3063Gay Student's Expulsion Spawns Uproar at Kentucky Baptist School
- Apr 14, 2006Gay 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
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.