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Harding University defends decision to block website



The Bison, the student newspaper at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., reports:

In chapel Thursday morning, President David B. Burks defended Harding University’s decision to censor an underground student website, citing his personal feelings and a formal statement by the university.
Harding came under scrutiny by several blogs and social media sites Wednesday afternoon after deciding to block the website, HUQueerPress.com.
The e-zine, which was also distributed to several students in the dormitories in the form of a pamphlet, detailed the anonymous experiences of gay and lesbian students at Harding.
HUQueerPress.com was blocked at about 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. The site included testimonials from current and former students, some of which included explicit sexual detail and offensive language.

Read the full story by Bison editor in chief Sarah J. Kyle.
Please refer to our comments policy before responding to this report.

  • Feedback
    I commend the kind and very well stated position of Dr. Burks.
    John J. Wright
    March, 4 2011

    Dr. Burks made his statement clearly and with compassion. I am thankful for his leadership.
    James Haney
    March, 4 2011

    Banning the website from campus should do for the best publicity they can get!
    Christian G�bbels
    March, 4 2011

    Again Harding stands tall on the scriptures. Way to go! She will receive negative feedback as is usually the case when Christians stand for the righness of scripture.
    Roger Dennington
    March, 4 2011

    These kind of web sites may have a place, say at the so-called Ivy League schools or state schools, but not Harding. I commend them for sticking to scriptural principles. That’s so rare in today’s world.
    David Moore
    March, 4 2011

    We had a related incident occur at Baylor last spring. A group called Soulforce wanted to speak out against the university’s “oppression” of LGBT students. Such sexual practices are certainly not smiled upon at Baylor, but the only related rule in the student handbook merely prohibits students from participating in certain political events. Sex with the wrong person won’t get you suspended or even repremanded. Baylor refused Soulforce a stage but permitted them to come on campus and converse with whomever they chose. The prof I worked for (a Catholic) invited a couple of Soulforce representatives to an introductory philosophy class, and I thought it was beneficial for the students to hear the professor’s conversation with them.
    I think I’ve learned these things from the exchange with Soulforce at Baylor.
    1) Christian universities should use these conflicts to demonstrate that they are not *****s. Their positions are reasonable and natural, considering the mission they have undertaken. They should make that known.
    2) Christians do not do enough to protect those who are wronged because of their struggles with same-sex attraction. We should be the first to speak out against Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist. We should have a zero tolerance for bullying.
    3) Even though many of us believe that LGBT persons are leading sinful lives, we must be the first to show them compassion. I don’t mean that we must accept or endorse sinful relationships. But these are people who tend to suffer a great deal, often caught in a crossfire between radial politicians and well-meaning defenders of traditional interpretations of the Bible. They deserve our love just as other fellow-sinners do.
    4) Harding is a $20k/yr private school. It exists so that it can pursue its mission of biblical devotion. If a student does not want to be a part of that mission, there are plenty of other schools that merely provide job training, and they cost a lot less.
    Harding’s policy is a bit more restrictive than Baylor’s, but not unreasonable. The distinguishing mark of Harding is its radical devotion to the Bible. And the Harding administration, along with most (if not all) of their Bible department, takes the New Testament to say that sexual relations among persons of the same sex is sinful. This understanding is well-evidenced and common among New Testament scholars. Therefore, in keeping with their mission, Harding has chosen to prohibit these sorts of sexual activities, along with others that they view as sinful. Moreover, Harding has the right to restrict campus access to things that might be harmful to the university, just as we all limit what sorts of media enter our homes and businesses.
    I thought Dr. Burks’ comments were appropriate. I wish he would have made a stronger statement against bullying, and perhaps mentioned Harding’s counseling services. But this is an important opportunity for the leaders of Harding to showcase their wisdom, fairness, and devotion to God. I pray they do just that.
    Chris Shrock
    March, 4 2011

    I think that they were well within their rights and I find it very sad and dissapointing that some christians would try to find ways to dissaprove of Harding’s decision. Jesus would not stand for this and neither should we.
    John Mimms
    March, 4 2011

    One thing I find interesting, is that in the entire webzine, there is only ONE brief mention of sexual activity. I’m willing to bet that Harding students have been subjected to similar (equally sexual) passages in Harding literature course readings. I admire that writer for being more open and honest about sexual activity than most of his straight peers at school.
    The zine was written tastefully and was very respectful of its intended audience. As a result of Harding administration’s reaction, HU ***** Press’s voice will not be heard by hundreds, but tens of thousands. It is time for us Christians to truly approach those around us with Christ’s love.
    Heath March
    March, 4 2011

