Alex Breigel, a third-year college student and former member of the University of Virginia (UVA) Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship (XA), recently opened up about his experience of being asked to step down from a leadership position after he came out as gay.
“This October, I disclosed to Chi Alpha that in early 2020 I had a boyfriend. XA wanted me to step down as a leader because they claimed my views and actions clearly contradict Biblical teaching,” he wrote in a letter posted on Reddit. “Through my own Biblical study, scholarly research, and most importantly prayer, I’ve come to strongly disagree with XA’s belief.”
“Given the fellowship’s views regarding homosexuality, I should have been asked to repent of my actions. But instead of focusing on confession, repentance, or any ministry of reconciliation, XA pushed me to step down as a leader; there was no forgiveness offered,” Briegel continued.
Breigel eventually agreed to step down as leader of the Bible study group, and later left the organization completely. XA clarified that this was his choice.
Prior to his departure, Breigel had been a member of XA since his first year. By his second year in college, he led a small group of students in weekly Bible study and individual meetings. This was also the time he realized he was gay.
Maintaining Independent Organization Status
As a Contracted Independent Organization (CIO), Chi Alpha may be at fault for violating the non-discrimination clause under the CIO Agreement.
However, the issue is difficult to navigate because it includes a clause that was added after a 2010 Supreme Court decision. The mandate on the Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez case explained that “religious or political student organizations” are capable of determining membership based on an individual’s commitment to “the organization’s religious or political mission.”
The statute also gives organizations the ability to “petition to restrict membership” according to their members’ commitment to their primary “mission.”
CIOs do not receive funding from the University’s Student Council but have access to publicly funded resources such as storage space, event spaces, and formal recognition by the university.
CIOs also have the right to use “at U.Va.” in their name and access the UVA system to seek out new members and representation in activities fairs.
Separation of Church and State
Last Tuesday, the UVA Student Council passed legislation denouncing discrimination against LGBTQ+ students by CIOs. Cosponsors of the resolution include Jason Evans, a Religious Studies Doctoral student; Adrian Mamaril, a second-year college student; and Abel Liu, the chair of the representative body and a third-year college student.
The legislation was inspired by Briegel’s letter and a similar allegation made by another student against the Young Life Ministry chapter at the university.
Alcorn explained to The Cavalier Daily that he believed the issue is centered on the separation of church and state. In an email statement, he said that while religious organizations have the right to practice their faith, organizations that discriminate against protected classes should not receive publicly-funded resources.
“If an organization chooses to be bigoted, that is their prerogative, but they don’t deserve access to the benefits derived from taxpayers who they marginalize through their exclusion,” he stated.
LGBTQ+ Religious Support and Transparency
In his letter, Briegel emphasized the need for XA to engage with LGBTQ+ issues.
“No doubt there are others in the fellowship who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, but closeted. I urge XA to bring this issue to the open, instead of locking it behind the closed doors of staff and individual meetings,” he wrote.
Briegel also revealed that XA attempted to justify his stepping down as a “breach of trust” between him and the organization, as he did not inform them of his relationship status beforehand.