Azusa Pacific University is an evangelical Christian university founded in 1899 located in Southern California. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported on Monday that one of the university’s employees, a chef named Mahesh Pradhan, has been harassed with “anti-gay rhetoric” by university employees. Pradhan says he is not gay but has been perceived that way. The paper also reported that he says he has been labeled a troublemaker for “speaking out against the harassment of others.”

Pradhan is suing the school “for retaliation, wrongful demotion and, among other things, infliction of emotional distress, and to call for more inclusiveness and acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning or queer community.”

Azusa Pacific University says they do not allow harassment. “We value and respect our employees, and we do not condone harassment,” APU Spokesperson Rachel White told the SGV Tribune. “It’s completely against who we are as a university community.”

Fifty students (out of several thousand who attend the school) rallied on behalf of Pradhan. They delivered a list of four demands to the university administration.

  1. A full investigation and disciplinary actions for those who allegedly harassed Pradhan
  2. Recognition of the LGBTQ+ student group Haven as an official Azusa Pacific University student club
  3. The removal of clauses in the student handbook that discriminate against the LGBTQ+ students
  4. The establishment of campuswide LGBTQ+ training for faculty, staff and incoming students

Students are expected to sign a statement of agreement with institutional policy when they apply that says:

If admitted to APU, you are expected to abide by the rules and regulations of the University as contained in the current Undergraduate Catalog, Student Standards of Conduct, and departmental brochures/policies in addition to what is described above. If there is a dispute between you and the University, you may appeal. It is your responsibility to be aware of the policies outlined at catalog.apu.edu. Checking the box below indicates that you have read and understand the preceding Statement of Agreement and you pledge to abide by the rules and regulations of Azusa Pacific University.

While APU is a distinctively Christian institution, students do not have to be Christians to be admitted. However, every student is encouraged to be open to learning about the Christian faith and expected to uphold the school’s policies and regulations. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • As an evangelical Christian university, APU affirms the supremacy of Christ in all areas of life. Reflecting our Wesleyan-Holiness heritage, we consider right living important along with right belief. We seek truth primarily through Scripture and integrate other sources, such as reason, tradition, and experience.
  • As an evangelical Christian community of disciples and scholars, Azusa Pacific University approaches diversity from a biblical perspective, affirming that diversity is an expression of God’s image, love, and boundless creativity.
  • Students possessing, distributing, and/or using alcohol, narcotics, or other intoxicants on University premises or at University- sponsored activities will be subject to judicial action. The University acknowledges that biblical teaching, church history, and data showing the dangers of alcohol abuse provide sound foundations for clear community standards related to alcohol. Therefore, the University has established specific policies regarding this behavior, which can be found in the faculty, staff, and student handbooks.

The student conduct policy explicitly states, “Students may not engage in a romanticized same-sex relationship.” The university also has policies addressing prohibiting cohabitation, sexual harassment, stalking, sexual violence, and inappropriate sexual behavior.

The policy under inappropriate sexual behavior states, “Students may not engage in unmarried sexual behavior. The university only recognizes the marriage between a man and a woman.”

APU also has a Human Sexuality Identity Statement that students are referred to that reads:

As an evangelical community of disciples and scholars who embrace the historic Christian understanding of Scripture, Azusa Pacific University holds that sexuality is a gift from God and basic to human identity as well as a matter of behavioral expression. We hold that the full behavioral expression of sexuality is to take place within the context of a marriage covenant between a man and a woman and that individuals remain celibate outside of the bond of marriage. Therefore, we seek to cultivate a community in which sexuality is embraced as God-given and good and where biblical standards of sexual behavior are upheld.

Biblical Foundations

Foundational principles from the Bible on human sexual relationships are as follows:

  1. Humans, being created in the image of God, are inherently relational beings (Genesis 1:26).
  2. The inherent relational nature of humankind is expressed in a variety of contexts including family, marriage, work, and for Christians, the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Corinthians 12:14).
  3. Humans were created as gendered beings. They were expressly blessed by God to be fruitful and multiply and to exercise dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28).
  4. Heterosexuality is God’s design for sexually intimate relationships. Sexual union between a man and a woman is only to take place within the marriage covenant (Genesis 2:18, 21-24; Hebrews 13:4).
  5. Jesus reaffirms the marital covenant as existing between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4-9).
  6. The New Testament teaches that followers of Christ are to remain celibate outside the bond of marriage. In sexual union, both body and soul are deeply impacted. A person who engages in sexual unions outside the bond of marriage sins against his or her own body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18-20).
  7. The sexual union between a husband and wife has been designed by God to bring them together as “one flesh,” creating a solid foundation on which to build a family (Genesis 2:18-24; Ephesians 5:31).
  8. In Scripture, several sexual behaviors are expressly forbidden, which include but are not limited to: fornication, adultery, incest, unnatural sexual intercourse, and homosexual acts (Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:7-23, 20:10-21; Matthew 5:27-28; Romans 1:20-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:17-19; Colossians 3:5).

Azusa Pacific University pledges to guide the university community toward understanding and embracing their God-given sexuality as reflected in this statement. Any deviation from a biblical standard of sexual behavior is sin and therefore is an opportunity for repentance, grace, and redemption, so that as a community we might honor one another and glorify God.

In regards to employment, applicants are encouraged to read “What We Believe” (which includes the Human Sexuality Identity Statement) before applying.

Why It Matters:

This is not the first time that an evangelical higher educational institution has been pressured to sacrifice its biblical stand on human sexuality. California’s Christian universities dodged a bullet as California Governor Jerry Brown just vetoed a bill that would have prohibited faith-based organizations like APU from having a code of conduct for abortion and sexual behavior.

For those who ask “how has gay marriage impacted you?” We can point to stories such as this. There are some who want to make us conform. Right now Christian colleges and universities are feeling the most heat, but it will not stop there.

Christian-based institutions must be allowed to retain their identity or else they cease to be Christian-based.

As for those students who complain about the school’s position, APU’s spokesperson Rachel White said it best, “APU adheres to a traditional definition of marriage. We are transparent about our belief. Each student must look at the university’s values and decide if APU is the right place for them. It’s an individual choice.”

No one forced those students to attend APU, and no one forced Mr. Pradhan to work there. He does not deserve harassment. If this happened, the school should follow its policies regarding such behavior (and they may have already). If Mr. Pradhan seeks to impose as values that contradict the school’s they have every right to discipline him for that. Again, he knew where he was going to work and what they believe.

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