Alumni Response to LGBTQ+ Discrimination at Union University

Aug 1, 2020

In 2017, Union University was at a crossroads. It took part in a convention of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that ended in controversial declaration, known as the “Nashville Statement.” Union affixed its name—and, unwillingly, our names with it—to that Statement.

The Nashville Statement drew widespread condemnation for its judgmental and prejudiced views of women, the LGBTQ+ community, and their allies. We, the undersigned alumni of Union University, spoke out against it. We issued a public letter to the University expressing our disappointment in Union’s association with the Nashville Statement. We expressed our belief that the Nashville Statement was not in line with what we believed Union did or should stand for. Our goal was to show that, while some members of the Union community might agree with these outdated and bigoted views, many did not. We hoped to foster a more inclusive environment where LGBTQ+ Union students, alumni, and their allies could feel safe and explore ideas freely. We wished to start conversation and measured reflection on how the University’s attitude affected the individuals and communities it judged. We hoped for a more loving future.

Three years removed from the Nashville Statement, Union has now made clear which path it chose. In July 2020, just days before classes were to begin, Union rescinded the admission of a graduate student to its nationally accredited Nurse Anesthetist program.

Its express reason for doing so: he is gay.

That he had been faithfully caring for patients during a global pandemic right up until the time classes were to begin, that he is in a committed and loving relationship with his fiancé, and that his recommenders and interviewers felt he was immensely talented made no difference. Afterward, brave Union alumni who are members of the LGBTQ+ community stepped forward to speak about the trauma and bigotry they had suffered at Union. It reminded us of the fact that Union’s hurtful beliefs often cross the line into hateful action. We failed this student and others like him, who did not realize the depth of the judgment and prejudice that would wait for them on Union’s campus.

In 2017, we spoke to Union University, hoping to open hearts. We failed. So today, we speak directly to current and prospective students of Union University. We want them to know what kind of school we attended, and what kind of school they might attend. With heavy hearts, we state clearly:

If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, nonbinary, or any other beautiful variation of human identity beyond Union’s conservative ideal, do not attend Union University.

If someone you love is a member of the LGBTQ+ community—your parent, your sibling, your aunt, your best friend, your child—do not attend Union University.

If you are a woman who believes you should be given equal opportunity, equal access to education, and equal respect, do not attend Union University.

If you support the basic human dignity and worth of all people—of women; of Black, Indigenous, and POC communities; of the LBGTQ+ community; and of every other human life—do not attend Union University.

If you know civil and human rights apply to everyone, and no one should get a pass for prejudice, do not attend Union University.

If you believe God and politics are not the same, do not attend Union University.

If you are hungry to learn in an environment where free speech, free discussion, and free exchange of ideas is promoted, do not attend Union University.

If you yearn for true free expression of religion, one that allows discussion and disagreement, not strict adherence to stone-carved dogma, do not attend Union University.

If you wish to explore your faith and ask the many beautiful, unknowable, mesmerizing questions that God places on the hearts and minds of all of humankind, do not attend Union University.

If you strive to live in a community of acceptance, where all people, all experiences, and all worldviews mix freely and lovingly, do not attend Union University.

If you believe in diversity as a celebration of God-given differences and the path to a deeper understanding of the world and its people, do not attend Union University.

If you cannot live in place of fear, where secrets, oppression, and shame replace love, generosity, and acceptance for those who are struggling, do not attend Union University.

If you want a college experience that is what it should be—a time to explore the world and yourself, to learn what you truly love and believe, to discover who you are—do not attend Union University.

In short, if you wish for your education to be a time of learning, a means to find joy and knowledge, and a place to grow in faith and hope and love and understanding, we encourage you to attend a university that values your unique and beautiful identity, whatever it may be.

Our hope today is that Union University finds itself at a new crossroads. It is not too late to turn toward love, acceptance, and possibility. It is not too late to become the beacon for faith and learning that we once believed it could be. When it does, we will be happy to join it. For now, we stand proudly with those it leaves behind. You are loved. You are valued. You are not alone.

With love,
UU Alumni United

Union University Alumni Response To Nashville Statement

To continue the conversation, you can join our Facebook group by clicking the image below. This group is for alumni of Union University who affirm the dignity and worth of LGBTQ+ people. Originally founded in 2017 to organize opposition to Union’s endorsement of the Nashville Statement, this Facebook group has since grown into a community for encouragement, sharing stories about our experience as UU alumni, and sharing resources for LGBTQ+ issues.