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Union University stands by decision on values statement violation

Shawn Hendricks

Union University is standing by its decision to rescind a student’s admission into their graduate-level nursing program after discovering he was involved in a same-sex relationship and in violation of its values statement, according to media reports.

The Jackson, Tenn., school, which is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC), has stirred both criticism and support for its decision and the Community Values Statements that 38-year-old Alex Duron had signed. He later told the Jackson Sun he was “caught completely off guard” by the decision because he was never asked about his sexual orientation during the interview process.

After receiving the news nine days before he was supposed to begin the program to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, Duron took to Facebook July 21 to voice complaints about Union’s policy.

“This weekend I received very bad news regarding the institution I chose for my continued education,” he wrote. “It turns out that a faith-informed education from Union University is not God’s plan for me, because Union University is not ‘informed’ enough to not recogniz[e] that bigotry masked as religion is not Christian at all. My God taught me to love they neighbor (Leviticus 19:18) and not to judge as is told in the book of Matthew.”

The university responded in a statement released by the Jackson Sun:

“As a Christian institution, Union University has standards of behavior for its faculty, staff, and students that are consistent with biblical teaching and historic, orthodox Christian practice,” the statement said. “We love our students and want them to thrive and succeed, and we believe that a standard of conduct that honors God and submits to his authority is an important part of that success. All students who apply to Union University sign a statement saying they will comply with the university’s values. Those students who fail to abide by those values – or who show no intention of attempting to do so – are subject to disciplinary measures that can include dismissal from the university.”

In the university’s letter to Duron, they stated, “As part of the application process, you agreed to adhere to and uphold the values and expectations set by the University … Your request for graduate housing and your social media profile, including your intent to live with your partner, indicates your unwillingness to abide by the commitment you made in signing this statement.”

Title IX Religious Exemption

Duron acknowledged in his post that Union’s actions were “100% Legal.” The Southern Baptist Convention’s news service Baptist Press (BP) reported that while Union receives financial aid from the federal government, the school claimed religious exemption from Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, in 2015 based on its control by the TBC.

And the value statement Doron signed, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service Baptist Press (BP) reported, clearly addresses “sexually impure relationships”:

“Union affirms that sexual relationships are designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage between a man and a woman,” the statements say, BP reported. “The Bible condemns all sexual relationships outside of marriage (Matt. 5:27-29; Gal. 5:19). The promotion, advocacy, defense or ongoing practice of a homosexual lifestyle (including same-sex dating behaviors) is also contrary to our community values. Homosexual behaviors, even in the context of a marriage, remain outside Union’s community values.”

While Duron said he was “doing fine” and had “moved on from this,” he encouraged people to “LIKE, SHARE. Spread the word.”

“Union University may not be right for me,” he said in his Facebook post. “I can accept that, but I cannot accept that our government is giving them the money to discriminate against me. “

Voices of Support

While Union did receive its share of criticism for their decision, others voiced support.

Randy Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, released a statement to the state convention’s news service the Baptist and Reflector, noting he is proud of the university for “holding firm to its biblical convictions clearly articulated in its statement of community values  that governs the actions of every student and Union employee.”

He added that Union President Dub Oliver and university admissions team have “acted with respect toward the individual and in fidelity to Scripture, and continues to do both in the wake of the relentless negative social media attacks Dr. Oliver and Union are receiving.”

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said July 24 on Twitter that “Union has the right to determine the boundaries of moral expectations of those who are part of its community. This is a principle repeatedly affirmed and reaffirmed by the Constitution and the Supreme Court of our country.”

In a statement for BP, Moore noted “Americans can freely debate with one another in the public square – including on these big questions of the meaning of human sexuality and marriage – but we should all recognize the freedom of religious institutions to carry out their mission consistent with their beliefs about theology and ethics.”

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Shawn Hendricks
Shawn Hendricks

Shawn is a writer, editor and communications strategist living in the Nashville area. He has covered faith-based news for more than 20 years. Among his most recent roles, Shawn directed the daily operations for Baptist Press as its editor. Hendricks accepted the position of Baptist Press managing editor in 2013 after serving two years in the same role for the Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Before that, he served for nearly 10 years as a staff writer -- and later senior writer -- at the International Mission Board.

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