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    ‘Queer at Patrick Henry College’ vexes school’s chancellor

    photoPatrick Henry College in Purcellville is an Evangelical institution with an enrollment of approximately 325. In July, three anonymous writers with ties to the school launched a controversial blog, Queer at Patrick Henry College. Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Trevor Baratko

    Gay students at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville don’t exist. They can’t exist.

    So says Dr. Michael Farris, the college’s founder and chancellor.

    It’s simple, really. Homosexuals can’t exist at Patrick Henry College because the students sign an honor code, Farris claimed.

    “[Homosexuals] could not sign our honor code,” Farris said, adding that he considers the actions of gay men and women “sinful.”

    “Part of the honor code is to be sexually pure,” he added.

    So you can imagine the chancellor’s consternation when he learned of Queer at Patrick Henry College, a six-month-old, provocatively-titled blog operated by three pseudonymous writers – all of whom graduated from or have taken classes at the school.

    Queer at Patrick Henry College’s intent is to be a “safe online space for closeted students and alumni to share thoughts about LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) issues, without the risk of school punishment,” according to one of the blog’s founders, who goes by the nom de plume Kate Kane.

    “Currently there are three contributors, though we are in contact with other students and graduates who are LGBTQ or identify as straight allies,” Kane said.

    Kane and co-founder Alan Scott told the Times-Mirror the reasons for anonymity range from not yet “coming out” to friends and family to professional connections to the school.

    The pseudonyms were not chosen by accident. Katherine Kane is the name of “Batwoman” in DC Comics. Kane’s character has received attention for being arguably the most prominent LGBT superhero. Alan Scott is the fictional name of DC Comics’ Golden Age “Green Lantern,” who was recently reintroduced in the series as a gay superhero. The third regular blogger at Queer at Patrick Henry, Captain Jack, takes the name of Jack Harkness, a character from the BBC’s “Doctor Who” and its spinoff “Torchwood.” Harkness is the first non-heterosexual character in televised “Doctor Who.”

    Dr. Farris is not a fan. On Dec. 1 the chancellor sent a message to Queer at Patrick Henry through Facebook.

    “This page is in violation of our copyright of the name Patrick Henry College,” Farris wrote. “... you must remove this page at once. On Monday, we will began (sic) the legal steps to seek removal from Facebook and from the courts if necessary. In the process of this matter we can seek discovery from Facebook to learn your identity and seek damages from you as permitted by law. The best thing for all concerned is for you to simply remove this page.”

    The next day, Farris withdrew his legal bluff. Again through Facebook, the chancellor and constitutional lawyer stated: “After further consultation, I withdraw my note from yesterday. While we believe in the inappropriate nature of the use of our trademarked name, we believe that litigation is not appropriate.”

    But Farris’ correspondence had already put in motion a stirring week on campus, according to people familiar with the situation.

    A source close to the college, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Times-Mirror the blog was “all anyone [was] talking about” on campus.

    The source reported that Queer at Patrick Henry College had been blocked on the school’s WiFi for several days.

    “They’ve never blocked anything the way they’ve blocked this,” the source said.

    Even the bloggers were taken aback by the chancellor’s seemingly rash reaction.

    Considering Farris’ long career in law and politics – he ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 1993 and has published numerous books on education and the family – it didn’t seem he’d examined the legitimacy of a legal case, Kane said.

    “For one, you’d think he’d know that the term is trademark infringement and not copyright. At least this is what a lawyer who is helping us said,” she commented.


    Is there a ‘Queer at Patrick Henry?’

    Upon launching Queer at Patrick Henry (queerPHC.wordpress.com), Kane and Scott were inspired by blogs at other Christian colleges, namely BJUnity at Bob Jones University in upstate South Carolina. Kane and Scott recalled wishing there was a similar support network and outlet for Patrick Henry College students that felt they had no one to talk with about sexuality and the range of emotions that go with realizing one is gay.

