The good people of Elyria, Ohio are in an uproar with the appearance of a school poster featuring a “Gay Jesus.” The poster was the work of a student atheist group at Lorain County Community College and the students are now facing allegations of violating school prohibitions of insulting a religious faith.
I can actually claim the distinction of visiting Elyria repeatedly as lead counsel in the espionage case of Petty Office Danny King, who returned to Elyria after we won the case. Nice town. Nice people. But it appears that this poster has caused something of an uproar over freedom of speech versus respect for the religion of others.
The poster was made as part of Club Awareness Week, along with many other displays advertising student-run extracurricular organizations. If they weren’t before, people are certainly aware of the atheist club now. Activists for Atheism at LCCC have been swamped with complaints and notified that the poster violates a rather sweeping school policy: “Harassing any person(s) verbally, in writing, by graphic illustration, or physically, including any abuse, defamatory comments, signs or signals intended to mock or ridicule race, religion, age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin” is not allowed.
That is a remarkably broad prohibition, particularly in an academic setting where students are supposed to engage in free and passionate debates.
The poster is referencing a passage of the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark — found inscribed in a letter by Greek historian Clement of Alexandria. One section suggests that after Jesus resurrected a man from the dead, he had an intimate relationship with him.
The controversial passages falls between verses 34 and 35 of Mark 10:
And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.
It is viewed as entirely false and outrageous by many Christians. In the meantime, the school will have to decide whether such debates are part of the academic experience or should be banned as offensive to religious sensibilities. I tend to favor free speech and leave the merits to such debates to the students and faculty to hash out.
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