After College Christian Group Forces Gay Treasurer to Resign, University of Buffalo Suspends Them

Steven Jackson, a sophomore at the University of Buffalo is gay. He’s also the treasurer for his college’s Intervarsity Christian Fellowship group. When staffers and board members found out Jackson was gay, they told him he needed to step down from his leadership position.

Not because he’s gay. No. Of course not. Christians *love* gay people.

The problem was that Jackson didn’t accept the anti-gay Bible passages as Absolute Truth.

Steven Jackson. (Photo credit: Meg Kinsley of The Spectrum)

IVCF Vice President Leslie Varughese said the club’s executive board members, including Jackson, mutually decided that Jackson’s resignation would be best for both Jackson and the club, not because of Jackson’s homosexuality, but because of his refusal to accept Biblical scripture — specifically, those Bible passages that condemn homosexuality.

Simply put, the problem was not that Jackson is gay; the problem was that Jackson doesn’t accept Bible verses that condemn gay people.

When asked whether Varughese’s characterization of the resignation as a mutual agreement was accurate, Jackson said yes and no.

“It was definitely a pressured [resignation]…They made it clear that they felt like I should step down and kind of made me uncomfortable enough to the point where I just wanted to leave,” Jackson said.

“We told Steve that it would be very difficult for him to lead with integrity in an organization that had contrary beliefs…We didn’t ask him to leave the Fellowship, and we do not want him to leave the Fellowship,” Varughese said. “We love him, and we want him to continue to seek God and grow in his faith.”

How many mistakes can you make in one sentence…?

“We love him” — No, you don’t.

“We want him to continue to seek God”He’s still a Christian. He already “found god.”

We want him to “grow in his faith” — That must be a new euphemism for “He needs to stop liking dudes.”

Even if the IVCF leadership is serious about getting rid of Steven not because he’s gay but because he didn’t fully accept what the Bible says, they’re still guilty of selectively choosing which verses to follow. Odds are there are students in the leadership who have had pre-marital sex, worked on the Sabbath, and wore wool and linen together.

Jackson added that the group’s leadership knew he liked other men when he was elected to the post, despite the fact that he was dating a female at the time:

“They were under the impression that I was straight because I was dating a female at the time,” Jackson said. “[I think] they were under the impression that I had ‘changed.’”

Jackson wants to make clear that he defines himself as gay, but he hasn’t “closed [him]self completely off” to other modes of sexuality. And he said that at the time that he was elected treasurer, IVCF members hadn’t known that he defined himself as gay. Once they found out, he said, the events leading to his resignation were set into motion.

At least the Student Association at the school did the right thing. When they discovered that IVCF had a clause in their Constitution that forced executive board members to sign a “faith-based agreement” (which says you must believe the Bible is “divinely inspired” and therefore 100% true, and implicitly says you can’t ever act on your “gayness”), they suspended the group:

“All peripheral privileges afforded to Student Association clubs are revoked for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship until further notice,” wrote SA Treasurer Sikander Khan in a Friday letter to the IVCF’s executive board.

Surprisingly, Jackson, the student caught in the middle of all this, fought against the suspension:

“I believe the article in Friday’s Spectrum was wholly accurate,” Jackson’s statement read. “Had my [sexual] orientation not come up, I do not believe that this would be happening right now…If [the IVCF's requirement to sign a faith-based agreement] is illegal, I do not blame Intervarsity. I blame the Student Association for failing to properly review club constitutions and inform clubs of their legality.”

Steven. I know your heart is with the group. But don’t blame the Student Association for the inability of certain Christians to read the rules.

They can be bigots in their churches all they want. But they don’t get to be bigots on campus when tuition dollars support the organizations. ($6,000 in tuition money for this year’s budget to be exact.)

IVCF is arguing that they don’t discriminate against members of the group, only its leaders. But that’s a useless distinction, since the leaders are elected from the general membership.

It doesn’t matter that they’re a Christian group. If you’re an official campus organization — able to get meeting rooms for free, able to apply for event funding, able to have a $6,000 (?!?) budget — you can’t discriminate against members or leaders. It’s that simple.

(Thanks to Wesley for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/ubernerd83 Chris Schonegg

    Ordinarily, I would actually agree with Jackson on his point about the lack of review on the part of the Student Assembly, or whatever it’s called.  However, in this case I’m not so sure.  There was a recent Supreme Court decision addressing this sort of thing, so the IVCF may have a constitution that pre-dated some changes in rules.

    • Erp

      The recent Supreme Court decision was only that public universities were permitted to require that student groups be non-discriminatory; it was not that public universities must require that student groups be non-discriminatory.

      Note also that the members of the group are free to vote in a discriminatory way but the group’s constitution can’t discriminate in certain ways when choosing who can stand or continue to hold office  (for instance it is probably ok that someone standing for office be required to have attended a certain number of meetings or be a member for a certain length of time but not that they be white, gay, female, or Jain).   So in the case of the LGBT group, yes they are required to allow a member of a homophobic religion to run for office if he meets neutral qualifying standards; they aren’t required to vote for him.

      • Friend

        Hmm..should the Christian group be allowed to deny that the student who is Jain not be a leader? Or a Jain group with a Christian student, for that matter?

  • beijingrrl

    We love you, but you must condemn yourself.  Nice.

  • Mary

    Say there was a LGBT group on campus. If they are not allowed to discriminate, does that mean that they are forced to allow people of all religions into their leadership, even those religions that blatantly condemn homosexuality? 

    • Anon

      Yes, as long as they aren’t using the LGBT organization as an attempt to get at members with their religious motivated hatred there shouldn’t be an issue.

