STEUBENVILLE, OH, September 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The national agency which grants accreditation to social work courses is questioning Franciscan University of Steubenville over a course which lists homosexuality as a deviant behavior.  Attention was drawn to the course by a group of Franciscan University alumni, identifying themselves as “Franciscan Gay Alumni & Allies”, who are demanding publicly that the university “revise its course descriptions and to stop contributing the culture of hate and ignorance.”

The course is called ‘Deviant Behavior’ and the part of the course description in question states, “The behaviors that are primarily examined are murder, rape, robbery, prostitution, homosexuality, mental illness, and drug use.”

In the press release issued by “Franciscan Gay Alumni & Allies” and published by the Daily Kos, further accusations and demands are made, based solely on the ‘Deviant Behavior’ course description.  Among them are the group’s accusation that students are “being taught ideological falsehoods in the classroom,” and that the classification of homosexuality as a deviant behavior “feed(s) cultural biases and promote hatred for lesbian and gay individuals.”

The group goes on to make a broad demand that the university “revise its course descriptions,” “stop contributing the culture of hate and ignorance,” and “conduct an audit of its entire curriculum and remove any information being taught on this subject that is outdated and not substantiated by sound scientific fact.” 

Regarding the last demand the group states, “It is about time the University aligns itself with the truth of this matter.” 

University officials told LifeSiteNews that Franciscan University was never contacted by the alumni in advance regarding this matter.

In a written statement to LifeSiteNews, the university explains that the course uses the term “deviant” as used in the sociological sense, to mean “different from the norm.” In addition, the university stated, “Franciscan University follows Catholic Church teaching in regard to homosexuality and treats homosexual persons with ‘respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358) while holding homosexual acts as ‘intrinsically disordered.’ “

The statement goes on to say that the course description is an abbreviation of chapter headings from the course textbook, which is used by a number of other universities, including both secular and religious institutions.

Stephen Holloway, director of the school’s accrediting agency, Council on Social Work Education, in an interview with NPR (National Public Radio), stated the inclusion of homosexuality as a deviant behavior in the description “raises a red flag”. 

When asked by LifeSiteNews why the course description was a red flag, Holloway recanted, saying that “red flag” was not the best way to describe the nature of the agency’s concern.  Clarifying, he stated that their involvement is solely due to a complaint being made by alumni, regardless of the content of the complaint, because the accrediting agency takes every concern of alumni seriously and this is just one among many that they have an obligation to investigate.

According to Holloway, the course description on which the press release and ‘Franciscan Gay Alumni & Allies’ complaint was based, could not jeopardize the university’s accreditation.  It is the content of the course, whether it complies with the standards of diversity set out in the accreditation guidelines that is considered during the process of accreditation.  The university, said Holloway, is in compliance as long as the university “teaches respect for ‘gay’ people and includes content about ‘gay’ lifestyles.”

Holloway has contacted Franciscan University Officials, asking for “information on the content of the course in particular and how diversity is handled in the program more generally.” He will share that information with the accreditation committee once it is received from FUS.  Holloway went on to say that, “their (FUS’s) accreditation is not in jeopardy.”  He said, “It is only that we get a lot of alerts that something might not be right in a program and when we do we explore them.  The accrediting commission looks at the concern and merits whether or not it’s worth pursuing.”  Right now, Holloway is collecting information from FUS to pass on to the commission to make that judgment.

As a reminder of the school’s claims to religious liberty, the school states, “We understand that some, not understanding the term (deviant) or its context, might take offense at the description and it is currently under review. Nevertheless, changing standard sociological definitions is beyond the scope of our work. So, too, is changing the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Dr. Michael Brown, host of the nationally syndicated radio program “The Line of Fire,” called this “another attack on freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”  “This indicates once again that tolerance is not the issue,” he said, “but rather the only option is the endorsement or celebration of homosexuality.  It is absolute intolerance when it comes to differing religious and moral beliefs.”

When asked about the nature of the increased threats to the religious liberties of American institutions, he told LifeSiteNews, “the day may come when religious institutions will have to seek out their own accrediting associations because of the continuing encroachment of political correctness.”

Attacks on religious freedoms have become more frequent and severe in recent years in the United States. The most notable violation of religious freedom decried by religious leaders and organizations has been the recent HHS mandate that contraceptives, sterilizations and the like be provided and covered by health care institutions, regardless of whether compliance would be a violation of conscience for religious institutions.

With FUS’s accrediting agency conducting an investigation at the request of what many see as a militantly anti-Catholic group, there are growing concerns being expressed about the future ability of Catholic Universities to live out their mission and teach in accordance with Catholic Social Doctrine with full religious freedoms.

FUS told LifeSiteNews in a written statement, “As a Catholic university, Franciscan teaches “all the truths of revelation whether found in Scripture or Tradition as taught by the Catholic Church” (Mission Statement, p. 6). To do otherwise would be a violation of our basic mission as a Catholic university in the Franciscan tradition.”

Contact information for the accrediting body:
Council on Social Work Education
1701 Duke Street, Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314

P: +1.703.683.8080
F: +1.703.683.8099
E: info@cswe.org