    “Since we didn’t see any other PHC students or alumni stepping forward to create such a network, we decided to start QPHC,” Kane said.

    Known as a favorite institution for Evangelical parents and their children, Patrick Henry College has an estimated enrollment of 325, many of which were homeschooled in their pre-college years. In addition to the college, Farris is the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which maintains a close connection with the school – the Purcellville campus serves as the HSLDA headquarters.

    The small school in western Loudoun County is not a place where coming-of-age adults examining their sexuality, struggling with their identity or striving for acceptance can engage in open and honest conversations on gay equality, according to Scott.

    Scott said he knows numerous students who have experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness because of their sexuality. The college can feel “very oppressive at times,” he said, which is why the blog is so essential.

    “Queer at Patrick Henry wants to make sure [students] know they aren’t alone and that it is possible to both accept one’s queerness and continue strongly in one’s faith,” Scott said.

    In his comments to the Times-Mirror, Farris made clear Patrick Henry College is not a friendly environment for homosexuals.

    “We don’t think that there are any such students,” Farris said of gays and lesbians at his college.

    Farris said the school’s administration believes Queer at Patrick Henry College is a “hoax.”

    His statements don’t seem to hold up. During an interview, Kane showed her diploma from the school, marked with her real name, graduation date and school’s banner.

    “It’s hard to believe [Farris] would go straight to, ‘oh, we don’t exist,’ when we can so easily prove who we are,” Kane said.


    ‘Open, honest and loving conversation’

    One question naturally comes to mind when considering Patrick Henry College and gay rights and tolerance: “Why would an openly gay, bisexual or transgender person, or someone who’s questioning their sexuality, choose to attend a hard-line Christian institution?”

    “It’s a good question,” Kane said. “And there are a few answers ... I know for me, if my parents were going to sign off on a loan for school, it had to be fundamentalist college.” (Farris said he does not consider the school to be “fundamentalist.”)

    Scott, meanwhile, said he felt going to Patrick Henry College was God’s calling. Despite his opposition to the school’s stance on gay issues, Scott spoke highly of his educational experience at Patrick Henry.

    “Even in the areas where it seems the college can be somewhat hypocritical – ‘do what we say, not what we do’; ‘encourage us to think critically about things and discuss them, and then say it is not good to do so’ – I have still learned a lot,” Scott said, adding that Patrick Henry professors often push students to examine their beliefs and scrutinize them.

    “It was that encouragement to face the tough questions and not be afraid of the answers that actually helped me come to terms with my sexual orientation and reconcile it with my faith,” Scott noted.

    Yet the claims of hypocrisy against the school are still blatant. The Patrick Henry student handbook, in which the honor code appears, details the school’s core mission and its views on homosexuality and marriage.

    The handbook states: “We hold this truth to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. All human beings are created in God’s image, and all are precious and equal in His sight. Bigotry is a sin again God and man.”

    The next bullet point of the handbook states that governments encouraging or condoning homosexual acts is immoral and without authority.

    The handbook advocates for students having “exposure to other cultures to evaluate such cultures because all people are God’s creation;” yet the school’s administration fails to support certain cultural aspects of homosexuality.

    While Farris’ harsh response and lawsuit threat was discouraging for Scott, he remains hopeful the final outcome of the blog and its recent controversy will be positive.

    Scott and other sources maintain a surge of conversations about gay issues have come about since word of Farris’ threat spread.

    “I remain hopeful for the possibility of more positive interactions with [administration] in the future,” Scott said. “I look forward to when it is possible to have mature, open, honest and loving conversation about LGBTQ issues at PHC without students or alumni experiencing fear of reprisal, rejection, or shaming.”

    Comments

    Poor Troy…. trying so hard to eliminate the decency in anyone who disagrees with these “activists”. So much so, he’s begun to fantasize that we’re now racists as well. Well, Troy, I have worked in ethnic outreach for the Republicans thruout all of the 10th District. I supported the only African-American entry in the Sheriff’s race, as he’s been a long-time friend and fellow church attendee. Care to grasp at any more straws?


