Christian university expels lesbian student, demands scholarship repayment

A Christian university that expelled a lesbian student for dating another woman wants her to repay the $6,000 scholarship she received to attend classes there.

Danielle Powell didn’t know she was a lesbian when she first enrolled at Grace University — a private, Christian university in Nebraska. Nevertheless, she began a relationship with another woman in the fall of 2011, after several years at the university.

Eventually, one of Powell’s advisers found out about the relationship and notified university authorities, who convened a hearing. Powell was outed to friends and family for the first time, according to The Huffington Post.

Eventually, the university suspended Powell indefinitely, and instructed her to undergo a restoration process involving counseling and therapy before she could re-enroll.

Powell began the restoration process, but the university declined to re-admit her, since she was still dating a woman. After Iowa legalized gay marriage, Powell married her girlfriend, Michelle Rogers.

Same-sex relationships violate school policy, according to the university’s student handbook.

“Any student involved in sexually immoral behavior, including premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual acts, is at minimum placed on University probation and may be subject to a Judiciary Hearing,” says the handbook for the university.

Chastity is not the only restriction that Grace places on its students. The handbook instructs each student to ask himself whether a given activity will “provide an opportunity for Satan to get a stronghold in an area of my life” before choosing to engage in the activity.

To this end, dancing, gambling and drinking are explicitly forbidden on and off campus. The viewing of R-rated movies and certain television channels — including HBO, Comedy Central, VH1, MTV, E! Entertainment Television and Black Entertainment Television — is also prohibited.

Powell would like her credits transferred to another school, but Grace is withholding her transcript until she repays a $6,300 tuition scholarship, she alleged.

Broke and unable to resume her studies at another college unless Grace releases the transcript, Powell and her wife have started a petition on Change.org that simply asks the university to forgive the debt. So far, over 28,000 people have signed the petition.

Michael James, vice president of Grace University, denied that the university was withholding Powell’s transcript until she pays.

“We were clearly willing to provide transcripts and help the student transfer to another university,” he said in a statement to World Magazine.

He also explained that asking her to repay the scholarship was an automatic step, since the federal government takes back the money if the student doesn’t finish at least 60 percent of the semester.

But Powell claims the university has so far only been willing to provide a student copy of her transcript, which is useless for transferal.

In an interview with the World-Herald, Powell said she attended Grace because of the scholarship, and because she could play volleyball there. Though she was a Christian at the time, Powell was not prepared for the strict biblical culture, she said.

Grace is a nondenominational Christian university.

James pointed out that Powell did sign an agreement to abide by Grace’s rules, which include no same-sex dating.

Several lesbians have been engaged in high-profile battles with school authorities in recent weeks. A lesbian schoolteacher recently won a lawsuit against a Catholic school that fired her for undergoing artificial insemination. And the case of Kate Hunt — the 18-year-old high school student who was expelled and arrested for having a sexual relationship with an underage female student — has garnered national media attention.