The board of trustees at Erskine College in Due West has released a statement that calls practicing homosexuality a sin, though the college stopped short of saying students would be banned or expelled for being gay.
The statement came after two male athletes on Erskine’s volleyball team came out as gay last year and months after South Carolina issued its first gay marriage licenses.
The college told The Greenville News on Monday that no students have been expelled for being gay and the college would still admit openly gay students at this point because it does not have a policy forbidding it.
“Nobody has been asked to leave,” said Cliff Smith, Erskine spokesman. “I don’t think there is any intention to ask anybody to leave.”
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Erskine has been discussing its position on homosexuality for at least three years, Smith said.
The board’s statement on human sexuality, which was released Feb. 20, denounces the practice of any sex outside of marriage, including homosexuality.
The statement has sparked a flurry of national news stories.
Erskine has 600 undergrad students and 130 graduate students in its seminary. It is aligned with the conservative Associate Reformed Presbyterian, which appoints the school’s trustees. Erskine celebrated its 175th anniversary last year. First Presbyterian Church in Columbia is ARP affiliated.
The board’s position comes after two students, Juan Varona and Drew Davis, came out as gay to the website Outsports.com last year.
“The release of this statement makes me disappointed because I have never received anything but kind treatment from everyone at this school, and my sexual orientation is no secret. So it took me by surprise,” Varona told Outsports.
In a follow-up statement last Friday, Erskine said its position on homosexuality is not a policy, but a point of reference to which the school’s community can choose to agree or disagree.
The statement was designed to begin a conversation on campus about how to apply the school’s stance on homosexuality, Smith said.
The statement was made, in part, so incoming students would know how the school views homosexuality, but it does not ban gays from attending Erskine, Smith said.
The statement lays out the board’s argument with Biblical references and says that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman. It then says its policies and procedures “seek to uphold Biblical standards, promote repentance and grace, and point people to Jesus Christ.”
The school said its students are expected to follow scriptural teachings on homosexuality.
The school said it uses “restorative principles that seek the ultimate well-being of both individual students” and the college as a whole.
Davis, a junior from Asheville, North Carolina, is still on the volleyball team. Varona, a business and Spanish major from Puerto Rico, was on the volleyball squad that made it to the NCAA playoffs last year but is not on the team’s current roster.
Varona notified his coach and athletic director in early February that he would no longer play volleyball for Erskine, Smith said.
Varona told the New York Daily News that he may transfer if he feels the college doesn’t support him.
“I don’t want to be in a place where I basically have to be hiding who I am,” Varona said.