By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Feb 18, 2010 10:02 PM
John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, was recently the site of a protest for lesbian/gay/bisexual and transgender rights. The university was founded in 1886 as St. Ignatius College by members of the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order commonly known as “Jesuits.”
The Jesuits are sometimes referred to as “God’s marines” due to their role in helping in the conquest of Native peoples. In addition to the thousands of soldiers and slave traders who traveled the world enslaving Indigenous people for the colonial empires of Europe, this religious order went along as well. The Jesuits reinforced the oppression of Indigenous peoples, often with forced conversions to Roman Catholicism and brutal repression of Native religions and practices.
The Jesuits also took part in the brutal “counterreformation” movement in Europe, where moves away from feudalism, absolute monarchy and Catholic theocracy were put down with violence and torture.
John Carroll University is run by this archaic religious order, though it is also a center of leftist activity, including struggles against repression in Latin America, illiteracy in the U.S. and for health care reform.
There was anger among the students when university president Robert L. Neihoff declared that “traditional Catholic moral teaching properly locates sexual activity within the relationship of a man and a woman united for life through marriage as husband and wife.” This explicitly anti-LGBT language was released as a supplement to the university’s nondiscrimination policy.
In addition to making this condemnation of LGBT people, the statement offered no protection for the LGBT community in its discrimination policy. In October 2008 the faculty voted “very strongly” to change the policy to include LGBT persons. The college defended the exclusion. Vice President Jonathan Smith said the university “strives to achieve a much higher standard based upon its Jesuit and Catholic mission and teachings.” (cleveland.com, Feb. 13)
On Feb. 4, 15 students took action. As half time of a basketball game between John Carroll and its historical rival Mount Union College was about to end, the students walked onto the court. They sat down at midcourt, waving rainbow LGBT liberation flags and holding signs demanding protection of the LGBT community from discrimination.
When confronted by college officials, the students defiantly held their ground until finally being removed gradually by the police. The response of the crowd was mixed as some booed, yet others cheered in support of the students’ civil disobedience. Video of the protest has circulated on the Internet, drumming up more support for the students.
In response, the administration met the following week with over 200 faculty and students who oppose the bigoted language of the president and the lack of protection for LGBT students. Many are hopeful that the policy will finally be changed as a result of the students’ action.
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