Homosexuality and Christianity panel discussion reignites marriage debate on campus

The debate about religion and sexuality was reignited on Central Michigan University's campus after a panel discussion including students, faculty and staff weighed the merits and injustices of last month's court decisions upholding Michigan's ban on same-sex marriages.

The panel, titled "Homosexuality and Christianity," was held in Moore 105 on Monday. The three-member panel engaged with the audience and gave their opinions on issues such as marriage equality, adoption and the role of religion in sex and marriage.

The panel was moderated by journalism faculty member Betsy Rau and was set up by journalism professor Elina Erzikova. Debate on the subject was geared toward students taking JRN 380, a class dealing with racial diversity in the mass media.

Director of LGBTQ Services Shannon Jolliff said her marriage to her wife does not go against the teachings of Christianity. She spoke about her experiences as a gay Christian and how her parents, who are both pastors, came to accept her sexuality with patience.

"My parents have really worked hard at practicing the unconditional love that the Bible talks about," Jolliff said.

Bill Johnson, founder of the American Decency Association in Fremont, spoke in favor of traditional marriage. Referring to the gay rights and marriage equality movements as "an assault on the Bible," Johnson argued that the holy book prohibits homosexuality.

"The Word of God does not change," Johnson said. "God's plan is one man, one woman."

Religion professor Kelly Murphy said the original context of the Biblical texts is an important factor when considering the Bible as a modern playbook. A supporter of gay marriage, she said the passages in the Bible relating to homosexuality cannot be applied to today's society.

"These texts of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament were written some 2,000 years ago in a very different culture and language," Murphy said. "Trying to pull decisions from these writing for our context is an issue."

The Book of Leviticus in the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination. Murphy pointed to other laws in that book which outlaw practices that are common today, such as wearing clothes made of more than one fabric, as abominations.

During the question portion of the panel, West Bloomfield sophomore Raquel Harrington asked Johnson about his religious beliefs. Harrington, a member of the journalism class, said the panel was edifying.

"I think we had a real good discussion with a lot of different views and opinions on the issue," Harrington said. "It was interesting to learn more about how to look at the Bible"


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