STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — A group of gay university alumni and allies is challenging the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, over its inclusion of homosexuality in its course on “deviant behavior.”
The group, Gay Alumni and Allies of Catholic Universities, said that Franciscan University, a conservative Catholic institution on the Ohio-West Virginia border, is “contributing” to a “culture of hate and ignorance” by teaching “ideological falsehoods in the classroom rather than solid, proven research and evidence.”
But according to the University, the principles of academic freedom apply to the course and that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”
At issue is this course on “Deviant Behavior,” found on Franciscan University’s active course offerings listed on its website:
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. (Emphasis added.)
3 credit hours
The group, which has no official connection to Franciscan University and initially identified itself as “Franciscan Gay Alumni & Allies,” issued a statement last week condemning the course, and asking the University to revise its curriculum.
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 latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) does NOT include homosexuality as a disorder or form of deviant behavior. All major professional mental health organizations have gone on record to affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder or deviant behavior. The continued classification of homosexuality as deviant behavior is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the professional psychological community and by many Catholic theologians.
But in response, the group said it received only a “cease and desist” notice by the University’s General Counsel, Adam E. Scurti, advising the group that it had “no right to use the Name of Franciscan University, its logo or any other reference to the University” in any of its activities.
The alumni group has since dropped the words “Franciscan University” from its name, but continues to ask why the course is being described or taught in that manner.
Daniel R. Kempton, vice president for academic affairs, in a statement responding to Inside Higher Ed, said that some materials used in the course “present the view that homosexual behavior is not deviant,” but added that principles of academic freedom apply to the course and that the view that homosexuality is deviant is a legitimate perspective for the course.
While critics of the university are “entitled to their opinion that their understanding of homosexual behavior is scientifically confirmed and thus should be imposed on all universities, we respectfully disagree,” he said.
Kempton quoted Catechism of the Catholic Church as saying that while gay people should be treated with respect and dignity, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law.”