Fresno Pacific's off-campus pride club calls for campus inclusion during accreditation review

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dozens of people marched across the Fresno Pacific University campus Wednesday to call attention to school administrators rejecting a student government-approved gay pride club.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges is Fresno Pacific's accreditation agency and it has representatives on campus this week, which is why Birds of Pride scheduled their demonstration when they did.

"This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine," demonstrators sang as they stood at the northwest corner of campus at Chestnut and Butler Ave.

The gospel song connected to the civil rights movement is shining a light on the struggles of gay and lesbian students at Fresno Pacific University.

"FPU is unsafe for queer folk," said Erin Green of the Religious Exemption Accountability Project.

Birds of Pride gathered students and religious leaders for a demonstration on campus Wednesday.

RELATED: Fresno Pacific students claim discrimination, censorship as gay pride club question looms

The university rejected the group's attempt to form a club on campus.

For its members, the decision feels like civil rights history repeating itself.

Cheyenne Cade says the treatment from Fresno Pacific came as a surprise when she started her college education.

"I did know there were people of the community on campus," Cade said. "I just didn't realize they had to hide."

Group leader Justin St. George stressed the importance of their message now, as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges - or WASC - reviews FPU's accreditation.

"They're here to hold the school accountable and if they're breaking the protocols - especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion - I think that's something WASC should really look into," St. George said.

Given the chance, the Birds of Pride want to shine a light for WASC to see a petition from Faithful America with 11,000 signatures.

They're calling for the university to allow the Pride club, which they feel is especially important to the LGBTQ community right now.

RELATED: Students call on Fresno Pacific to reverse decision rejecting LGBTQ+ Pride Club

"With the legislation we're seeing going through Texas and Florida I think now more than ever we need to be listening to LGBTQ+ voices," St. George said. "Because it may be Florida now. It may be Texas tomorrow. But it might be Fresno next week."

A Fresno Pacific administrator monitored the demonstration, but the university didn't issue a statement about Wednesday's events.

A spokesman did mention the Board of Trustees decided in October that a pride club was not consistent with the university's values in its Confession of Faith.

"Fresno Pacific University will continue to welcome all eligible students who desire a Christian education among students, faculty and staff from multiple denominations," said a statement from university president Dr. Joseph Jones. "While the university remains clear in its view of biblical standards for sexuality and marriage, also clear is the tension between this deep conviction and the desire to show compassion and care toward students that identify as LGBTQ+ or experience same-sex attraction."
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