Christian School Faces Backlash over Parent Email

A private Christian school was blasted in an NBC News article for its stance on gender and sexuality, and thousands of hate messages flooded its phone lines and inbox. The news story surfaced after Barry McKeen, school administrator of Grace Christian School and pastor of Grace Community Church of Valrico, Florida, which runs the school, sent an email to parents reiterating the school’s position on matters of sexuality and gender.

“We fielded hundreds, probably thousands, of phone calls Thursday, Friday, over the weekend, with just some of the most outrageous things: People threatening to burn my house down, threatening to kill my family,” McKeen said.

According to The Washington Stand, a publication of the Family Research Council, which seeks to balance out news coverage with a more conservative approach, McKeen had sent an email to parents in an effort to reaffirm the school’s biblical stance. The email stated, “We believe that God created mankind in His image: male (man) and female (woman), sexually different but with equal dignity.

“Therefore, one’s biological sex must be affirmed, and no attempts should be made to physically change, alter, or disagree with one’s biological gender — including, but not limited to, elective sex reassignment, transvestite, transgender, or non-binary gender fluid acts of conduct (Genesis 1:26-28). Students in school will be referred to by the gender on their birth certificate and be referenced in name in the same fashion.

“We believe that any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgender identity/lifestyle, self-identification, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography are sinful in the sight of God and the church (Genesis 2:24; Leviticus 18:1-30; Romans 1:26-29; I Corinthians 5:1; I Corinthians 6:9; I Thessalonians 4:2-7). Students who are found participating in these lifestyles will be asked to leave the school immediately.”

The email was then investigated by NBC News, who spoke to three former students who left due to their discomfort with the school policies. But as McKeen says, that is their right just as it is the right of the school to interpret biblical messages and institute certain policies based on those interpretations. 

As he states, most Christian schools have identical policies stemming from the same belief systems, which is precisely why parents choose to send their students there, versus public schools. After all, he says, this is the basis of school choice. 

McKeen does not argue the majority of the NBC article. He agrees that Grace Christian School does have “a policy that does not allow students to [identify as] homosexuals or transgender.” He says that is because “they’re students. They’re young people. They shouldn’t be sexual at all. God condemns any sexual activity outside of marriage, and that’s also in the policy.” 

“We have had these policies in our school since day number one, in the early 1970s,” said McKeen. “It is our policy now. It will be our policy going forward because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change.”

McKeen asserts that in all the years the school has been in operation, only one student has been dismissed over the sexuality policy, and that was reached by mutual decision. He says that most students agree with or accept the policy as part of their desire to attend a Christian school. 

After the threats that resulted from the NBC article, parents have shown support and donated money to the school, feeling the school is “fighting the good fight.” McKeen doesn’t know why NBC chose his school as the target of their investigation, but he makes no apologies for the school’s beliefs or policies. 

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Rebecca Deurlein

REBECCA DEURLEIN IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND THE AUTHOR OF TEENAGERS 101: WHAT A TOP TEACHER WISHES YOU KNEW ABOUT HELPING YOUR KID SUCCEED (HARPER COLLINS). REBECCA WRITES FOR LOCAL AND NATIONAL MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS AND LOVES EVERY MINUTE OF LIVING IN SUGAR LAND, TX. FIND HER ON AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, HUFFINGTON POST, OR THROUGH HER OWN BLOG A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING TEENAGERS. got