Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Charles Finney School, a private Christian school in New York, recently updated its policies to ban openly LGBTQ students, and some (extremely naïve) parents are in shock that administrators could be so cruel.

The biggest changes came in the “lifestyle” section of the student handbook, which spelled out how the school now had the right to “discontinue enrollment” of openly LGBTQ students who aren’t deeply ashamed of themselves.

A section from the Finney School student handbook

Private Christian schools find themselves facing challenges that are a product of a society moving away from traditional Biblically based views on sexuality and gender identity. Christian schools must stand for truth and Christian values and not hide or fail to follow them.

The school’s mission is to provide quality education in the context of a distinctively Christian environment and values. It is the school’s desire to develop and communicate policies that reflect Christian values, seek to educate, restore, and heal. The desired outcome is never to offend, wound, or condemn. It is the school’s position to take time to listen, value, forgive, and show the love of Christian to others who struggle in the area of their sexuality. The school will work with parents and students who wish to attend the school and are willing to support the school’s position.

In cases where the student’s actions in school are in direct contradiction or opposition to the school’s behavior standards or Biblical worldview the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion as a non-profit Christian school, to discontinue enrollment. This includes, but is not limited to homosexual lifestyles or alternative gender identities, and/or promoting, encouraging, or influencing other students about such practices on campus.

It’s such a horribly worded statement that you have to wonder how many people had a hand in it before signing off on it. There’s the assumption that being Christian means opposing LGBTQ rights, which is an idea plenty of progressive Christians would argue against. There’s the useless paragraph about how they’re not trying to offend anyone and how they absolutely want to help those dastardly LGBTQ kids… implying that their God only loves cisgender, straight people. Then there’s the bit at the end about how LGBTQ students might be influencing other students… which either means they’re trying to turn kids gay (which is not how it works) or urging them to be more respectful and tolerant (which is apparently a Very. Bad. Thing).

The bottom line is that The Charles Finney School never explicitly had a No LGBTQ Students Allowed policy before, but now they do. Anyone who’s openly gay or trans—and isn’t attempting to fix it—must be kicked out before their cooties infect other students.

It came as a surprise to Heidi Buckler, who enrolled both of her children at the school beginning in 2018:

Buckler, who describes herself as spiritual, thought a religious education would be beneficial.

“They talked about Jesus and the Bible, and we thought that’s a great thing for the children to learn about in addition to a strong curriculum,” said Buckler.

This summer, she received an email from the school about updates to the student handbook. The changes shocked Buckler.

The student lifestyle section in particular I found hateful, and I had to read it a couple times to make sure I was reading it properly,” she said.

“It goes against everything I thought this school stood for because the Bible says that Jesus loves everyone regardless,” said Buckler. “You are specifically singling out one particular group of children, children that are no longer welcome in your school.”

You almost want to pat her on the head for being such a decent human being that she couldn’t imagine a Christian school doing anything this monstrous. Welcome to reality, Heidi. Conservative Christians practice the religion of cruelty. Sorry you had to discover this the hard way.

It’s not that she even has LGBTQ kids herself. But once she realized how awful this place was, she rightly removed her kids from there.

Another parent who spoke to local news station 13WHAM said that this change occurred after a school-sponsored panel discussion on sexuality this past spring that included an advocate of the long-debunked practice of gay conversion.

“My son said they never called him a conversion therapist but said he could work with you to make you not gay,” the mother, whose son is LGBTQ, told 13WHAM. “I was furious. I was sick. I couldn’t believe they would actually bring someone in to say these things to convince kids that they need to change who they are.”

The school’s president Michael VanLeeuwen said that’s not true… but it’s not hard to read between the lines in a statement her sent the news station:

We have never had a therapist on campus telling students that they would work with them to “make them not gay”. Nothing like this has ever been mentioned by anyone at our school. We had a panel discussion last year that included a variety of people from various backgrounds addressing questions students had in regards to alternative lifestyles and answered those questions based on a Biblical perspective. The messaging was not confrontational or condemning in any way, shape, or form. We are a very diverse, loving community and our desire is that all of our students know that we love and care for them regardless of their political, religious, or sexual identity.

The quotation marks matter. It’s easy to imagine they had someone who promoted the idea that gay people could change their sexual orientation but never used the words “conversion therapy” or made a No Gay Guarantee. These are, after all, the same people who insist their anti-LGBTQ policy is “loving.”

That second mother also took her child out of the school. Right move.

I’m honestly shocked by the level of shock over this policy change, but these people are learning the hard way what the rest of us figured out a long time ago: For many conservatives, their Christian faith is nothing more than a weapon to use against others. It doesn’t matter what rhetoric they use; they promote cruelty in the name of Jesus.

At least these parents are speaking out about it. At the very least, no one enrolling their kids at this school should be surprised by the bigotry.

Avatar photo

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.