Underground LGBT Group Shakes Up Conservative Evangelical University

A Biola Queer Underground flier that was distributed around the university's campus

President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality has had far-reaching effects across the nation — potentially even at a conservative evangelical university in La Mirada, CA. Last week, just a handful of days after Obama’s announcement in support of same-sex marriage, students at Biola University launched Biola Queer Underground. The LGBT-straight alliance emphasizes gay students’ personal stories and seeks a campus dialogue to make those gay students feel more welcome.

Biola’s student handbook states that “sexual relationships are designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage between husband and wife,” and students are required to sign a contract affirming their agreement with this stance. However, members of Biola Queer Underground take issue with the conservative theological stance that LGBT sexual orientations are incompatible with Christian belief. A statement on their website reads:

We want to bring to light the presence of the LGBTQ community at Biola. Despite what some may assume, there are Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, and Queers at Biola. We are Biola’s students, alumni, employees, and fellow followers of Christ. We want to be treated with equality and respected as another facet of Biola’s diversity.

Although Biola University removed the group’s fliers, the underground group’s emergence did prompt the university president to release a new, detailed policy on “human sexuality” that university officials say has been in the works for the past year and a half. The new policy denies that Biola needs to “modernize” its biblical approach to the LGBT community and calls same-sex relationships “illegitimate moral options for the confessing Christian.” Members of Biola Queer Underground expressed disappointment in the administration’s response:

Biola claims to want a dialogue. However, unless LGBTQ students who don’t view homosexuality or transgender identity as sinful are allowed to speak openly without threat, this conversation will continue to be one–sided. Without inviting Christians speakers who have a different view of homosexuality, fruitful dialogue will not happen.In the past, your monologues on homosexuality have not been good or fair to us. We understand your interpretation of scripture; please hear ours.

In light of last month’s study from GLAAD and the University of Missoui Center on Religion & the Professions — which found that pro-LGBT people of faith are the “missing voices” from the mainstream media, leading to an entirely one-sided view of religion as inherently anti-gay — the students at Biola University are modeling an important way forward. When members of traditionally socially conservative environments speak out on these issues, it helps to shift the conversation in the right direction.