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Univ.’s homosexuality stance puts pharmacy school at risk

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. (BP)–The University of the Cumberlands expelled a homosexual student April 6, sparking reactions on and off campus, including some state legislators who called for the Baptist-affiliated university to forfeit public funds for a pharmacy school.

Jason Johnson, a sophomore from Lexington, Ky., told WLEX-TV and the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper that Cumberlands officials asked him to leave the university because of his homosexuality.

Johnson had posted personal information on the website MySpace.com stating he is homosexual and dating a male student at another college.

Without referring to Johnson specifically, Cumberlands President Jim Taylor issued a statement April 7 that the university’s students are held to a higher standard.

“Students know the rules before they come to this institution. We’ve followed our policies and procedures in keeping with our traditional denominational beliefs,” Taylor’s statement notes. “University of the Cumberlands isn’t for everyone. We tell prospective students about our high standards before they come. We are different by design and are non-apologetic about our Christian beliefs.”

A slightly differently worded statement released to WLEX-TV added: “There are places students with predispositions can go such as San Francisco and the left coast or to many of the state schools.”

Cumberlands’ 2005-06 student handbook states, “Any student who engages in or promotes sexual behavior not consistent with Christian principles (including sex outside marriage and homosexuality) may be suspended or asked to withdraw.”

Mike Colgrove, vice president for student affairs, said he couldn’t speak specifically to this case but that discipline issues are handled when they come to the attention to university officials.

“When it comes to discipline, we don’t go out looking for any of this stuff,” he said. “When this comes to our attention, that’s when we follow up on it.

“What we’re trying to do is … maintain a Christian environment that is conducive to learning,” he added.

Johnson told the Herald-Leader that Cumberlands officials specifically cited his MySpace website biography before expelling him.

On his website, which includes photos of young men kissing, the Lexington native notes plans to transfer to the University of Kentucky next semester.

“I’m very excited about being at home more often, and living in a bigger city and not having to go to Cumberland,” he writes. “I am so ready to be out of here. When you get to the point where you almost wish that your school will kiick (sic) you out, then you know you’ve got it bad.”

On Monday, April 10, some students wore protest T-shirts on campus that read, “Jesus Loves My Gay Friends.”

In Frankfort, some state legislators suggested the university should not receive state funds for a planned pharmacy school.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the state budget includes $10 million for helping with construction of the building and another $1 million for student scholarships at the yet-to-be created pharmacy program.

Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, D.-Lexington, an openly homosexual member of the General Assembly said that if the funding was kept, “we will have a state benefit that is only available to heterosexuals.”

The school’s policy regarding homosexuality could place it in conflict with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. According to the Herald-Leader, the only group that accredits U.S. pharmacy schools requires policies that ban discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, lifestyle, national origin or disability. The revised guidelines, which take effect on July 1, 2007, add “sexual orientation” as one of the prohibited types of discrimination, the paper noted.

Kathy Stein, D.-Lexington, called on Cumberlands to forego the $11 million in state funds because its policy conflicts with the national accreditation standards.
David Winfrey is news director for the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, online at www.westernrecorder.org.

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