PLNU says ‘no more’ to on-campus wedding ceremonies

In Latest News by Jordan Ligons

PLNU put an end to weddings on campus five days after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

PLNU did not provide an answer as to why weddings were banned soon after same-sex marriage was made legal.

“Effective July 1, PLNU will no longer host weddings (including vow renewals), and wedding receptions on the main campus or satellite locations,” said a release to faculty and staff. They will continue to honor weddings and receptions already scheduled under contract.

Alum Todd Clayton (‘11) says, not only is he “saddened that this is the path that Loma is taking,” but it amounts to punishing all couples in an attempt to avoid dealing with the “bigger issue” of same-sex marriage

The Director of Auxiliary Services, Kim Riddle, was asked whether a same-sex marriage would be allowed if weddings were allowed on campus again. She said that they have never received a request for a same-sex marriage ceremony or reception on campus in the past and “cannot speculate on what that decision would have been.”

When asked about the timely coincidence of the Supreme Court ruling, administrators did not provide an answer.

Wedding Coordinator for Conference Services, Kristen MacMaster, explained that the decision was made during their summer season by the Administrative Cabinet of the university.

“Our school isn’t a wedding venue,” said MacMaster. “It doesn’t have outdoor lighting, it’s hard to get to [McCullough Park], there’s no handicap access in the Greek.”

She continued to say that lately weddings have become bigger productions, which directly reflect liability issues. They found that couples had to purchase event insurance for their big day due to the university not being able to provide certain specialties of their wedding.

Lack of staff, scheduling conflicts with campus events, and neighborly noise complaints have all made it more difficult to hosts weddings on campus, MacMaster said who has turned away about 10 potential weddings after the ruling.

Conference Services staff are said to have brought this list to Cabinet members, where the decision was made to not accept any more inquires.

“I know that to a lot of alumni it means a lot to get married here,” MacMaster said. “It makes me sad, but since I’ve worked in it, I’ve realized that we don’t have the manpower or the resources to do this. There is a lot that goes into this, so I think we should at least pause it and reevaluate it.”

Clayton believes this is not the full picture.

While attending PLNU, Clayton resigned from his second-term as student chaplain 12 days after he told a church forum that he was gay. The “All God’s Children” forum, a group in discussions on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, was held at First Church of the Nazarene where Clayton came-out in front of an audience of 340 people, reported SD News.

In regards to the decision of no more weddings allowed on campus in proximately to the Supreme Court ruling, Clayton is “not surprised” at PLNU’s stance.

“My gut reaction is that Christian colleges and universities are at a moment in transition because of the Supreme Court ruling,” Clayton said. “My moral side says this is an act of cowardice; strategically, it’s smart if they don’t want to get in trouble in the future.”

This campus, along with 120 other Christian colleges in the United States, is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and is being forced to make decisions on this matter. Certain institutions have voiced their opinion about members endorsing same-sex marriage by withdrawing their membership, such as Tennessee’s Union University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Others, are soon expected to follow their lead, Christianity Today reports.

Subsequently, Clayton explains, PLNU and other campuses will be confronted with losing tax-exempt status if they do not conform.

“With no government funding, some students wouldn’t be able to even attend PLNU,” Clayton said. “The only way this campus is going to change would be the threat of no longer being a university.”

The Nazarene Church stands by its commitment to Christ in a statement released about same-sex marriage the same day the 5-4 decision was announced: “We remind our people that while the civil law of yet another country has changed, divine truth has not changed. We will learn how this civil definition functions within the context of our constitutional and religious freedoms.”

“I don’t think the people in charge [at PLNU] are bad people,” said Clayton who is set to marry his partner in December. “They just are not willing to take the risk against ‘the system.’”

Safety Net, a LGBT support association for CCCU students and alumni, works to empower student groups on campuses and serves as a pragmatic source. Safety Net, as well as Clayton, were involved in trying to jump-start a club established in 2012 to provide a space for the local LGBT community to come together on campus called BridgePointLoma, but it was shut down by administrators.

“A school with a track record like PLNU, a history of not supporting dialogue of LGBTs wanting to meet and do community together has them feeling singled out,” Rev. Darren McDonald, Co-chair of Safety Net board of directors, said. “Even if we disagree about how we interpret scripture, we should agree on certain hospitality and safety for all students.”

He said that if it is the CCCU’s goal to make their campuses safe for all their students, it should be regardless of sexual orientation.

“We encourage PLNU to specify their policy change to their students and staff in a real and honest way,” McDonald said. “A campus culture of silence, where LGBT students are taboo, doesn’t sound safe.”

In a statement by George Latter, Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services, PLNU will continue to host or rent facilities to organizations that help advance the mission of PLNU like Christian summer camps and numerous church and church-related organizations because of “our shared missions and desire to impact the San Diego community for Christ.”

On the other hand, Latter says, hosting weddings, wedding receptions, or anniversaries “does little or nothing to advance the mission of PLNU, ties up valuable facilities and staff, and actually generates very little income.”

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