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NC college fears funding withdrawal if LGBT group is recognized

Mars Hill students Wes Martin and Chris Gowan, along with Assistant Professor Ted Berzinski discuss the ramifications of losing funding. Mars Hill President Dan G. Lunsford (The Hilltop)

Mars Hill College, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, is a small institution. It has limited financial resources, mostly tied to religious contributors.

Tomorrow, the Student Government Association of the Christian/Baptist heritage-school will vote on an LGBT rights organization’s proposal for recognition — and $1 million is at stake. The North Carolina State Baptist Convention supplies 3% of the school’s funding; also at risk are donations from wingnut alumni if Open Door is accepted, threatening student aid and school programming.

An unofficial campus group calling themselves “Students for Traditional Christian Values” has also been vocal in its opposition to recognition of Open Door. (Asheville Citizen-Times):

The Baptist State Convention has taken a very strong stand in opposition to homosexual lifestyles,” said Norman Jameson, executive leader for public relations and resource development for the convention. “In essence, this is a million-dollar decision.”

Mars Hill College is one of five North Carolina colleges affiliated with the convention. It gives the school nearly $1 million annually to cover operating expenses and fund scholarships, Jameson said. That money could be in jeopardy if the school officially recognizes Open Doors, a group advocating equal rights for homosexuals.

Jason Miller, president of Open Door, said the loss of funding is “definitely a concern. But how much are you willing to sacrifice for money — human rights, human dignity, equality?”

The Senate will vote on whether to sanction the group Thursday. If the Senate approves it, the Student Affairs Council, made up of students, faculty and administrators, will vote on whether to recognize the club April 20.

Dan Lunsford, president of Mars Hill College, said he’s aware of the funding loss. “I will respond in what I believe is the best interest of the college,” he said. “I want the process to unfold in a civil, Christian manner.”

If the club gets final approval from the council, and the school’s trustees and president allow that decision to stand, there could be “a possible severing of ties,” Jameson said. “Ultimately, I think the president will act in the best interest of the college and the college’s relationship with the Baptist State Convention.”

Thanks to House Blender Ann for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding