Eliel Cruz, a blogger for Religion News Services, was co-creator of a gay-straight alliance at Andrews University, a Seventh-Day Adventist university in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Recently, the AULL4One alliance planned to sell baked goods to raise funds for Project Fierce, an organization that tackles homelessness and housing issues facing Chicago's LGBTQ population. In a March 11th blog post at Faithfully LGBT, Cruz wrote that Andrews University forbid AULL4One from carrying out the bake sale. Cruz was disappointed.
"How are LGBT people supposed to believe they are loved by Christians without tangible acts of love? If theology is going to get in the way of supporting LGBT homeless youth, how will we ever talk about other topics that aren’t as easy to agree on as the fact that LGBT homeless youth deserve care and compassion?"According to an online statement, AULL4One requested permission to hold the fundraiser from Andrews University Campus Ministries Department, but their request was denied. The fundraiser for Project Fierce was not compatible with the university's mission, they were told, and the administration suggested that they support the Night Ministry instead. AULL4One asked for permission to support the Center on Halsted Street, another LGBTQ charity, but the administration denied this request as well.
AULL4One would not be denied. Undaunted, the group has launched an Indigogo fundraising campaign for Project Fierce that has raised over $15,000 at the time of this blog post. In an online statement, AULL4One framed its decision as an act of Christian moral duty.
"Once it became clear to AULL4One that we were not going to be allowed to publicly fundraise on campus, the members decided together to still pursue the fundraiser. We cannot let policy nor politics become obstacles to serving and helping people ...The university is defending its decision. In a press release, Andrews University president Niels-Erik Andreasen stressed that the university has no objection to helping homeless youth, but that it declined a request to endorse a fundraiser because of "the perceived advocacy stance of the proposed organization." The student handbook allows groups to raise funds for nonprofits whose missions do not conflict with that of the school, he explained.
While Andrews University has every right to deny any event on its campus, we believe this refusal is contradictory to Jesus' repeated calls to help those in need. While we realize this can be a very heated conversation, helping LGBT homeless youth -- a population in need -- should be an issue anyone and everyone can support. The reasons for the online fundraiser are three-fold: 1) to promote awareness of problems affecting LGBT homeless youth, 2) fundraise for Project Fierce, and 3) call into question the actions taken by the university. We seriously and earnestly seek to uphold Andrews University's mission: "seek knowledge, affirm faith, and change the world." It is with that mission statement in mind that we refuse to stay silent."
This controversy is yet another example of how intolerance undermines compassion. When an institution is so opposed to LGBTQ equality that it refuses to endorse a fundraiser to help homeless LGBTQ people, something is wrong. Because LGBTQ people make up a disproportionate percentage of homeless youth and adults, and because their experiences on the streets are harrowing, decency should compel us to support them. AULL4One understands this basic truth, and Andrews University's needs to understand it too.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
The Guardian: Christian charities preach helping the less fortunate, unless you're gay
Think Progress: Christian College Tried To Stop Bake Sale For Homeless LGBT Youth, But They Raised Thousands Anyway
The New Civil Rights Movement: Christian College President: We Canceled Bake Sale For LGBT Homeless Youth Because Of Their 'Advocacy'
(Hat tip to Blue Nation Review.)