A student has allegedly been asked to leave a Sydney-based Salvation Army college after delivering a sermon on marriage equality for a class.
Shelly Kershaw is completing a Bachelor of Theology at Booth College in New South Wales.
Kershaw, who is intersex, chose to study at Booth College on advice that the Salvation Army welcomes members of the LGBTI community as students and ministers.
The sermon on marriage equality was received with applause, but Kershaw was later asked to present on a different topic, threatened with failing the class and even being asked to leave the college.
“I biblically preached a sermon on marriage equality,” said Kershaw. “The teacher said to me, ‘We don’t preach about marriage equality in the Salvation Army’, and basically ended the discussion.
“Considering the Salvation Army has told me it’s willing to support me when [another church] wasn’t, I’m baffled as to why they’re now backtracking on this. I thought the Salvation Army was willing to support the LGBTI community in exploring ministry.
“She sent an email threatening to fail me if I didn’t withdraw my marriage equality sermon.”
Kershaw was called to a meeting with the college principal and asked again to withdraw the sermon, but refused, citing an established history of LGBTI ministers preaching on the topic.
“He said ‘I want you to withdraw from the subject and the college and basically go away’”, said Kershaw.
Kershaw said the treatment from the college was “completely discriminatory” and “bullying”.
The college’s student union has reportedly advised Kershaw to pursue the matter, saying other students have “mysteriously disappeared” from the college after discussing LGBTI issues in class.
The Salvation Army has drawn repeated criticism for its views on LGBTI rights, and came under fire in December for withdrawing its support for the Safe Schools program.
Kershaw has lodged a grievance against the college.
“I’m doing this because I don’t want this to happen to other students,” said Kershaw.
“God stands with the LGBTI community, and the bible was never intended to be used against the LGBTI community.”
A Salvation Army spokesperson said, “The Salvation Army has conducted an internal review into the matter and believes the allegations are misleading.
“The Salvation Army respects the rights of all individuals to hold an opinion without interference or discrimination. The Salvation Army Booth College values learning in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment.
“Additionally, Booth College supports all students in a manner which ensures procedural fairness and freedom from unfair repercussions.
“All of The Salvation Army’s services operate compassionately without discrimination and are provided to people every day without reference to sexuality. Salvation Army officers and staff treat every person with non-judgmental respect and acceptance no matter what their background, beliefs or circumstances.”