Pennsylvania's Clarks Summit University, a Christian school, has denied a student from finishing the last six hours of his bachelors’s degree because he is gay.
To be clear, the university kicked him to the curb not for having a boyfriend or engaging in a gay “sexual relationship” as the school’s student handbook prohibits.
No, after accepting Gary Campbell’s money to take two classes, the school contacted him after learning he is gay and informed him he’s not welcome as a student since Clarks Summit only believes in "biblical sexuality."
Campbell attended Clarks Summit University (then known as Baptist Bible College) from 2001 – 2003 earning 109 college credits.
He tells the Citizens Voice that, as a young man, he hoped attending the school would help him overcome his attraction to men.
“Long story short, it didn’t work out that way,” says Campbell. He dropped out and planned on finishing at a community college.
Instead, he enlisted in the Navy. But, during his stint in the armed forces, he struggled with alcoholism and was discharged after an episode of driving while drunk on base.
Today, 19 months sober, Campbell decided finishing his college degree would be a top priority. He hopes to become a peer counselor to help others with problems with addiction.
After contacting the university this past spring, he was told he only needed two classes to complete his degree. Campbell worked to save his money to pay the tuition and fees, while friends and family chipped in $700 to aid in covering his return to academia.
But near the end of August, the school reached out to him to say they’d (somehow) discovered he is gay and that he would not be able to complete his studies at Clarks Summit University.
The school cites very stringent rules of conduct for their students including being required to attend chapel, being forbidden from any displays of public affection (that includes hand holding), and in fact, students are not allowed to be alone with members of the opposite sex.
Infractions of the rules dictated by the student handbook can lead to being expelled.
None of that behavior would come into play for Campbell, however, as he was enrolling in online classes.
Citizens Voice spoke to a civil rights attorney in Pennsylvania, Barry Dyller, who sees the situation as “complicated.”
Dyller explains that there’s no federal law that prohibits a religious-based school from excluding LGBTQ students. And to attempt to pass such legislation could encroach on First Amendment rights.
According to Citizens Voice, the school issued a statement offering to help any former or prospective student “who does not choose to agree with those faith standards” to find another school in order to finish a degree.
But after exploring other options, Campbell discovered other schools he contacted would only accept about half of the 109 credits he had earned from Baptist Bible College.
Campbell wrote to the university asking them to reconsider their decision.
From Citizens Voice:
“One of my top goals being in recovery was to finish my bachelor’s degree. Having a degree is much more to me than a certificate, it’s a culmination of hard work, sweat and tears, and I owe it to myself and to my recovery to accomplish this goal,” he wrote.
“I ask that you not view me only as a homosexual, but as a determined, compassionate, hard-working man who is of good moral character. My goal again is to assist my community and help those who are struggling in the grip of addiction.”
The university denied Campbell's request.
After media coverage of Campbell's story, it appears there could be hope on the horizon.
The president of nearby Lackawanna College, Mark Volk, read about Campbell's plight and says his school may be able to help.
“For us, it’s about giving people that opportunity, that chance to move forward in their lives and their careers,” Volk said. “When I read it, I thought maybe we could do something. … I sent a note to staff, and there is tremendous excitement about it.”
Lackawanna has worked with students in the past who found themselves just short of attaining their degree.
Volk believes his school may be able to accept most of Campbell's college credits and apply them toward a Lackawanna College degree.
Clearly, the environment at Lackawanna College is very different from Campbell's old school.
“We look at the whole person,” Volk said. “Maybe we can do something here to help him out.”
Watch a report from the local Fox affiliate: