Indiana Wesleyan University
When Mortimer Halligan started applying for colleges as a first-generation student, they admittedly weren’t totally sure what they should be looking for.
So they applied to Indiana Wesleyan University – remembering that their church youth group had previously staged an event on campus – they were thrilled to learn they had been accepted.
Once on campus, Mortimer began embracing their queer identity and started working with other LGBTQ students to start a student organization for LGBTQ students at IWU.
But their efforts have been met with resistance from the beginning.
IWU is one of 200+ religious colleges that have been granted a religious exemption from the U.S. Department of Education, meaning that IWU can openly discriminate against its queer and transgender students while still receiving federal taxpayer dollars.
University policy specifically prohibits students from dating someone of the same sex or dressing outside of their supposed gender norms – a violation of which could lead to disciplinary procedures or even expulsion.
Because IWU refuses to recognize their group, Mortimer’s student LGBTQ group is ineligible to receive or even raise their own funds. Their efforts to organize have been met with rampant harassment and scorn from other students and alumni, who have harassed queer students on social media and destructed the group’s promotional materials on campus.
For their safety, the LGBTQ group at IWU meets secretly off-campus. And despite numerous complaints from LGBTQ students about the harassment they have faced, IWU’s administration refuses to take action.
Mortimer’s experiences at IWU have led them to join alongside 39 other LGBTQ students and alumni as a plaintiff in REAP’s lawsuit – calling on the U.S. Department of Education to stop granting religious exemptions to schools like IWU that use federal taxpayer dollars to discriminate against LGBTQ students.
Mortimer’s demand for IWU is simple: “I would like to feel safe on campus.”