    I’ll pray for RoundHillHank, as I’m sure others will as well.

    From Inside Higher Ed: “The drama has attracted a glut of national media attention, far more than the blog’s founders expected. But their story is far less unusual than it would have seemed even a year ago. More than 50 such groups, blogs and activist alumni groups have sprung up at similar Christian colleges over the past year, making 2012 something of a watershed moment for gay students and alumni at evangelical colleges.”


    Congratulations to the Loudoun Times-Mirror for clearly establishing itself as a bona fide member of the left-leaning “main stream media” with their now very well known pro-homosexual, anti-establishment, and anti-Christian ethos on plain display in the this article. PHC’s overt and traditional Christian values are well known to any applicant. No one is forced to matriculate to PHC and every student must sign an oath attesting to their embrace of the Bible’s inerrancy which includes both Old and New Testament overt prohibitions against homosexual conduct or supporting same. There is a word for these students and it is “liar” for signing such an oath while in their hearts actually rejecting Biblical inerrancy. Additionally, the author of the article and most of the commentators on this site show a disappointing but unsurprising dearth of knowledge of anything pertaining to Biblical Christianity or the Bible. They confuse feelings with values and I imagine have no belief whatsoever in objective truth. It’s all about situational and subjective morality.


    It is going to be really funny in 15 years when these bigoted views on homosexuality are viewed the same way racism is today.  Although something tells me some of the commenters here who refer to Arlington as being home to a “plethora of sinful behavior” probably aren’t too fond of non-whites either. 

    Bigotry tends to be xenophobic in nature, and anything that isn’t their mirror image is scary to them and somehow threatening.  Unfortunately, most use religion as a front for justifying their bigotry in the case of homosexuals, although I suppose the same used to be done with racial minorities.

    With that said, I’m not sure why anyone who isn’t a straight “evangelical” Christian would go to one of these schools.  There are thousands of colleges out there, most of which are more well known than Patrick Henry “College”.  Maybe they have lunatic parents who forced them to go there.


    Since the gay population in America is at or around 3% to 4%.... in 325 students, it is laughable to figure three gay students in that small sample. Obviously, no one has dug thru the site’s address to figure out who is paying for the hosting. I highly suspect three local activists with a demonstrated hatred of Patrick Henry College….and when I open the comments section and see them posting about this story…my suspicions are confirmed.
    As has been offered above…the code is PHC’s right. If you don’t agree with it, other universities abound. You’re not a good fit with the curriculum. Why force it…other than trying to make a pretty lame point?


    Patrick Henry College was located in Loudoun County both because of its proximity to Washington DC (for the ease of implementing PHC’s political mission) and because Loudoun County was experiencing a high rate of growth and resident turnover. With a relatively high number of short term residents not invested in the future of the county, it’s easier for Farris’ group to exert influence over our local electoral process and consolidate power.

    Supervisor Delgaudio made a small slip a few years ago when he said of the PHC students he recruits to do political work for him, “those students are the reason I won the election.”


    This is exactly why HeartStrong has existed for over 16 years!  http://www.heartstrong.org


    Hey FredSanford - maybe you should move to a commie place where you’re not allowed to have an opinion! I always find it funny when people tell me to move somewhere else because i don’t agree with them! Why?  Hey Fred, don’t forget that Loudoun is BLUE BLUE BLUE - a democratic majority.


    FredSanford - I am glad bronze age thinking like yours is dieing out and the founders knew enough to separate church from state to prevent people like you from having control. You and the Taliban have a lot in common.


    Farris rails against the government and then tries to use the courts (part of government) to bully people.  A first year law student would realize that Farris has no case.  But then, perhaps Farris has never thought about reading copyright law…after all, he stole the name of his school from Patrick Henry Community College. 