    I am a facilitator in a sexual addiction counseling/support group headed by a Christian couple who are certified in such counseling. We work with Christian men who struggle with sexual sin (their wives/girlfriends have their own groups). That sexual sin may include impulses and thoughts about men as well as heterosexual issues. To us it it all comes under the same heading of sexual sin. Homosexual struggles are no different to our eyes (and, we believe, to the eyes of God) than pornography, strip clubs, affairs, etc. My personal problem with LGBT activists is that they want us to accept that their actions are not sin, and to accept their behaviors as “normal”. I applaud Dr. Burks for his stand, but also want to encourage Christians to take a stand against the public hate-mongering of groups like the Westboro “Baptist Church”. Their type are responsible for the attitude of the public that anyone who believes homosexuality is sin hates the people involved. We should foster an environment where those struggling with homosexual urges and other inappropriate sexual urges are as comfortable professing their sin to a brother or sister as if they were confessing to a moment of inappropriate anger. We can’t help someone if they are afraid to talk with us.
    Gary Lewis
    March, 4 2011

    I am glad Dr. Burks affirmed anti-bullying and differentiated the graphic and provocative writings from those that were more appropriate for public dialogue. Harding’s intolerance of behavior that is inconsistent with its values over the years certainly helps them in circumstances like this.
    Brandon Baker
    March, 4 2011

    I commend you, Dr. Burks, on your swift & Godly action,
    Don Sinquefield
    HC 65-69
    Don Sinquefield
    March, 4 2011

    Way to go Harding University! In today’s world of being politically correct, it is great to see an institution like HU take a stand.
    Dr. Wayne Ray
    March, 4 2011

    In a world of uncertainty, people need certainty that comes from God’s word. I commend HU for taking a stand for certainty.
    Daniel Keeran
    March, 4 2011

    Thank you so much for being a great Christian voice and light to the world.
    D Hamilton
    March, 4 2011

    Dr. Burks announcement handled this situation with as much grace and dignity as our political climate can allow. I deeply appreciated both the personal expression of belief and the limiting of the overall statement to clear parameters.
    I will agree with many previous comments that a stronger directive against bullying would have improved this statement overall. In Kingdom life we should not be relying on the Supreme Court to define free-speech for us. Jesus set limits on our speech in Matthew 5:21-26. The Westboro demonstrators will be judged by this passage.
    However, let us not miss an opportunity to learn from these brave souls who have published their thoughts for us. We need to ask the compassionate staff members of the counseling centers at our Christian Universities, the brightest of our Bible teachers, and the wisest of our administrative leaders to read this publication prayerfully, carefully, thoughtfully and slowly.
    Helping each other become Jesus imitators stands alone as the zenith priority. These writers describe our failures on their behalf. That’s a first step, albeit an obvious one. Are we brave enough to dialogue with them about how to move forward on a pathway toward Jesus’ call on our lives?
    Ron Johns, Jr.
    March, 4 2011

    It is so refreshing to see Christian leaders take a strong Biblical stand on views that are against God’s will. Standing on the word of God is always the best defense Christians have.
    Cynthia Donahoe
    March, 4 2011

    As a high school teacher who had been bullied by pro-Gay activists for my affirmation of traditional marriage, I am encouraged by Dr. Burks courageous stand! He should be commended for his handling of this situation which was well-thought out and compassionate.
    Pepperdine University ’74, ’78.
    Allen Jang
    March, 4 2011

    I do not see how Harding could have done differently.
    G.B. Shelburne
    March, 4 2011

    I met Dr. Burks last fall as I visited the College church where he serves as an elder and Harding. I found him to be approachable and by all means a servant leader. I commend him for the Christlike spirit and leadership that he exhibits.
    Bledi Valca
    March, 5 2011

    Well said. No doubt where the Harding administration stands, the best place of all to be, which is on the Word of God.
    Trisha Kostreva
    March, 5 2011

    I appreicate the stand Dr. Burks has taken and the well worded response to the student body.
    Joe Connell
    March, 5 2011

    It was so refreshing to hear a man of God speak so clearly, boldly about Christian beliefs and standards. Now if we can get the pastors in the churches across the USA to step up to the plate and made strong statements about issues facing our nation, we just might be able to reverse the downward spiral.
    Edna Earle
    March, 5 2011

    It’s nice to see Harding do the right thing. So many times, morality at so-called Christian universities, is determined by the pocketbooks of contributors, not by the word of God!
    Barry Bentley
    March, 6 2011

    I thought Dr. Burks addressed his reasoning for blocking the website very well. He addressed the reason why the web site was blocked from the University which is why I think he only briefly mentioned the bullying at the end. I was proud that he DID address that no one should be mistreated or bullied, but also, as a University, they want to help student’s live a Christian lifestyle. That goes the same for drinking, premarital sex etc. I thought it was very well addressed. Graduating from Harding not too long ago, I am believe they have an excellent staff and I am proud to have studied under them.
    Maggie Townsend
    March, 6 2011

