one example and a performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a play including lewd sexual content, on campus last February. William Jewell leaders, meanwhile, have criticized the MBC for its stand, saying the convention is trying to run the institution.
Perkins acknowledged that the issue could come up again in 2005 but said he 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.
A carefully crafted 36-word statement Perkins came up with in December will continue to help him preside over the student senate. It 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.”
Students on a divided campus such as William Jewell’s need to focus on higher ideals in order to come together as one, Perkins said.
“Maybe one day we can live together as a community seeking after Christ,” he said, “and our actions of love toward one another will make such a thing as a student bill of rights unnecessary.”
Allen Palmeri is a staff writer with The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.