Like all Christian universities, Patrick Henry College has its share of LGBT students — invisible as they may be, by necessity — some of whom write a blog called “queerphc.” Several current students and alumni contribute to it using pseudonyms because the campus prohibits “the practice of homosexual conduct” or any advocacy on its behalf by students. Over the weekend, PHC Chancellor Michael Farris took to Queer at Patrick Henry College’s Facebook page to threaten the group with a lawsuit (and outing) if they do not stop using the school’s name:
This page is in violation of our copyright of the name Patrick Henry College. You are hereby notified that you must remove this page at once. On Monday, we will began [sic] the legal steps to seek removal from Facebook and from the courts if necessary. In the process of this matter we can seek discovery from Facebook to learn your identity and seek damages from you as permitted by law. The best thing for all concerned is for you to simply remove this page.
Find another way to communicate your message without using the term “Patrick Henry College” in any manner.
Queerphc was unfazed, recognizing their mission to support other LGBT students at PHC:
There’s not much to add, except that our message is intrinsically tied to the name Patrick Henry College. We are students of Patrick Henry College. We share about our experiences at Patrick Henry College. We reach out to other students at Patrick Henry College. The demand that we stop using the school’s name is really a thinly disguised demand that we shut up.
Contribute “Kate Kane” told New York Magazine that the threat was “incredibly disappointing” and constituted an “attempt to bully and censor us through the misapplication of copyright and trademark laws.” By Monday afternoon, Farris had realized his mistake and posted this brief follow-up to his original comment on the queerphc Facebook page:
After further consultation, I withdraw my note from yesterday. While we believe in the inappropriate nature of the use of our trademarked name, we believe that litigation is not appropriate.
Patrick Henry College is not the first Christian university to threaten students and alumni with legal action over support for LGBT issues. In August, Franciscan University similarly threatened a group of alumni who had exposed a class description that taught homosexuality as a “deviant behavior” alongside murder, rape, prostitution, mental illness, and drug use. One prominent LGBT alumni group, One Wheaton, has been a particularly visible model for efforts to support students at unwelcoming schools.