Students’ expression of their gender and sexuality could face severe restrictions at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, based on a leaked draft of a new policy affecting dress codes and online behavior.
The protocols, previously presented to the school community, will prohibit students from identifying themselves as anything other than their biological sex. Furthermore, questioning these guidelines, as well as any other university policy, will not be allowed.
“No member of the Lee University community may publicly identify or behave as a gender that does not correspond to his or her biological sex,” the draft states.
“No member of the Lee University community may promote or advocate, in person, in writing, or online, for sexual acts, behaviors or lifestyles that are contrary to Scripture, this statement of belief, or any other university policy,” it added.
However, school officials had hoped to gather more feedback before officially releasing the Statement of Beliefs Concerning Human Sexuality and Gender.”
A Christian’s View
While acknowledging the challenges these free speech limitations pose to the student body, Lee officials explained that these rules come from long-standing beliefs and values that the institution upholds.
“The statement in question does not represent sweeping changes in policy at Lee; it is an explanation of the beliefs underpinning a group of policies that have been in place for quite some time,” University Spokesperson Kendra Mann said in a statement.
Kaitlin Gabriele-Black, a Salve Regina University assistant professor researching LGBTQIA+ student experiences at religious colleges, said that the policy is part of a national trend.
The US Department of Education explained that there are federal laws preventing discrimination based on sexuality or gender. However, evangelical schools can receive an exemption if the law impinges on its core teachings.
Unsurprisingly, the news has been met with criticism. A group of alumni called the Affirming Alum Collective posted an official statement on Facebook, saying that they were “deeply saddened and frustrated by the new anti-LGBTQIA+ policies.”
Former Lee University student Taylor Lane, who identifies as a lesbian, sees the policy as a “last ditch effort to try to, at the very least, scare students into silence.”
Current student Bethany Robinson also voiced her problem with the proposal, saying that Christians must love one another, regardless of identity.
“It is a Christian institution, so I understand the beliefs they have, but it should still be a place of like community and love no matter what, because we are Christians. And as Christians, we’re supposed to love one another,” Robinson said.