      They might even learn something from being surrounded by the diversity.

  • http://ArdentEnthusiast.com E.A. Freire

    Mr. Jackson should be commended for standing up for IVCF. 

    Also there is nothing ‘friendly’ about how you describe the IVCF. 

    • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

      I’d describe myself as a very friendly person, but I’ll open a verbal can of whoop-ass on someone who openly espouses bigotry or blind intolerance.  I’d expect no less of Hemant. :)

      • dauntless

        Fight fire with fire, eh? That’s been a good precedent throughout all of human history…

        • TheBlackCat

          And your solution to bigotry is…what, exactly?  Ignore it and hope it goes away?  That has worked so well in the past.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Porter/100001075278352 Ben Porter

            Its not a question of fighting fire with fire. Its a question of being righteously angry or not. I think this is righteous anger. He is not cussing them out telling them to burn in hell. (as they do with us for simply explaining our beliefs). He is simply saying discrimination is b.s. Hemant is a friendly guy. He trys to give the benefit of the doubt in many cases. But Hemant is not the media he is not held to any standard of fairness except, to be honest, his own reputation. If some group is being a bunch of bigots He can say so and he damn well should.

            Their is a difference between being friendly and being so p.c. that everyone can get away with everything cause you don’t want to be accused of persecution.

  • Maven

    As a previous student leader at a university, it’s pretty standard and well-known that a student organization cannot do several things with money that constitutes discrimination, or funelling money towards specific charities or political persons.  nor can they use money in ways that violates the university’s standards.  unfortunately, i agree that the SA should have found this illegality and dropped the ball.  however, it could also be that there are hundreds of student orgs on that campus, or there was alot of turnover in staff, or what-have-you, for it to have been missed.  in any case, if it’s discovered, and the student org won’t change what’s illegal, then they get the boot, case closed. 

  • Denis Robert

    “We love him”: not much different from saying “We love black people; we just don’t really believe they have an actual soul…”

  • Anonymous

    It’s time to send all these christian bozos to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.  We need to ban them from general society.

  • Grazatt

    I have no empathy for anyone who would want to belong to Christian group anyway!

  • Nick

    Shouldn’t that photo be captioned “Steven Jackson”, rather than “Meg Kingsley of the Spectrum”? I’m pretty sure that Meg Kingsley is the photographer, not the person in the photo itself.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Good point. Fixed the caption. Thanks!

  • Julie Watson

    “Odds are there are students in the leadership who have had pre-marital sex, worked on the Sabbath, and wore wool and linen together.”

    LOL!!!

  • Alantas

    Ironically, if they’d accepted the existence of bisexuality*, they potentially could have “filtered him out” beforehand and avoided all this trouble. But that would require more than a superficial understanding of sexuality.

    * Not that he is bisexual (he could’ve been gay all along but hadn’t realized it yet), but accepting its existence means accepting that dating members of one sex doesn’t preclude interest in the other: that dating someone of the opposite sex doesn’t necessarily mean he’s straight.

  • Dan W

     Why is Jackson defending a group that’s displayed obvious bigotry against him and people like him? If I were in a similar situation I’d leave the group and I’d have some pretty nasty things to say about them as well.

    • NickDB

      I think it’s a form of Stockholm syndrome, I’ve had a lesbian friend of mine who’s been persecuted and abused by religious people including family members, defend them and her religion before, because it is what is true (I.e. it’s what she’s being brainwashed to believe is true).

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    lol. So basically the group is saying “no no, we have no problem with you being gay at all. We knew you were gay before we elected you. The problem is you don’t hate yourself. That’s a real tangible issue here. If you don’t hate yourself, we can’t accept your leadership. If you want our respect, you need to admit to yourself and all of us that you find yourself repulsive and start traveling the long road of denying who you are.”

    • Elect4542003

      because i do not agree with a life style does not mean that i can not love that person. i am sure that there are loving people in your life that do not agree with every life style you choose . such as porn , theft, the type of person you choose as a mate , or animal for all that matters , im sure that they still love  you.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

        I call BS on this.  I am a short woman.  If you said that I can’t bear to look at short people, please wear stilts or stay behind your desk, or better yet, don’t be short, I would say you do not love me even if you said that you do.  

  • Anonymous

    I am really scratching my head on this one…

  • Don’t hate me

    I love how an atheist has moral standers . How do you get to say your opinion is right?   Because it feels right?  How does Homosexuality help your theory of evolution? Did Jackson not know this is a Christian group? Do you really believe that someone was having premarital sex they would keep them in leadership? If I go to a Jewish temple and pray to Jesus openly and they kick me out is that hatred towards my beliefs? Where is the line? Who gets to choose that line? Is polygamy going to be okay? What about 13 year getting married to 18 year old?  how do you know they were not born to love … fill in the blank… so they should be able to marry. Oh and you  disagree where you are a racist!  They were born like many women, men, children, and so on. Not there fault. 
    Just be careful 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

      Well, polygamy was OK in the Bible.  And slavery.  And marriage to young girls.  

      Just be careful.  

  • Guest3243

    You also need to take into account the process in which leaders in InterVarsity are chosen.  If you read IV’s Doctrinal Statement, it clearly says that InterVarsity believes in the absolute authority and trustworthiness of the Bible.  As a leader, you must entirely accept that.  In order to be chosen as a leader, he must have said that he agreed with the statement, but then must have gone back on that agreement.  Doing so is reasonable grounds for asking one to resign.  If he didn’t believe those passages to be true, then he should have never applied for leadership.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

      The problem with this argument is that there are plenty of passages in the bible that none of the leaders of Intervarsity are likely to believe.  


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X