A Statement From the Principia Board of Trustees

I have written about the policies regarding same-sex relationships and LBGT issues at Principia previously (click here). After much deliberation, the Principia Board of Trustees has taken a small step in the right direction, inching out of the 19th century and thankfully removing a policy that was rooted in bigotry. Here is their statement and the Q & A they attached (click here to view it on their website):

From Principia’s Board of Trustees

November 18, 2014

Over the past several years, the Board of Trustees has been reviewing Principia’s practices regarding homosexuality in terms of admissions, community standards for living within the Principia community, and employment at Principia. We have prayed about, discussed, and considered this topic, especially within the context of the Purpose and Policies of Principia, as well as the writings of Mary Kimball Morgan, the founder of Principia, the works of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, and the Bible. We have received input from a broad range of alumni, students, faculty, and staff, as well as parents and other friends of Principia, and we thank everyone for their prayers, as well as their thoughtful and heartfelt contributions.

Through our work on this topic, we have gained a heightened awareness of the broad claims of sensuality presented by today’s world, and we see that the greater challenge, regardless of any beliefs of sexual orientation, is to strive for dominion over all claims of sensuality in order to protect and to express the purity of man as the image and likeness of God.

In recent Board reports, we have encouraged all who were interested to prayerfully join the Board in considering the topic of moral and spiritual purity in all relationships, in challenging all forms of sensuality, and in raising thought to a more spiritual understanding of individual identity and relationships.

Principia continues its commitment to help all students rise above the claims of sensuality and understand themselves as the pure reflection of Spirit. That work is reflected in the commitments that Principia students, faculty, and staff are asked to make. By clicking on these hyperlinks, you can read the current College community commitment and Upper School pledge.

In light of Principia’s primary purpose to serve the Cause of Christian Science, the Board recognizes that sexual orientation does not prevent an individual from healing or making contributions to the growth of Christian Science around the world.

The Board approved the following statement to provide direction to the administration:

Principia demands that all students, faculty, and staff shall strive to rise above sensuality and seek to practice the highest standards of moral and spiritual purity in behavior and relationships. They shall abstain from premarital or extramarital sexual relations. This standard of behavior reflects Principia’s Purpose and Policies.

All students, faculty, and staff shall be perceived, welcomed, loved, and supported as spiritual ideas. They are expected to honor the community standards of moral and spiritual purity in relationships.

In terms of practices at Principia regarding admissions, community standards for living in the Principia community, and employment at Principia, we are directing the administration to establish consistent rules and regulations for students, faculty, and staff, regardless of sexual orientation.

Although not widely acknowledged, Principia’s history reveals that, for many years, homosexuals have been part of our community as students, faculty, and staff. With this direction to the administration, Principia welcomes all students of Christian Science and invites them to uphold our community standards in an atmosphere that establishes the highest standards of moral and spiritual purity in behavior and relationships.

Principia has a responsibility to recognize man as a spiritual idea and to provide an atmosphere conducive to such understanding. It also has a practical responsibility to protect members of the community from all forms of sexual aggression, both heterosexual and homosexual. All community members are entitled to a respectful, caring environment that is supportive of their individual growth. Any aggression, proselytizing, or harassment of a sexual nature is not acceptable at Principia.

To provide further information on what this Board directive to the administration will mean for practices at Principia, we have worked with the administration to prepare a list of relevant questions and answers.

Principia was founded by Mrs. Morgan to provide an unparalleled education for the sons and daughters of Christian Scientists. That work has not changed. We will continue to welcome students of Christian Science into our community; and we will continue to love, encourage, and challenge them to know and to understand their true selfhood.

With much love,

The Board of Trustees

———————————————————-

Questions and Answers

 

Does the Board Statement mean Principia has taken a religious position on the issue of homosexuality?
No, we are not taking a religious position. Principia serves the Cause of Christian Science as an educational institution and not as a church. Principia continually encourages the members of the community to turn to our Pastor, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, for a deeper and more spiritual understanding of all aspects of life, including love, identity, and relationships. The Board Statement echoes this practice, as it demands that all members of the Principia community “shall strive to rise above sensuality and seek to practice the highest standards of moral and spiritual purity in behavior and relationships.”

When does this directive go into effect?
Immediately.

Will this directive apply to both the School and College campuses?
Yes, but implementation may differ.

