Catholic U in DC Silences Gay-Straight Organization

Catholic University [CUA] has refused to recognize a fledgling gay-straight student group on its campus in the DC, citing concerns that the group might possibly permit students to exercise free speech and academic freedom rights
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Washington - District of Columbia - US

Dec. 10, 2012 - PRLog -- WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 12, 2012): As Notre Dame University was joining the majority of Catholic institutions of higher learning in establishing a gay student organization, Catholic University [CUA] was refusing to recognize a fledgling gay-straight student group [CUAllies] on its campus in the District of Columbia, citing concerns that the group might possibly, at some time in the future, permit students to exercise their rights of free speech and academic freedom by engaging in "advocacy."

The majority of Catholic colleges in America – more than 110 – recognize pro-homosexual clubs, GLBT Resource Centers, or student organizations.

Notre Dame became one of the latest, saying that providing services for students with different sexual orientations is grounded in its “Catholic mission.”

Unlike most of the other somewhat similar organizations now officially recognized on the majority of Catholic campuses, the fledgling organization at CUA wasn't even attempting to advance the rights of gay students. Rather, as its name implies, it was primarily seeking to build bridges and form an alliance between the majority of CUA students who are heterosexual, and the much smaller number who are homosexual, bisexual, or transsexual.

CUA's decision is particularly ironic because the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has formally recognized the need to minister to "persons with a homosexual orientation," and has called for a "respectful dialogue" on these very issues, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

"It's especially sad that a major university, which professes love and tolerance, should refuse to recognize an organization devoted to those very concepts," argues Banzhaf.

Attorney Banzhaf has filed a legal complaint, now being investigated by the Office of Human Rights, that CUA's refusal to recognize a Muslim student group – even though the university recognizes Catholic and Jewish student organizations – constitutes illegal discrimination based upon religion in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act.

It's hard for CUA to argue that merely recognizing a student organization seeking to bring gay and straight students closer together violates fundamental Catholic teaching, especially since the majority of other Catholic colleges go far further in recognizing gay advocacy organizations.

Indeed, CUA itself did in fact recognize a GLBT organization for some 14 years – from 1988 to 2002 – and the teachings of the Catholic church and its various institutions have become even more tolerant regarding homosexuality since then, notes Banzhaf, citing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 1997 pastoral letter entitled ALWAYS OUR CHILDREN, and the organization's 2006 guidelines titled MINISTRY TO PERSONS WITH A HOMOSEXUAL INCLINATION.

Without formal recognition as a student organization, the group will be effectively silenced since it will not enjoy access to many means of communication on campus including an office, the ability to reserve meeting space on campus, advertise its message and events on campus bulletin boards, etc.

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418 @profbanzhaf
Source:Professor John Banzhaf, GWU Law School
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