    I’m so proud of my Harding classmate, brother and friend, Dr. David Burks, for standing on God’s teachings rather than being influenced or intimidated by our present culture and society mores. I believe that most individuals, churches and organizations will actually give more to Harding now that they know she isn’t going to go the way of other universities that began long ago as “Christian Colleges” then gradually let the world seep in and Christian values and principles fade away.
    As the song goes, “Hail to thee beloved Harding, alma mater hail!”
    Jo Byrd Huddleston
    March, 6 2011

    Great action! Brother.
    Jacob Akerigba
    March, 7 2011

    I found this article about a similar situation that happened last month at Westmont College (a non-denominational school in California).
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-gay-westmont-20110216,0,6874580,print.story
    A number of LGBT alumni wrote an open letter to the school’s newspaper. Westmont actually has very specific language in their student handbook against practicing homosexuality; much more explicit than Harding’s.
    However, not only did the school newspaper publish the letter, but a great number of faculty members and professors responded with an open letter. They wrote not representing the school, but as a group.
    http://openletteratmont.wordpress.com/
    The letter expressed sadness at the pain that LGBT students have felt and asked for forgiveness for any way they personally had added to anyone’s pain. The letter ended with a commitment to a more gracious dialogue on “issues of human sexuality that trouble the church”.
    “There�s more to say obviously, and we will work in other ways to say more. We can�t promise to say it in ways you find perfect, but we hope you�ll stay in dialogue with us, and with your churches.”
    ______________
    Nowhere in the response letter was any sort of acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle, but I believe this was an extremely Christ-like response. Not only did the school newspaper print the letter from the LGBT alumni, but the response from faculty was gracious and loving without letting go of anyone’s sincere beliefs.
    We in the Church of Christ and as Christians in general need to make a real effort to at least acknowledge LGBTs in our churches, schools and in other areas of our lives. We need to meet them with open arms, open ears and open hearts. I sincerely believe that Christ would do the same thing.
    In Christ,
    Heath
    I am not at all trying to be antagonistic. Please feel free to email me. [email protected]
    Heath March
    March, 7 2011

    Thank you, bro. Burks. Concise and meaningful statement that God reigns in spite of what the world may want or think, and that His will results in the best for us.
    Powell Pendergraft
    March, 7 2011

    Any school that purports to be a Christian institution must of necessity abide by the standards set forth by Christ. Failure to do that is an admission it is not what it claims to be. This includes Scripture teaching on homosexual conduct. The world constantly pressures Christians and their schools to conform to its godless ways. Tragically, many religious schools in our society bow to the world’s demands. I command Dr. Burks for his moral stand on this matter. Let the world rage, Christ is our judge.
    John Waddey
    March, 7 2011

    I commend Dr. Burks in this announcement, very kindly done, and for the stance for God’s plan for sex in marriage and only there. I think we must be in the world helping those with various addictions and problems with sin as well as stand aloof in not encouraging the politically correct views. I could wish that my alma mater would even go so far as to reject all Government funding so that she can be free to stand against the onslaught that can only increase as we see the world changing. God bless you there in Searcy!
    Lawrence Barr
    March, 7 2011

    I heard about this from a student I know who attends Harding. I just watched the video and commend Dr. Burks for dealing very tactfully with a very difficult and sensitive subject. He made clear that the way this was handled is consistent with Harding’s rules and practice of the past. Since Harding is an organization that is not the church, Dr. Burks and the administration are completely within their rights to enforce the stated rules. I also agree with him that the url is offensive and although I have not visited that site, there is probably offensive language on it.
    There is another issue, however. While Harding is not the church, this subject is beginning to arise within congregations across the country. Scripture is clear on homosexual practice. It is also clear on heterosexual sexual acts outside of marriage. It is also clear in condemning gossip. slander, lying, drunkenness, and other sins. While homosexual practices are more offensive in the minds of some than the other sins I listed, Scripture put all sin on an equal plane.
    The Biblical reality that the church must face is, the “blue-haired church ladies” (and I realize that is a stereotype that may be offensive) who gossip, are just as sinful as those who engage in homosexual behavior. The only hope for either is the blood of Christ and the grace of God. Churches need to determine if they will seek to minister to all people, or if segments of the population will be excluded. And if we will exclude some, who gets to decide where the lines will be drawn?
    These are tough questions and difficult issues… let us be in prayer for guidance in how to properly deal with them.
    John Palmer
    March, 8 2011

    Very well addressed Dr. Burks, I appreciate the clearly stated and correct position that Harding maintains.
    Thank you.
    Tim Brinley
    March, 23 2011

    Providing students with biblical instruction and then allowing them to make THEIR OWN decisions strikes me as far more Christ-like than censorship. Truly disappointed in this decision.
    Sam Pike
    March, 23 2011

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