I earned my bachelor's degree from a conservative Catholic university in the region where I grew up. A few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find out there is an unofficial Facebook group of fellow LGBT and allied alumni. As you can imagine, the university would never be affiliated with an official group of this nature. But that's what a lawyer for the university claimed people might think in his cease and desist email to leaders of the alumni group this week. Guess what happened right before that threat? (more after the jump)
On Monday, leaders of the unofficial LGBT-and-allies alumni group issued this press release (this is the current version, with the group's name changed because of the legal threat, which is why the date reads "August 29" below):
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAfter this press release went out, the two contact people listed on the release received this email:
August 29, 2012
Franciscan Gay Alumni & Allies
Franciscan University continues to class gay people with murderers and rapists.
Outdated prejudices appear to be given more weight than scientific truth at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. A recent survey of Franciscan University’s course offerings found this active course description on their website:
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR focuses on the sociological theories of deviant behavior such as strain theory, differential association theory, labeling theory, and phenomenological theory. The behaviors that are primarily examined are murder, rape, robbery, prostitution, homosexuality, mental illness, and drug use. The course focuses on structural conditions in society that potentially play a role in influencing deviant behavior.
3 credit hours (Bold font added for emphasis)
Despite more than 25 years of solid mainstream scholarship in the fields of psychology, social work, and mental health demonstrating the psychological health of gay and lesbian individuals, Franciscan University continues to teach otherwise, allowing pseudo-science to be taught at an accredited university.
To classify the normal day-to-day life of gay and lesbian citizens as being on par with that of murderers, rapists, and prostitutes is offensive, untrue, and an example of religious ideology being allowed to trump the scientifically demonstrated truth of the matter.
The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) does NOT include homosexuality as a disorder or form of deviant behavior. All major professional mental health organizations have gone on record to affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder or deviant behavior. The continued classification of homosexuality as deviant behavior is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the professional psychological community and by many Catholic theologians.
The alarm must be raised that psychology and mental health graduates from Franciscan University are less prepared than graduates at other universities and colleges, being taught ideological falsehoods in the classroom rather than solid, proven research and evidence.
Further concern must be raised that such classifications feed cultural biases and promote hatred for lesbian and gay individuals and runs counter to official Roman Catholic teaching on this matter.
We urge Franciscan University to revise its course descriptions and to stop contributing the culture of hate and ignorance that is already too pervasive. The University should conduct an audit of its entire curriculum and remove any information being taught on this subject that is outdated and not substantiated by sound scientific fact. It is about time the University aligns itself with the truth of this matter and gets on board with the positions of respected scholars and professionals who operate from valid and repeatable research and evidence.
Gay Alumni and Allies of Catholic Universities
Contacts – Gregory Gronbacher 616-550-7697 gmg_527 at gmail dot com
Elizabeth Vermilyea 410-371-1658 e_vermilyea at yahoo dot com
Ms.Vermilyea and Dr. GronbacherFollowing this, and after consulting with attorneys, the group's name has been changed to leave out "University."
I am advising you that you have no right to use the Name of Franciscan
University, its logo
or any other reference to the University in any of your activities.
This statement by me is as General Counsel to the University.
Should you not comply with my demand that you cease and desist, I will
take all measures available to the University to interdict your
activities as they relate to the University.
Adam E. Scurti
Franciscan University of Steubenville
It remains to be seen whether the pseudo-science issue will be addressed, either by the university or by others, such as external accrediting agencies.