Samford defends its right not to recognize LGBT legal group amid protest

This September marked the one-year anniversary of Samford University’s decision not to recognize OUTlaw, an LGBT student legal association.

'Samford will be known and acknowledged worldwide by holding to its core values,' its website states.

Activists gathered at Samford University in Alabama to once again protest the school’s decision not to officially recognize the campus chapter of the LGBT group, OUTlaw.

OUTlaw is an association of LGBT law students with chapters nationwide at schools like New York University, Yale University, and the University of Texas at Austin, among others. 

During this year’s Sept. 19 protest, Samford students, faculty, and alumni gathered in front of the Wright Center during the weekly chapel service for an hour of silence.

It was the second recent protest to confront perceived inequality for LGBT-identifying community members at the school. Last year, activists also organized after Samford withheld permission for liberal church congregations to set up booths during the school’s church fair.

Samford is a private, historically Baptist school located in Homewood, Alabama, dedicated to traditional biblical teachings.

“Faithful to its mission,” the university website states, “Samford will be known and acknowledged worldwide by holding to its core values.” Among those core values are “service to God, to family, to one another and to the community” and “appreciation for diverse cultures and convictions.”

[RELATED: Court sides with religious colleges in lawsuit brought by LGBTQ students]

President Beck Taylor reaffirmed Samford’s values in a 2022 video address following the school’s decision to admit neither a local Episcopalian nor Presbyterian church to the school church fair.

“Formal ministry partners have special privileges, such as enjoying direct access to students on campus, reserving spaces for programming,” Taylor explained, “and receiving the implied endorsement of our campus ministry staff as partners and discipleship and spiritual formation.”

The move was not a sudden right-wing shift, Taylor pointed out. Against any surprise, he said, the Samford administration has held a traditional stance on sexuality for years.

Taylor also praised Samford’s ecumenical diversity.

Two months later, the school decided against recognizing a Samford chapter of OUTlaw.

In September 2023, the Students, Alumni, and Faculty for Equality (SAFE) at Samford responded by organizing a protest and posting OUTlaw’s comments on the SAFE Samford website.

“OUTlaw is incredibly disheartened over Samford University’s decision not to formally recognize our group as an official student organization,” OUTlaw’s letter reads. The chapter argued that Samford’s decision sends a message: “LGBTQ+ people are inferior to our non-LGBTQ+ peers by virtue of our design, that we should be ashamed of who we are because of who we love, or that we are anything less than fearfully and wonderfully made.”

OUTlaw responded by fighting for official recognition on campus.

“Even as Sanford continues to hold to its scriptural beliefs on this important issue, we will endeavor to serve all of our students well,” Taylor says in his video. “We at Sanford will not buy into … the lie that in order to truly love someone, one must be perfectly aligned with another’s personal, theological, or political beliefs.”

As a religious school, Samford’s actions are protected from Title IX provisions, but SAFE Samford Director Brit Blalock argued that shouldn’t be the case. She told 1819 News that “all universities that receive federal funding of ANY kind … should have to grant equal rights to students regardless of their gender or sexuality.”

[RELATED: Ninth Circuit declares harassment based on ‘perceived sexual orientation’ unconstitutional under Title IX]

“Samford appreciates the importance of free expression and civil discourse in accordance with its core values,” Samford spokesperson Scarlet Thompson told Campus Reform. “It will always be a Christ-centered place where students are encouraged to express their opinions and viewpoints thoughtfully and respectfully.”

Campus Reform has contacted all parties listed for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.