Gay Couple Will Receiving Blessing in Lutheran College’s Chapel

Augustana College is a private school (in Rock Island, Illinois) affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. That’s a relatively liberal church to be affiliated with, but what just happened there is still a news story because you wouldn’t expect it from a church-affiliated-anything: Two gay students were given permission to have a commitment ceremony in the school’s chapel:

Eric Palmer (left) and Ethan Tarvin (Anthony Souffle – Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Tribune‘s Bonnie Miller Rubin has the story (if it’s behind a paywall, try this link instead):

“I didn’t have to wrestle with this… It was a matter of integrity,” said [Augustana] President Steve Bahls, citing the school’s anti-discrimination policy. “If you say you don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation but you can’t use our chapel, then you’re a hypocrite.”

For [Eric] Palmer and [Ethan] Tarvin, their choice of venue for a fall 2013 wedding wasn’t about activism, but deep ties to the campus where many life-changing experiences occurred.

“Augustana is just a very sentimental place for us,” said Palmer, who met Tarvin in 2011, when he registered him to vote. The two hit it off and got engaged last April Fools’ Day.

Said Tarvin: “I met Eric on campus, proposed on campus and it seemed only logical to have the ceremony in the chapel… It really represents my personal, professional and religious life.”

Even though the story went public in November, Bahls says the firestorm he was expecting never came.

“That was probably the biggest surprise is how this has been overwhelmingly accepted — not unanimously, but for every negative comment, I received a dozen that were positive,” said Bahls, who called each critic to discuss his verdict.

It’s a smart move for the college, which would’ve no doubt faced student retaliation if the President denied the couple the space.

Your move now, Wheaton College.

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.