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3063Gay Student's Expulsion Spawns Uproar at Kentucky Baptist School

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  • umcornet
    Apr 14, 2006
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      Gay student's expulsion spawns uproar at Kentucky Baptist school
      By Robert Marus
      Associated Baptist Press
      April 11, 2006

      WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. (ABP) -- For the fourth time in three years, a
      Baptist college's treatment of a gay student is causing an uproar.

      The University of the Cumberlands, in Williamsburg, Ky., expelled
      sophomore Jason Johnson, reportedly April 6. Kentucky media outlets
      said April 8 Johnson was expelled for announcing on a personal website
      that he is gay.

      The controversy at Cumberlands echoes similar disputes in the past
      three years at other Baptist schools. Debates over discipline of
      students for homosexuality or support of gay-rights groups have
      erupted at Baylor University in Texas, Mars Hill College in North
      Carolina and Mercer University in Georgia.

      Johnson's page on MySpace.com, a networking website popular among
      college students, classifies him as "gay" under a section labeled
      "orientation" and makes references to his boyfriend. The 20-year-old
      theater major is from Lexington, Ky.

      A spokesman for the school told an Associated Baptist Press reporter
      he could not discuss the specifics of Johnson's case due to
      student-privacy concerns. However, Larry Cockrum confirmed Johnson had
      been expelled.

      According to WLEX-TV, the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Johnson said he
      was expelled for engaging in a homosexual lifestyle.

      Cockrum released a statement from Cumberlands President Jim Taylor
      saying the school had "followed our policies and procedures in keeping
      with our traditional denominational beliefs." It continued,
      "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."

      An earlier version of the statement released to WLEX, however, was
      worded slightly differently and included the following sentence:
      "There are places students with predispositions can go such as San
      Francisco and the left coast or to many of the state schools."

      The student policy in question regards sexual behavior. "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 from the
      University of the Cumberlands," it says.

      Cumberlands officials released another press statement April 10,
      saying simply, "In light of threatened litigation over University of
      the Cumberlands' standards, our legal counsel has advised us to make
      no further comment."

      WLEX and the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper both reported that
      Johnson had retained an attorney. The media outlets quoted several
      Cumberlands students decrying Johnson's expulsion. "He's openly gay
      but doesn't flaunt it," senior Jennifer Roberts told the newspaper. "I
      think you would be floored by the amount of gay people at our school."

      She continued: "I would consider Jason a Christian because so many of
      his values are Christian.... He embodies everything a friend should
      be. A lot of people are suffering because he is not here."

      The 1,700-student school, which recently changed its name from
      Cumberland College, is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist
      Convention. Its website also notes the state convention's affiliation
      with the national Southern Baptist Convention. It is located in the
      eastern part of the state and has historically served students from
      the Appalachian region.