Bob Jones University
EIizabeth Hunter lives in Greenville, SC. She lived in foster care until the age of 10 and survived a sexual assault during this time, after which she was placed with a family and grew up in Texas as part of a fundamentalist Christian cult. She identifies as a lesbian.
Her parents did not want her to attend college because she is a woman, but she applied to Bob Jones University without her parents knowing, because it was one of the few colleges that she thought she could attend without being disowned.
Bob Jones University has a student handbook detailing rules of behavior for students and includes several specific anti-LGBTQ+ policies, including regulation of romantic and sexual relationships between people of the same sex. “As someone figuring out their sexuality while at college, Bob Jones University’s policies on sexuality and marriage created a scary, harsh environment for me,” Elizabeth said.
During her junior year she came out to a few friends and began posting online about LGBTQ+ themes, including mentioning that she was reading a book featuring a lesbian and writing a book where one of the characters is in a lesbian relationship. During a three hour meeting with a BJU administrator, where she was summoned without advance notice, she was told by school leadership that she “must be gay” for reading and writing these materials. She told them she was “not straight” but that she had not broken any policies. “I was asked to disavow my support for LGBTQ+ rights and relationships. I refused,” she said. “It would have been like disavowing myself.” BJU immediately placed Elizabeth on disciplinary probation, charged her a monetary fine, terminated her from her on-campus student life position in the school’s media department and forced her to attend mandatory counseling with the Dean of Women.
“This was the darkest month of my entire life. I felt depressed and suicidal. For the rest of my time at BJU, I was forced completely back into the closet and had to hold my head down in shame. I survived and graduated in May of 2019. But I still feel the sting of the discrimination I endured.”
She is raising her voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Bob Jones University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.