A group of LGBT and allies alumni of Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio, has publicly criticized the inclusion of homosexual people as a topic in a sociology course entitled “Deviant Behavior.” The university’s response has been to threaten legal suit if the group continues to identify with the school in their public materials.
The Daily Kos.com posted the group’s press release, as well as the text of the letter from the university’s General Counsel which threatens suit. The press release, in part, states the group’s criticism of the course and its description:
“Outdated prejudices appear to be given more weight than scientific truth at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. A recent survey of Franciscan University’s course offerings found this active course description on their website:
” ‘SWK 314
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR focuses on the sociological theories of deviant behavior such as strain theory, differential association theory, labeling theory, and phenomenological theory. The behaviors that are primarily examined are murder, rape, robbery, prostitution,homosexuality, mental illness, and drug use. The course focuses on structural conditions in society that potentially play a role in influencing deviant behavior.
3 credit hours (Bold font added for emphasis)’
“Despite more than 25 years of solid mainstream scholarship in the fields of psychology, social work, and mental health demonstrating the psychological health of gay and lesbian individuals, Franciscan University continues to teach otherwise, allowing pseudo-science to be taught at an accredited university.
“To classify the normal day-to-day life of gay and lesbian citizens as being on par with that of murderers, rapists, and prostitutes is offensive, untrue, and an example of religious ideology being allowed to trump the scientifically demonstrated truth of the matter. . . .
“The alarm must be raised that psychology and mental health graduates from Franciscan University are less prepared than graduates at other universities and colleges, being taught ideological falsehoods in the classroom rather than solid, proven research and evidence.
“Further concern must be raised that such classifications feed cultural biases and promote hatred for lesbian and gay individuals and runs counter to official Roman Catholic teaching on this matter.
“We urge Franciscan University to revise its course descriptions and to stop contributing the culture of hate and ignorance that is already too pervasive. The University should conduct an audit of its entire curriculum and remove any information being taught on this subject that is outdated and not substantiated by sound scientific fact. “
The university’s General Counsel, Adam E. Scurti, sent the following brief letter to the alumni group’s contact people, Gregory Gronbacher and Elizabeth Vermilyea:
“I am advising you that you have no right to use the Name of Franciscan University, its logo or any other reference to the University in any of your activities.
“This statement by me is as General Counsel to the University. Should you not comply with my demand that you cease and desist, I will take all measures available to the University to interdict your activities as they relate to the University.”
The alumni group responded by dropping “University” from their title, calling themselves simply “Franciscan Gay Alumni & Allies.”
While there have been many stories of Catholic campuses being criticized for not updating their policies in regard to sexual orientation, this is the first I’ve heard where a school’s course material is being asked to be updated. On the good side, I think the reason there haven’t been more stories of this sort is that, by and large, Catholic campuses have done as good a job of updating their course material in regard to sexual orientation as other schools have.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry