Lawyers on both sides say the lawsuit could be historic. Two former students of Fuller Theological Seminary were expelled because of their same-sex marriages, and each of them, claiming discrimination, is asking for more than $1 million in compensation. The court’s decision in the case could set a precedent furthering LGBT rights—or could reaffirm the religious liberty of Christian colleges and seminaries to set their own moral standards.
Court rulings are one aspect of a broad cultural change creating challenges for evangelical institutions. Paul Southwick, the attorney representing the two former Fuller students, pointed out his legal argument won’t be based on the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, but Obergefell v. Hodges did partly precipitate this conflict.
“Now that it has been legalized nationwide and young people are getting married, I would expect to see this continue,” Southwick said, “because the majority of the people who are LGBT are also Christian.” About 55 percent of LGBT people are Christian, according to a Gallup poll.
Schools affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) have been wrestling with how to best serve LGBT students while maintaining commitments to their traditional teachings on sexuality. At the same time, they want to avoid any possible public controversy, since controversy can be devastating to institutions in precarious financial positions. Some of the work schools have done to maintain this tight balance can be seen in the sexual conduct policies in student handbooks, which CCCU schools have been carefully crafting and re-crafting over the past few years.
It’s hard to “do justice to ...1
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