Brian Copeland and Greg Bullard with their children. Photo by Facebook.
A private Christian school in Tennessee has told a pair of prospective parents to look elsewhere — because they happen to be gay dads.
“I believe another education provider would be a better fit for your children. Therefore, we cannot grant admission to your children,” reads a letter from the school that was posted on Facebook Wednesday by Brian Copeland. Copeland and his husband Greg Bullard, a pastor, are the fathers of 3-year-old son who is readying to enter pre-K, as well as a daughter who is 8 months old. The letter he posted — which explains that “homosexuality” is a “lifestyle conduct which is in opposition to the mission” of the school — has been shared on Facebook more than 200 times, inciting many expressions of anger and sadness both there and on Twitter.
“I share this to let my friends know that discrimination affects people you know and love and still hurts no matter how many times you go through it,” Copeland, a real estate agent, wrote on his Facebook post. “We chose this school because of its rigorous faith-based K-12 academics and extra curricular activities; and, a friend with a son there asked them if a family like ours would be allowed and was told yes. After a phone conversation, fully disclosing we are a two-dad family, an appointment was set for us. I received this letter canceling our appointment without even getting a chance.”
Copeland chose not to share the name of the school on his post “because the kids who go there deserve respect and to learn in peace,” he wrote. But it has since been identified as Davidson Academy in Nashville, described on its website as “an interdenominational, college-preparatory school serving students age three through 12th grade.” It continues, “Our school maintains a distinctly interdenominational, Christian environment in which students and faculty/staff can learn and grow in Christ-likeness.”
The letter, as posted on Facebook.
But Facebook commenters — some of them self-identified as Davidson alumni — have cried foul on that mission. “I just can’t fathom this kind of thought process in the name of religion,” wrote one of more than 500 commenters on the post of Copeland’s letter. Another noted, “Invoking the scriptures, God or Jesus as a reason to discriminate has always seemed to me to be the refuge of small minds,” and yet another posted this message: “Acceptance. Love. These are the things on which Christianity is based. That a school that purports to promote Christian values would turn away a family like this flies in the face of everything their faith preaches.”
Some, meanwhile, did not see a problem. “There are other schools, we all have choices. The school has a right to hold to their values and others have a right to not go there,” posted one dissenting voice. Another noted, “Very tired of people whining about discrimination! I totally support Davidson Academy’s Christian values. These two people need to grow up and be real men!”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT-rights organization, issued a condemnation of the school’s actions on Friday. “Despite the tensions that often exist between religious institutions and the LGBT community, LGBT Christians are increasingly claiming their place within religious spaces, confirming that they do not have to choose between who they are, whom they love, and what they believe,” it read in part. It also quotes David Coe, head of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School Houston, the first parochial school in the country to partner with HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools, as saying, “Frankly, I see it as an affront to Christian values.”
The Davidson Academy headmaster, Bill Chaney, did not return a call from Yahoo Parenting. But on a recent blog posted on the school’s website, he wrote about the school’s responsibility to foster the spiritual growth and to respect the Christian faiths of all students. “An interdenominational setting is unique in that we can be respectful of all Christian denominations,” he wrote, “as well as those who are outside of the faith, and provide an open and safe place for dialogue among students.”
The Bullard-Copeland family is raising its two children in a Christian household in Nashville, where Bullard is pastor and founder of Covenant of the Cross, described on its website as “an affirming, non-denominational, Christ-centered place of worship” with a mixed gay-straight congregation. Eventually, Bullard tells Yahoo Parenting, he hopes to start a school there as well.
"We’re not seeing this as being victims. We knew what we were getting into — because we had been told it was not an issue multiple times ," Bullard says regarding the situation with Davidson Academy. He stresses that his family shares all the same values — with the exception of their viewpoint on homosexuality — with the school, and that they had prepared to engage in a potentially complicated and uncomfortable discussion with school officials when they went in for their meeting. "But they didn’t even allow the conversation to occur," he says, adding that he and his husband were offended by the way the school chose to communicate with them — with an impersonal letter rather than a call, particularly after they had initially been told by school officials that being a gay family would not be a problem.
Sending their kids to be educated at a school that disapproves of LGBT equality would have been acceptable, Bullard explains, because by the time their children reached that part of the curriculum they would already have a strong sense of self-love and acceptance from home. “They would already understand our values — that faithfulness matters, and that it’s okay for people to love who they love,” he says.