Westboro Baptist Church Targets Catholic University; More LGBT Campus News

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Students gathered at Loyola University Maryland

Graduation ceremonies concluded and degrees conferred, it is time for the final “Campus Chronicles” of this spring semester.

Below are several of many LGBT-related happenings in Catholic higher education. These testify, once again, to the good work that ensures campuses are safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ students and staff, and also serve as a model for the rest of our church.

Westboro Baptist Church Pickets Jesuit Campus

Protests by the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) led to unity at Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, where community members rallied in support of LGBTQ members.  WBC is a Topeka, Kansas-based church, founded by Rev. Fred Phelps, whose members travel across the nation with vile messages on their signs to protest LGBTQ equality.

Only three WBC members were actually present at the April protest, reported the Baltimore Post-Examiner. They were met by many more counter-protesters, including alumni, and at least one hundred current students. University officials barred WBC from campus, with University spokesperson Nick Alexopulos saying the school celebrated diversity and would “remain united. . .as One Loyola.”

WBC had targeted Loyola Maryland in part because of its two LGBT student organizations, reported The Baltimore Sun. Student Kelly Mueller defended these organizations in advance of the protests, writing in The Odyssey:

“When you attacked the Jesuits, the Theology Club, Spectrum, and OUT Loyola, you attacked our entire community, and we will not stand for it. . .If you come to campus, I hope you can see past your bigotry and recognize the true spirit of God’s love present on our campus.”

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Sign used for WBC counter-protests

Spectrum, LGBT and Allies group,  said on Facebook that the counter-protest meant “the message of love prevailed.” WBC’s protests coincided with the University’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Awareness Week, which reports on social media said was quite successful. WBC had also planned to picket Archbishop Curley High School and Catholic High School of Baltimore, too, but there are no reports that they actually showed up at either school.

Other Notable Happenings

The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA will begin offering gender-neutral housing options next year to accommodate trans* students and those students seeking a more affirming LGBTQ living environment.

Marquette University, Milwaukee, announced the new LGBT+ Alumni Council which will expand development outreach to LGBT alumni and raise scholarship funds designated for LGBT students at the University.

Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA hosted its first LGBTQ Awareness Week in March, reported student newspaper The Troubador. Aimed at fostering a respect for everyone consistent with the school’s Franciscan mission, the week’s programming featured panel discussions, a film screening, and faculty lectures.

USA Today’s recent article exploring college athletics and Title IX religious exemptions positively featured the inclusive policies of two Catholic colleges: the University of Notre Dame and Fordham University. While a number of Catholic institutions have sought to exempt themselves from LGBT protections on religious grounds, this article reveals the positive steps which other Catholic schools have taken to protect all students in advance of new regulations.

Know more good news happening for LGBT inclusion in Catholic higher education? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below or send a tip to info@newwaysministry.org.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

New Organization of LGBT Students on Catholic Campuses Is Launched

A new student organization for LGBT equality and justice on Catholic campuses was launched yesterday, October 11th, National Coming Out day.   Thomas A. Lloyd, a Georgetown University student  and organizer of the new group announced the launch on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog:

Today the leaders of several lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) student groups based on Catholic college campuses sent a joint letter to the Catholic world announcing the founding of CASE, the Catholic Association of Students for Equality. CASE is a national network for all of our groups to share resources and to trade experiences. CASE’s central goal, however, is to raise awareness of the positive impact that recognition and empowerment of the LGBT community has had on our campuses. Our experiences reveal a pro-LGBT rights position grounded in Catholic values. In other words, we hope to “out” a uniquely Catholic argument for LGBT inclusion.

Lloyd identifies Catholic social teaching and Scriptural principles as the basis for his own acceptance of his sexual identity and the desire to help others achieve the same level of self-acceptance:

“As a practicing Catholic, someone who delivers a rehearsed response to ‘What’s that black stuff on your forehead?’ every Lenten season, I was raised surrounded by Catholic social teaching. I value the life and dignity of every human person, and I believe their dignity comes from ‘the persons they are’ (Centesimus annus., #11). I know that we are called to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering (Corinthians 12:12-26). And finally, I believe that we have a duty to love, and that it is the ‘fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.’ (Catechism 2392).

“These building blocks of Catholic social teaching are integral parts of how I have engaged my LGBT identity. Identifying as gay first required me to reflect on who I truly was. It helps me stand in solidarity with those who are oppressed, as I have faced threats in the street, and taunts from schoolmates. And one day, I will be able to love someone because I have acknowledged who it is I can really fall in love with.”

Similarly, CASE is designed to help LGBT students on Catholic campuses to organize themselves for better lives at their schools:

“Today, Georgetown along with the other colleges that recognize their LGBT groups, including Loyola University Maryland, DePaul University and Loyola Marymount are in a privileged position. We live on campuses that acknowledge the value in exploring the intersection of LGBT and Catholic identities. We have a duty to “out” all the good that we have done in order to change the national conversation. We need to change the minds of those in the church who would argue that LGBT groups have no place on Catholic campuses and to encourage those in schools affected by this position to “come out” and to start forming their own LGBT network on campus. We can help promote the respect you deserve, we will stand in solidarity with you, and want to help people understand our love. That is why we formed CASE.”

Kudos and best wishes to Lloyd and his fellow organizers! New Ways Ministry has been compiling a list of gay-friendly Catholic colleges for many years now, which includes almost half of the Catholic campuses in the U.S.  It will be a gift to the church for students to help each other support and strengthen their programs and policies on these campuses and spread the message of acceptance and inclusion to other Catholic schools as well.

–Francis DeBernardo

NEWS NOTES: February 21, 2012

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:

1) More evidence that lay Catholics and their bishops differ strongly on support for marriage equality comes from a new poll reported by The New York Times in an article “Support Is Found for Birth Control Coverage and Gay Unions.”  Though the poll surveyed the general electorate, they report findings for different sub-groups, such as Catholics:  “More than two-thirds of Catholic voters supported some sort of legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships: 44 percent favored marriage, and 25 percent preferred civil unions. ”

2) In “Spectrum continues quest to abolish stereotypes on campus,” Loyola University Maryland’s student newspaper, The Greyhound, reports on upcoming semester plans for activities by their LGBTA organization.

3) If California’s Proposition 8 case makes it to the nation’s highest court, the “Gay marriage fight may hinge on Supreme Court’s Anthony Kennedy,” a Catholic, reports The Charlotte Observer.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry