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Student sues school after they expelled her for being in a same-sex marriage

Lily Wakefield November 25, 2019
same-sex marriage student expelled

Fuller Theological Seminary expelled a student after finding out she was in a same-sex marriage. (Fuller Theological Seminary)

A postgraduate student who was expelled from a US seminary college in California for being in a same-sex marriage when she had just a few classes remaining is suing the school.

Joanna Maxon, 53, from Fort Worth, Texas, was expelled from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2018 while she was studying for a masters in theology.

The college’s “sexual standards policy” states: “Fuller Theological Seminary believes that sexual union must be reserved for marriage, which is the covenant union between one man and one woman, and that sexual abstinence is required for the unmarried.

“The seminary believes premarital, extramarital, and homosexual forms of explicit sexual conduct to be inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture.

“Consequently, the seminary expects all members of its community–students, faculty, administrators/managers, staff, and trustees–to abstain from what it holds to be unbiblical sexual practices.”

According to Inside Higher Ed, Maxon’s lawsuit alleges that the college’s financial aid office filed a complaint against her after they saw that she had jointly filed taxes with her wife.

Although discrimination based on sexual orientation is something that is being fought over in the US, a California civil rights code exists which bans it.

Maxon’s lawyer also argues in the lawsuit that her financial information was used improperly, and is protected by FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

He told Inside Higher Ed: “That information on tax returns is protected by FERPA, and it can only be used for what the student authorises it to be used for.

“There does appear to be an exception for educational purposes, if it’s necessary for some kind of educational purpose beyond financial aid, but otherwise it can’t be disclosed even internally to the institution.

“For example, you wouldn’t want the financial aid office emailing your tax returns to professors or other administrators.”

The lawsuit also argues that there is no actual proof that Maxon took part in “unbiblical sexual practices”, only that she is in a same-sex marriage.

Maxon told NBC: “I was approaching the end and looking forward to graduation and all that stuff. To have that taken away unexpectedly — I was a really good student — I was devastated by it.”

In a statement to PinkNews, Fuller Theological Seminary said: “Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on specifics regarding anything related to a Fuller student or this particular case.

“As a historically multi-denominational seminary and a convening place for civil dialogue — with a commitment to academic freedom — we strive to serve the global Christian church in its various perspectives.

“We remain committed to these relationships in all their complexities while maintaining community standards and a statement of faith that apply to various areas of beliefs and behaviour.

“Students are informed of and explicitly agree to abide by these standards when applying to the institution.”

More: California, expelled, fuller theological seminary, postgraduate, same sex marriage, student

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