    Thankfully the State Council of HIgher Education in Virginia continues to refuse to consider accrediting this madrasa


    fedupdude - If you don’t like it, move to Alexandra or Arlington. Maybe there you’ll feel right at home with a plethora of sinful behavior you can wallow in. Maybe you should take a minute to think about why Patrick Henry is located in Loudoun County.


    I don’t know why I should be shocked at the general ignorance and hatred people posting anonymously on the web spew. Some of you folks need to grow up.


    I did not realize there were so many bigots that lived in Loudoun County after reading these comments.  You are no better than Mr. Farris.  It is obvious many of you live a sheltered life, or at least you pretend too!  Let’s use religion as an excuse. 

    So by forcing someone to sign a waiver stating you that you are “pure”, you basically tell them to lie.  But that’s OK, because that money you pay us is “pure”.

    I wonder if Jesus Christ was trying to get into Patrick Henry if he would sign that waiver.  But then I guess Jesus would not be accept as he does not meet Mr. Farris criteria…not married, no kids, must be something wrong with him.

    Ponder That!

    And no I am not an atheist. Love thy Neighbor and Let He Who is Without Sin Cast the First Stone.


    @John If folks are born gay, what is the biological belief?


    I pray that Mr. Farris is “blessed” with a homosexual child. Maybe then he will understand that is they way they are born and that it is not a sin.


    Farris has a tin-foil @sshat!


    @Wow1971,

    I cannot have children. Should I be prohibited from marrying?

    What about couples that have no intention of having kids?

    Your “argument” is laughable at best.


    Wow1971-

    On June 12, 2007, Mildred Loving issued a rare public statement, which commented on same-sex marriage, prepared for delivery on the fortieth anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision of the US Supreme Court.[12] The concluding paragraphs of her statement read as follows:

    “Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.
    I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.  ”


    Thank you for exposing Mike Farris’ statement in all of its denialist glory, skidrow. You nailed it exactly with your parody: He believes (or desperately wants to believe) he can make a group of people “not exist” by erasing them administratively. Reality doesn’t work that way, however. Pretending that something doesn’t exist has no effect on its existence one way or the other.

    As funny as it is, I have to point out that your example is dated. The census does now record the number of same sex couple and different sex couple headed households, although it does not record sexual orientation per se. And of course the other forms you mention record gender, and always have.

    You are correct that homosexuality and heterosexuality are not races or ethnicities, they are sexual orientations. But I’m sure that most readers are already aware of this.


    To become a student at Patrick Henry College you sign a code of conduct form…...If you don’t agree with the beliefs practiced don’t go there..Very simple…


    There are no Homosexuals in America or because that check box doesn’t exist on the Census form, Social Security ID Application, or Passport Application.  Homosexuality is a “State of Mind” and not a Race or Ethnicity of people.


    @ Wow
    I think the point she was trying to make is that, like people, times and even civilizations, constitutions change. It’s just a matter of time for Virginia. To quote George Will:

    “There is something like an emerging consensus. Quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying. It’s old people.”


    I understand Farris believes homosexuality is a disease transmitted by ticks.  Hard to know sometimes where this guy is coming from.

    I will say one thing, this whole issue goes away if those darn straight folks would stop having homosexual offspring.


    This is now even more embarrassing for Mike Farris than it was when he issued his threat, a threat so empty that a single phone call inquiring whether he had legal representation resulted in its withdrawal literally minutes later. Now he jams his fingers in his ears, squeezes his eyes shut, and insists that LGBT students at PHC “can’t exist” just because he says so.

    The contradiction that has him so “vexed” that he can’t stop himself from doing and saying such transparently thoughtless things is this: You can’t take intelligent young people and provide them with a rigorous classical education, and then expect them to continue believing things that defy logic and material reality. It’s not possible. The harder someone like Mr. Farris tries to repress and deny the truth out of existence the more vigorously it will assert itself, as evidenced by the fact that QueerPHC is all anyone has been talking about on campus all week. I can only imagine the spike in traffic the blog is experiencing, since the only effect of blocking the site on campus is to make everyone want to go read what the administration doesn’t want them to read. Knowing that their internet use is likely monitored, I doubt that students and staff would visit the site from campus anyway.

