Students at Carthage College staged a rally Feb. 19 to protest the appearance of a speaker who condemns homosexuality as in conflict with “God’s design.”
The action, unusual for the liberal arts college in Kenosha, was organized after students learned that Shannon Marion was scheduled to address a conference of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. A student researched Marion and learned of anti-gay comments he’d made in the past, said Stephen Schreiber, who helped organize the response.
Schreiber said the discovery about Marion’s stance sparked a grassroots movement that coalesced in about 10 days. A dozen students formed a group called “Unity” and met with college officials and conference leaders to create a framework that would allow “both sides of the issue to be heard … in an equal and fair manner,” according to a Unity release.
The strategy included the rally, which drew about 65 students, as well as circulating a petition “in support of our message of accepting everyone,” Schreiber said.
The petition was signed by 460 students.
In addition, Unity was given a classroom near the conference, where students could drop in Feb. 20 to hear a message of pro-inclusion.
“I don’t know if any minds were changed, but I can definitely say that a lot of people walked out of that classroom with a better understanding of where everyone stood on the issue,” Schreiber said.
Unity’s organizers are considering turning their ad-hoc group into a permanent organization.
“I’m a senior, and in my three and half years here, we’ve never had this kind of vocal, grassroots action on campus,” Schreiber said. “That’s why it’s possible that this will continue.”
Carthage is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which welcomes LGBT members and permits ordination of gay ministers.