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Christian School Defends Ban on Gay Students: ‘There Are Things Worth Standing Up For’

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Screenshot from Facebook / @Grace Christian School - Valrico, Florida

The administrator of a Florida Christian school is defending its long-standing human-sexuality policy, which prohibits gay and transgender students as well as any type of premarital sexual activity. In a video statement last week, Barry McKeen, a pastor who oversees Grace Christian School in Valrico, Florida, responded to an NBC News article about the policy.

McKeen confirms that much of the article is true. He says he didn’t speak to that reporter because it was “clear from the get-go that this person is against us and not for us.” Since then, the administrator spoke to Fox News, explaining that the school is simply following God’s commands in Scripture.

Florida Christian School’s E-mail to Parents Cites ‘Biological Gender’

NBC News obtained a copy of the school’s June 6 email to parents reminding them of an “important school policy”: Staff will refer to students by the name and “gender on their birth certificate.” The reason, it states, is that “we believe that God created mankind in His image: male (man) and female (woman), sexually different but with equal dignity.”

Citing numerous Bible verses, the email continues: “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. … Students who are found participating in these lifestyles will be asked to leave the school immediately.”

The NBC reporter interviewed several former Grace students who describe feeling like outcasts at the school. One graduate, who says anti-LGBTQ statements were made at chapel services, says McKeen “started yelling about how if you’re gay you’re going to hell.” He disputes that, saying, “I did not utter those words.”

The article also quotes LGBTQ advocate Josh Bell, who says the school’s policy is potentially harmful. “When someone has religious authority, there is an added layer of…severity to any teaching or any form of exclusion,” he says. “It’s saying, ‘The God that you believe in is excluding you based on your identity.”

Florida Christian School Administrator: ‘We’re Gonna Follow God’

Speaking to Fox, McKeen emphasizes that Grace isn’t “hateful” and says no students have been expelled due to sexual orientation. Parents remain supportive, he says, and the school’s wait list tops 100. “A lot of hate calls and hate mail” has arrived lately, according to McKeen, who has ramped up security. But he says Grace is also receiving nationwide support and donations.

The administrator admits he’s surprised by all the attention. “It’s kind of been beyond me that this has blown up to what it is, like you’re shocked that a Christian school has this policy?” Backing down isn’t an option, he adds, because that would amount to “abandoning what God has said is the truth.”