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Students Rally to End LGBT Discrimination at Westmont College

Protesters Click to view larger
Protesters (Wendy Waldrop photo)

Dressed in all-black attire to mourn the pain and silencing of the LGBT community at Westmont College, 52 students gathered outside of the school’s Murchison Gymnasium Wednesday, March 2, 2016, to stand in solidarity with a minority group marginalized by a lack of institutional accountability and transparency.

The demonstration, organized by several members of the college’s LGBT and allied community, coincided with a regular chapel service at the school with a message delivered by campus pastor Ben Patterson as well as a visit from the school’s accrediting organization, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Westmont, an evangelical interdenominational Christian institution located in the hills of Montecito, prohibits “homosexual practice” in its Community Life Agreement, which all students must sign in order to attend the college.

Until 2011, when an open letter to Westmont written by LGBT alumni prompted change, that was understood to not only prohibit same-sex sexual activity and relationships but even coming out of the closet.

Further, the college still has no explicit protections against discrimination for sexual and gender minorities.

The protest, functioning as an alternative to that day’s chapel service, featured a liturgical call-and-response for mercy and justice to the LGBT community, a mix of contemporary worship songs with old spirituals and freedom songs and guided prayer.

Students received training on non-violent direct action from Spectrum Ministries Santa Barbara, a local nonprofit organization founded by Westmont alumni that works to mobilize and equip LGBT groups within oppressive Christian institutions within the Santa Barbara area.

Students used the hashtags #ExcludedAndUnsafe, #SilencedAndShamed, #OneWestmont, #WestmontLGBT and #FaithfullyLGBT to share word of their actions on social media.

Westmont has not released a statement regarding the student protest. ​

— Donald Scherschligt is the president of Spectrum Ministries Santa Barbara.


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