I Don’t Want Your Sex in a Religious College

No place is too sacred for sex not to be a point of controversy and contention. It is one of the most acute areas of tension among people with differing ideas about who ought to have sex, who ought to have sex with who, when and where people ought to have sex, using prophylactics, and so on. Part of this has to do with the two outcomes of unprotected sex that are likely: pregnancy and disease.

Other areas of controversy come from religious sources. Once religion enters the picture moral imperatives are not simply part of the social consequence of sex, but come from a divine source that defines the very source and purpose of human life itself. You can’t up the ante on sex any greater than eternal perfection.

Enter Pacific Union College where psychology professor Aubyn S. Fulton taught taught ideas about intercourse and homosexuality that were on the edge of, if not fully outside of, the church’s teaching. This teaching has led to discussions between Fulton and the administration about losing his job. Pacific Union is a Seventh Day Adventist sponsored college that offers “an excellent Christ-centered education.” The Seventh-Day Adventist position on same-sex unions is uncompromisingly clear: “Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disturbance and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by the entrance of sin into the world.” The position on pre-marital sex is just as clear: “Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is immoral and harmful.” Thus, the problem stems from Fulton’s personal position as confused with making student aware of the church’s position. The church here takes precedence over the individual given the mission of the college is one that builds awareness of the Seventh-Day Adventist understanding of a “Christ-centered education.”

There will always be a tension regarding religious doctrine and the academic freedom of the faculty in religiously affiliated colleges and universities. I argue that if there is no tension, then there can be no religiously affiliated college. In my dissertation I examined this tension both in the history of higher education and in the correlation of religious college mission statements, faculty handbooks, student handbooks, statements of faith, social contracts, etc. The interesting finding is that in almost all cases the religious college cited the tension with secularization as part of its mission. Further, the tension is also a source of identity for these colleges. Incidents such as these continue to make this tension apparent.

A private institution can circumscribe the boundaries of academic freedom as long as it is consistent with the institutional mission and the curriculum. Hence, accreditation is not an issue. Even colleges that are more strict in doctrine and faculty contracts than Pacific Union are accredited.

Maybe the prevailing question is at what point the religious college passes delivering a quality education to forming nothing but an indoctrination program. It is evident that the latter is falling out of its usefulness if religious education is to maintain any value at all in the world.

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