Jacob C. Ratliff, 17, a senior at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, and president of his school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, pens this open letter below to Liberty University:
I, like many other high school students, have had my email inbox flooded in the past months with messages from various schools urging me to apply. When I received my first email from Liberty University, I chuckled and joked with my family and friends, saying, “They wouldn’t be telling me to apply if they knew ‘what’ I was.” The “what” is that I am gay — and Christian.
From the controversy of your institution not recognizing the College Democrats club to the constant bigotry and disgust toward the LGBT community, Liberty University has a distinct history of intolerance toward those who are anything but what the university considers “right.” But I’m not here to try and discredit your school, seeing as this institution does some good things. I’m here to address the hate.
While I am not attempting in any way to start a religious debate over the “sin” that you consider homosexuality, I will say that most everything the Bible preaches is that of love and acceptance. There is a reason that the message of scripture as well as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called The Gospel. As I’m sure you know, “The Gospel” translates directly to “the good news.” Tell me, what is inherently good about considering the LGBT community to be sinful and less than heterosexuals? Nothing.
Refer to John 3:16, as I am sure many in your institution have it memorized. The verse does not say that only heterosexuals who believe in God shall not perish and will have eternal life. No, it is “whoever believes in him shall never perish but have eternal life.” In addition, Mark 12:31 does not say, “You shall love your heterosexual neighbor as yourself.” No, you need to love your homeless, depressed, gay, straight, rich and poor neighbors as you do yourself.
I do not think you understand, though. I do not think you understand the fear. The fear of not being accepted everywhere you go. The fear of being seen as less of a human being than others. The fear of showing up to college on the first day of freshman orientation and seeing that everything the school preaches is against your very being. No human should experience that.
Growing up as a preacher’s son, I have been taught from birth that God loves me. God loves me not because of my sexual orientation, but because I am his creation and was created in his image. Even though I was aware of this from a very young age, I still faced the fear of coming out to my father. Not for a second did I think he would cease to love me when I came out to him, but it was that same element of fear that grasped me, causing me to hide it from my parents until it was eating me away inside.
Finally, I would like to add that I recognize and respect the religious freedom that this institution has, but I do not respect what you are doing with it. Until I am seeing freedom to practice religion being used for the good that God intended, you and your institution will have zero respect from the LGBT community, which is a shame for such a large university. I strongly urge you to reach out to the LGBT community and prove that your “Champions of Christ” truly love their neighbors as they do themselves. I genuinely hope to hear back from you with a vision of loving your neighbors as yourself.
Jacob C. Ratliff