South Carolina college scrutinized for 'biblical' stance on homosexuality

By Letitia Stein
A gay rights activist holds a rainbow flag while marching in downtown Belgrade September 27, 2013. Serbia's government banned a weekend gay pride march for the third consecutive year on Friday, citing the threat of violence from right-wing hooligans, in a move that sparked protests by gay activists and criticism from the European Union. Around 200 gay activists waving rainbow flags and banners that read "This is Pride" gathered outside Prime Minister Ivica Dacic's government office before walking to parliament flanked by riot police. REUTERS/Marko Djurica (SERBIA - Tags: SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)

By Letitia Stein

(Reuters) - A small, Christian college in South Carolina said on Friday it had not banned gay students or homosexuality from its campus under its controversial new "Statement on Human Sexuality," which calls the practice sinful.

Erskine College has received scrutiny for its board of trustees' decision last week, characterized by some media outlets as a ban on homosexuality. It comes as many religious organizations seek to respond to the national debate over gay rights and same-sex marriage.

The college, affiliated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, held that sexual intimacy is only appropriate between a man and woman who are married.

"We believe the Bible teaches that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful," said the statement adopted by the college in Due West, South Carolina.

Two gay volleyball players at Erskine had been profiled last year on, which wrote a follow-up piece on the statement that was picked up by national media outlets.

The statement was not adopted in response to specific students and was not intended as a ban, said Erskine spokesman Cliff Smith.

"Because this is an issue of debate, both within and without religious communities, it gives us a point of reference to have a conversation," he said.

The attention prompted Erskine to post a clarification on its website Friday that said it does not discriminate.

"This statement describes a position. It does not prescribe a policy and does not ‘ban’ any individual or class of individuals from attending Erskine. No students have been asked to leave Erskine based on this statement," the college said.

Other Christian colleges have also adopted positions on homosexuality and sexuality, Smith said.

On the Erskine campus, the stance has raised concerns within a close-knit community of 575 undergraduates, Smith said.

"The release of this statement makes me disappointed because I have never received anything but kind treatment from everyone at this school, and my sexual orientation is no secret. So it took me by surprise," Juan Varona, one of the volleyball players profiled, wrote on the site Thursday.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Doina Chiacu)