Is Facebook declaration keeping gay student out of Baptist college?

A former Hannibal-LaGrange University student doesn't regret coming out as gay on Facebook last December.

But he says doing so cost him enrollment at his former school.

Chase Martinson, 20, of St. Louis, re-applied to the school after withdrawing last October due to illness.

The school sent him a letter approving his application this past January to re-enroll this fall.

Last week, he received a letter from HLGU's Office of Admissions.

It stated that his application was now under consideration and in a state of inactivity. The letter didn't state specific details about why. The letter merely referred him to two pages in the student handbook that outlines HLGU's moral guidelines.

Martinson then called the school's Office of Admissions for clarification of the letter's meaning.

I asked to speak to the man who wrote me the letter. He said that I had received it because I was outside the moral guidelines, and in the letter, it said two specific pages in the student handbook , pages 20 and 27, which deal with sexual misconduct, premarital sex acts, extramarital sex, homosexual acts, Martinson said.

Martinson said he then asked someone at the university if this letter went to all students.

He said it was a letter sent to me because it was brought to his attention that I was outside of the moral guidelines of the school, Martinson said. I asked him how they deal with people who are having premarital sex and those kinds of things. He said unless it is brought to the attention of the admissions board, that there's really nothing they can do."

Martinson's letter from HLGU does not mention the words "gay" or "homosexual." It also does not indicate that Martinson cannot come back to HLGU. But Martinson, who was on the school's dean's list, says he can't think of any other reason his application would be placed in a state of inactivity.

"I was told I couldn't come back unless I petitioned to the president or I wrote a statement that I would adhere to the moral guidelines and basically not be gay anymore," Martinson said.

The University referred all media questions to its legal counsel.

A legal representative for the University said he could not comment on the case due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act , a federal law that protects the privacy of student records.

However, the University's online student handbook defines its standard of sexual conduct on page 20 that state, "Hannibal-LaGrange University upholds the traditional biblical view that it is God's intent that heterosexual union is the only acceptable expression of sexuality." It also states that "Hannibal-LaGrange University is committed to providing faculty, staff and students with an environment free from explicit and implicit coercive sexual behaviors."

HLGU is a Baptist-affiliated college with a student population of about 1,200 students. It's located about 120 miles north of Martinson's hometown of St. Louis.

Martinson said that he doesn TMt regret his decision to be open about his sexual orientation.

I would just like them to know that it doesn't matter what you do, who you are. If they're trying to send out a Christian message, they shouldn't be pushing away people that they deem as sinners, he said. They should be accepting of everyone, and they shouldn't be discriminating on this sin, that sin. Everyone sins.

Martinson has decided not to pursue an education at HLGU where he would've been a junior. He'll attend the University of Missouri-St. Louis to pursue his nursing degree.

Marcia McCormick, constitutional law professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, said someone who feels a private school is discriminating against them because of their sexual orientation has very little legal protection.

Federal civil rights laws say private universities can TMt discriminate against students on the basis of race or sex, but they can expel students on the basis of sexual orientation and religion, McCormick said.

Private institutions generally have a lot more freedom to make decisions that we wouldn't want government institutions to make, she said. Religious institutions, especially, religious educational institutions or other kinds of religious organizations have even more freedom to act because of their protection under the first amendment. Sometimes, religious, private institutions have even more ability to make distinctions based on religious belief and religious practices than other private organizations do.

Martinson said he was initially attracted to the school after receiving a scholarship to play on the men's volleyball team and attend the school's nursing program.

He initially felt like the school was a good fit for him, especially since it was not too close or too far away from his St. Louis home.