Georgetown Christian Group Forced to Justify Existence Before Jury of Peers
Attorney: “I think what’s happening here is this is punishment by process.”
A traditional marriage student group defended its right to exist at a Catholic university Thursday after LGBT students claimed they were a hate group.
The student members of Love Saxa, a Georgetown University group which promotes healthy relationships through traditional marriage and premarital abstinence, defended themselves in a mandatory hearing against the complaints of two students, Justin Gasman, the president of GUPride, and Jasmin Ouseph, who claimed that Love Saxa promoted hostility toward LGBT individuals by promoting a view of marriage in line with Catholic doctrine.
Amelia Irvine, president of Love Saxa, had to defend the group against the charges, referred Oct. 22 to the Student Activities Commission, that they “foster hatred or intolerance of others” because of their sexual preference at a hearing overseen by the SAC.
Charges Concluded: No Sanctions
The SAC concluded a second hearing Thursday night and decided that no sanctions would be brought against Love Saxa. The decision is nonbinding as it is considered a recommendation to the university’s administration. For now, though, Love Saxa will remain a recognized student group of GU, with all the rights and university funding accorded therein, pending an appeal of the SAC’s decision by Gasman and Ouseph.
Casey Mattox, senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom with Alliance Defending Freedom, said the hearing never should have had to take place.
Ouseph and Gasman levied charges against Love Saxa in September after Irvine, the group’s president, explained in an article published on The Hoya that the group did not support same-sex marriages, since in their view marriages are a spiritual, mental and physical joining of a man to a woman designed to create and raise children.
The two complainants alleged that Love Saxa breached university policy by fostering hatred and intolerance toward LGBT students by expressing the view that heterosexual, monogamous marriage is the only proper definition of marriage. The SAC moved forward with an investigative hearing based on the two complaints on Oct. 30, in which both parties were given time to explain their views and defend their arguments.
The hearing did not conclude on the 30th, so the SAC held a second and final hearing Thursday night at 10:30 to determine whether Love Saxa was a hate group and whether it had indeed breached university policy.
“I think what’s happening here is this is punishment by process,” Mattox told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This complaint came to Georgetown and Georgetown permitted these students to be put through for several weeks of this attempt to silence them on campus because of what they believe. And that’s ultimately the fault of Georgetown.”
Mattox explained that the university should have deferred the disputes to the students, encouraged open dialogue and discussion, and refused to acquiesce to demands to silence students because of their beliefs. Since GU chose to do otherwise, Mattox said the administration needlessly put students through the rigors of a judicial inquisition, rather than allowing them to attend to their studies.
Process Takes a “Massive Toll”
Irvine echoed Mattox’s sentiment, and told TheDCNF that the university’s judicial process took a massive toll on the mental health of the members of Love Saxa, whose vice president elected to step down, citing hostility that other students directed toward her and other members in connection with the complaints Gasman and Ouseph levied against them.
“They say we (Love Saxa) have been terrorizing them, when really they’ve been terrorizing us for the past couple weeks,” Irvine told TheDCNF. Irvine said most of the members of Love Saxa have been “laying low” because of the hostile atmosphere on Georgetown’s campus, and referenced student submitted content on the Georgetown Memes For Non-Conforming Jesuit TeensFacebook page as an example of the vitriol Gasman and his supporters have directed toward them, such as giving “a big ‘F### you’ to Georgetown’s recognized homophobic hate group.”
Christian Group Called “Hate Group”
The former president of GUPride, Thomas Lloyd, also submitted a letter to the editor, published in The Hoya, in which he accused Love Saxa of being a hate group on the basis that they claim heterosexual marriage to be the “proper” understanding of marriage and urged Georgetown students not to “let Love Saxa claim martyrdom at the hands of a people they’d have erased.”
“I’m glad that it’s over but to be honest, it never should have happened,” Irvine told The Washington Post. “The administration should … have looked at the complaint and asked us to work it out among ourselves. … This process has just been a lot for me and for other members.”
Ouseph and Gasman demanded that Georgetown strip Love Saxa of its recognition as an official student group, which would strip them of university funding and the rights of other student groups on campus, including the right to represent Georgetown University in any way. The SAC’s decision is nonbinding and is merely a recommendation to Amanda Carlton, Director of Student Engagement, according to The Hoya. Either party may appeal the decision directly to Carlton, which Ouseph told The Hoya she intends to do.