    As Kate Kane has pointed out today, Mr. Farris’ claim “we don’t think that there are any such students” is at least in part based on the illogical and somewhat silly notion that people don’t have a sexual orientation unless they are sexually active. A person well known for his over the top anti-gay rhetoric a few years ago attempted to make this argument at a public hearing by using smoking as a metaphor, insisting earnestly that “if a person doesn’t smoke cigarettes, they aren’t a smoker.” By this logic, a celibate heterosexual man who has lost his wife is no longer heterosexual; a 22 year old virgin engaged to his opposite sex sweetheart isn’t heterosexual, either. I don’t think too many of us are going to buy that argument, and likewise for the fairy tale Mr. Farris is selling. The truth is that regardless of background, religious training, family situation, or any other factor one might try to control, people have the gender and sexual orientation they were created with. He can (and probably will) go on believing his own delusion, but the quicksand he finds himself in suggests that he stop struggling sooner rather than later.


    Citizen Jane,
    Maybe you need to learn how babies are made.  The comparison of interracial marriage to homosexual marriage is disgusting.


    Skidrow -

    In the mid 60s it was illegal for a two interracial couples to marry.  Should that still the the case? 

    Look up Loving v Virginia


    If you don’t like the way they do things at Patrick Henry, then don’t go to the school. It is that simple. Nobody forces you to do it. For some reason, the forces of tolerance only think their own ideas should be tolerated, never those they don’t agree with.

    There is no benefit to having all colleges be identical politically-correct clones. I have no respect for people who would falsely sign an honor pledge and attend a school that apparently is so at odds with a very significant part of their life, and then complain about it later. Choose a different school. It isn’t like graduating from Patrick Henry is a ticket to easy street so there are no alternatives. Just pat yourself on the back for how enlightened and tolerant you are, and leave those you regard as inferior to themselves.


    @Frank - Go read the Virginia Constitution

    Section 15-A. Marriage.

    That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

    The amendment ratified November 7, 2006, and effective January 1, 2007


    Just another fine example of how overly religious people can make things difficult in the world. I just love the whole, oh, I love people and all people are equal, wait, except for those people right there, oh and them too, they do not think like I do so something is wrong with them.  It is not just about gays either.


    @SkidRow
    Were you born straight or did you choose to be? If so, I trust that you must remember such a momentous event, as choosing your sexuality. Where were you when you made this decision? How old were you?
    And if being gay were a genetic defect, a disease, that prevents them from procreating, why are there still gay people? Could it be instead, a genetic trait rather than a defect? A trait that’s managed to survive eons of evolution and is even seen in other species?
    And why do you even care? Are there gay people coming to your house trying to get you to change your mind on your sexuality?  Are you personally victimized somehow by these folks? Live and let live my friend.


    Who Quares?


    Are people born gay or do they decide to be gay? Anybody who chooses to be gay needs mental help. Anybody who is born gay has a genetic defect that will prevent them from procreating. Something that is vital for a species survival. This would suggest that homosexuality is an evolutionary dead end. Maybe one day they will find a cure to this disease.


    Patrick Henry is said to have owned dozens of slaves; somewhere around 75 of them.  It’s not surprising then, that a school named after him, would ALSO try and oppress a group of people,  who have been deemed “different”.


    “Part of the honor code is to be sexually pure,” he added. News flash, Dr. Farris: You can be sexually ‘pure’ and still be gay, as many Bob Jones University students and alumni will tell you. I am one of them (read about us at BJUnity.org). Bob Jones University has also said they have no homosexuals and they couldn’t have been (or be) more wrong.

    Fundamentalists are so busy worrying about specific sexual acts that they completely miss the boat on the issue. Being gay is about who you love, not who you do.

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