What is Principia doing to address sensuality?
Principia remains dedicated to removing the intrusion and distraction of sensuality within our community. We will continue to focus on spirituality and true self-worth while maintaining our commitment to engage the community on issues such as pornography and sexual relations outside of marriage. We invite your support to lift thought to a higher view of God’s man.

What does this directive mean for admissions going forward?
The admission of students on both campuses will continue to focus on active Christian Scientists who have suitable academic readiness to be successful at the School and College. Students will still be expected to adhere to community commitments that include refraining from premarital and extramarital sexual relations. We will continue to recruit the highest caliber Christian Science students from around the world. Principia does not consider gender, race, age, disability, color, military or veteran status, national origin, sexual orientation, or ethnicity when admitting students.

What does this directive mean for hiring and employment going forward?
Principia’s practice of hiring the most effective candidate for each post does not change. Principia will continue to hire active Christian Scientists with the best qualifications for faculty and staff positions. Principia will also continue to expect every employee to adhere to all community commitments, including refraining from premarital and extramarital sexual relations. Principia does not consider gender, race, age, disability, color, military or veteran status, national origin, sexual orientation, or ethnicity when hiring employees.

Will homosexual couples be welcome as students or employees?
Principia recognizes all legally married couples.

How will residential housing in the School dormitories and College houses be handled?
We do not anticipate significant changes to housing assignment protocols or residence life staffing or programming. We will ensure that students are in the most appropriate rooming situation to meet individual needs. We will also continue with our rule that unmarried couples will not room together, in accordance with Principia Policy 22 requiring good social conduct.

How does this directive affect public displays of affection?
Every Principian is subject to Principia Policy 22’s requirement for good social conduct. Specific standards will be developed by the administration in order to provide consistent rules and regulations. We expect all public actions to be considerate of others. The expectation of pure, genuine, and respectful displays of affection will apply equally to all community members.

Will Principia approve clubs focused on sexual orientation and identity?
We will continue our practice of denying recognition of groups or clubs that are focused on the issues of sexuality and/or promotion or advocacy of issues focusing on sexuality or sensuality.

How will Principia support students or employees who are feeling uncomfortable with these changes?
Consistent with our current practice, students will be directed to the appropriate Dean of Students; employees will be directed to Human Resources. Compassionate support is available, and dialogue will be encouraged.

Will there be further communications on this topic?
We will expand this list of questions and answers as needed. Additional communications to current students, families, and employees on both campuses will be distributed as circumstances warrant.

How can we best support Principia students in understanding these issues?
It seems wise to take our direction from Principia founder Mary Kimball Morgan. At a parents’ meeting in 1935, she addressed “Right Relationship: Founded on Principle”:

Parents and teachers who live close to the young people in their care are given much food for thought in the type of questions stirring in the thoughts of youth today. If our relationship with these girls and boys is what it should be, they will talk freely with us of the problems that present themselves and also of their own hopes and interests in life. At least, they will do so if they find in our response to their questioning something of sufficient value to feed them or if they find in us an honest, intelligent, sympathetic readiness to consider with them these fundamental problems of human experience. (Education at The Principia, p. 55)

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2 thoughts on “A Statement From the Principia Board of Trustees

  1. I was struck by the ending, dating back to 1935!!!! I was five in 1935, when I felt a spontaneous attraction to a woman. I also had no vocabulary! At eight I found myself in the Mother Church Sunday School. I wanted to touch my Sunday School teacher, I wanted to show her off to my mother, because Elizabeth Harding was so beautiful. It took me almost seventy years and the Episcopal church to come out of the closet. We are in the here and now! Let us rejoice in our physicality.

    • Wow. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and briefly, some of your experience. I can’t imagine what it would be like to suppress such an integral part of who you are for so many years. I’m so happy you’re living your life openly and honestly as the person you are. Love should never know any bounds.

      As I think on my own thoughts about sexuality and same-sex relationships, I always remember a touching scene that really framed it for me and solidified my thoughts that love is love, no matter who you love. I was living and working in Boston, and riding home on the subway. A Red Sox game had just let out, and as we passed Fenway station, the car filled with fans, standing room only. A lesbian couple were standing near me, and one woman wasn’t able to reach a hand-hold, but her partner was. She held on to her partner, and her partner her, for the entire journey. They rarely spoke, just rode together. The love I sensed between them was so deep and real. I’ve never forgotten this, now several years on. It was beautiful.

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