“I’m both unsurprised but also a little surprised, because the basis of our complaint was pretty firmly rooted in the organization’s standards,” Ouseph told The Hoya.
University Clarifies Values, Some Questions Not Answered
Rachel Pugh of GU’s communications department confirmed through a statement provided to TheDCNF that Love Saxa’s views do comply with Gu’s Catholic and Jesuit values and that the university aims to be supportive of its LGBT students, but did not explain why a complaint against such views warranted a hearing.
“I’m glad that it’s over but to be honest, it never should have happened,”
Lee France from the office of Student Engagement told TheDCNF that the SAC, an independent student body, decides whether or not a complaint should move forward to an investigative hearing. When asked what the SAC saw in Ouseph and Gasman’s complaints that they felt merited a hearing, France would not say. France did mention that while the SAC operates with a large degree of independence, sometimes complainants can subvert that independence.
“Students who do have complaints can always bypass SAC to go to higher powers in order to coerce SAC into doing something,” France told TheDCNF.
France said he was not sure he could tell TheDCNF whether or not Ouseph and Gasman went to a “higher power” to coerce SAC, but that he “could say that various powers were involved in this issue. It reached a lot of people, including administrators.” France would not name which administrators were involved, but did say that Georgetown University’ LGBTQ Resource Center and the Center For Student Engagement had a hand in pushing the issue.
The two complainants first brought their complaint on Sep. 25 to Erika Cohen-Derr, Assistant Dean for Student Engagement, who then referred the issue to the SAC, according to The Hoya.
France also mentioned that there are hundreds of Catholic centered student groups at GU who do not have complaints lodged against them, and that “something specifically happened with Love Saxa that warranted a complaint” and that “it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that they are a Catholic group or that their beliefs are rooted in any Christian ideology. It’s outside of that. It’s about a breach of policy.” France would not detail the alleged breach of policy, but said that it allegedly amounted to a cultivation of “an intolerant environment that made LGBT students feel uncomfortable.”
Complaint Follows Article on Misconceptions
The initial complaint, lodged in Sep, appeared to be a response to a viewpoint written by Irvine in which she explained Love Saxa’s view on same-sex marriage and addressed misconceptions about the group, according to The Hoya.
“Love Saxa’s definition of marriage does not include same-sex couples, as we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level — emotional, spiritual, physical and mental — directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults,” Irvine wrote.
Mattox told TheDCNF, however, that the issue directly related to Love Saxa’s Christian ideology, and was no mere dispute over a breach of policy.
“Here at Georgetown the express reason why they’re going after these students is expressly about what they believe,” Mattox told TheDCNF, adding that it exemplified current efforts to silence Christian conservative students across American campuses. Mattox also noted that it was ironic that such a group would be excluded from expressing their views, given that they hold to the very Catholic teaching upon which GU was founded.
Both Mattox and Irvine told TheDCNF that Ouseph and Gasman used their time at the initial hearing on Monday not just to specifically decry Love Saxa, but to bring up international human rights abuses against LGBT individuals and to debate the definition of marriage, thus turning the hearing into a debate over opposing views on marriage instead of proving that Love Saxa had indeed breached GU’s policy. The difference between the hearing and a healthy public dialogue between students, according to Mattox, is that Ouseph and Gasman wanted to ultimately silence Love Saxa.
“If the students who filed the complaint here wanted to have a dialogue, a conversation, about these issues then Love Saxa would be very happy to do that. Instead their approach is that we can come and discuss this but only one student group is going to leave the room because only one student group is going to be recognized at the end. Well that’s not an honest debate,” Mattox told TheDCNF.
“This Is Our Future”
The Love Saxa incident at GU is commonly seen in public universities, according to Mattox, who said that the result of these disputes has far reaching implications not only for universities but also for the future of the country.
“For all of us, this is our future. Today’s students are going to be tomorrow’s judges, and legislators, and voters. So it’s critically important that they understand how to function in a world where people disagree with you and have different views,” Mattox said. “And if that’s not happening on college campuses then we’re in trouble – the rest of us are trouble going forward.”
Gasman and Ouseph have two business days from the time of the SAC’s decision in which to file an appeal.
Chad Gasman, Jasmin Ouseph, and administrative leaders at Georgetown University did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment by the time of publication.