A second group canceled plans to rent LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center in response to a recently publicized policy banning groups using the Southern Baptist Convention-owned facility from promoting homosexuality.
According to The New Mexican, Sante Fe College administrators decided this week to hold graduation ceremonies on campus instead of the Southern Baptist Convention-owned facility, where the event had been held since 2004.
While an official spokesperson for the school declined to comment on the reason for the move, a professor who identified himself as chair of a group called Queer Faculty and Staff Association applauded the decision, saying Glorieta has “policies against people with alternative sexual and gender identities.”
A week ago the newspaper first reported a story about the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department moving its annual three-day summer conference from Glorieta rather than accepting restrictions on discussion of gay issues. The meeting, typically attracting about 1,000 attendees at a price tag of $51,000 a year, had met at Glorieta every summer since 1978.
Last year’s senior program included a presentation by Rainbow Vision, a new retirement community in Santa Fe that caters to homosexuals, titled “Designing Communities for the Gay and Gray.”
Glorieta’s new director responded by asking state officials this year to accept a contract clause prohibiting teaching in conflict with Baptist beliefs. The Conference on Aging Planning Committee refused, saying it would not discriminate or violate any person’s First Amendment rights.
According to The New Mexican, Mark Behr of the Queer Faculty and Staff Association said the college administration “did the only ethical thing” by withdrawing its graduation ceremony. Behr, a South African author who teaches world literature and fiction writing at the 1,900-student private liberal arts school, said the QFSA is independent of Santa FeCollege.
Rob Phillips, director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., said Thursday the college had not yet notified LifeWay of its decision, and it would be premature to comment without verification.
The College of Sante Fe was founded in 1859 by the Lasallian Brothers, a Catholic teaching order named after John Baptist de La Salle. Born in France in 1651, La Salle founded the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1680 for the purpose of bringing education to those most in need. La Salle died in 1719, was beatified in 1888 and canonized in a ceremony performed by Pope Leo XII in 1900. La Salle was proclaimed Patron of Christian Teachers in 1950.
In 300-plus years, the Christian Brothers have grown to include secondary schools, college and universities in more than 80 countries. The founding mission, still followed today, emphasizes community, creativity, service to the poor, peace and social justice.
The school’s affirmative action and anti-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination on basis of “race, sex, religion, age, color, creed, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status.”
Phillips told EthicsDaily.com last week that LifeWay still welcomes outside groups to use its conference centers in Glorieta, N.M., and Ridgecrest, N.C., but, “We cannot give an organization or an individual a platform to promote a doctrine or a lifestyle that we believe is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture.”
Last month LifeWay removed a number of titles by authors identified in a Jan. 29 EthicsDaily.com story headlined “Gay-Friendly Authors Populate SBC’s LifeWay Site.” LifeWay later issued a statement saying some of the titles were indeed inappropriate for their online bookstore, but claiming they were put there by a third-party supplier and LifeWay officials didn’t know they were there. Upon being notified, LifeWay said, it immediately investigated and removed the gay-friendly titles.
The Southern Baptist Convention has one of the strongest anti-gay stances of any denomination in America. In 1992 the Southern Baptist Convention amended its constitution to ban from membership churches which “act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.” Last year the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina became the first SBC-affiliated state convention to authorize its executive board to investigate churches suspected of violating that ban.
Seeking to soften its anti-gay image, the SBC in 2003 launched a program encouraging churches to reach out to persons who “struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions.” That did little to impress gay-rights advocates, who objected to use of “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapies that critics say won’t work for everyone and often do more harm than good.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.