LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Former students and staff at Liberty University describe a culture of fear and anxiety for LGBTQ students on campus.
“We were told that we couldn’t have families,” said Andrew Hahn, a former student who is openly gay. “We were told that we would never be happy.”
Punishments loomed over students’ heads, a Sword of Damocles if they were ever outed.
WFXR News obtained a copy of the student code of conduct called the Liberty Way, which forbids same-sex relationships. A passage reads, “Sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University.”
“One individual was expelled for holding hands and I believe making out with a same-sex individual,” said Tyler Milton, a former student who says he identified as a gay man on campus, but since leaving Liberty, he felt freer to discover his identity as a non-binary person who uses he/him pronouns.
The Code lays out possible penalties, ranging from a $50 fine to expulsion.
“It’s something that the queer students on campus are very afraid of. I was afraid of it as a queer student when I was there,” Quan McLaurin said.
McLaurin would go from being a student to working in the Equity and Inclusion office as the Director of Diversity Retention. In 2020, he resigned in protest.
He says the most common punishment he saw was conversion therapy.
“Those students would be told that they should do counseling or do some sort of you know work to ‘work through’ that.”
He says the group was called the Armor Bearers, run by the now-retired Pastor Dane Emerick.
Studies show that interventions cannot change sexual orientation, but conversion therapy can have devastating effects.
“He planted a seed,” Hahn said. “He planted a very dangerous seed of ‘you’re going to kill yourself.'”
“I do know folks that did find a lot of community in the mutual struggle,” Milton said. “Maybe not so much the struggle of trying to become straight but the struggle of being gay at Liberty.”
WFXR News reached out to Liberty University for comment on the code of conduct and the conversion therapy allegations. They have not responded.