Deny Admission? It Depends on Your Mission

Recently, a Christian camp contacted the NCLL after a transgender teen registered to attend the camp. Their question: Can we, or even should we, deny this teenager the opportunity to come to camp? If we don’t let him come, will we be sued?

At the NCLL, we are receiving more and more of these types of questions, and we are helping ministries make themselves as lawsuit-proof as possible. Given the Supreme Court’s recent decision, however, anytime a Bible-believing ministry denies admission, membership, registration, etc. to a homosexual or person who identifies as transgender, the ministry risks a lawsuit, even if the ministry is fully within its rights to do so. The LGBT lobby is unquestionably using fear to intimidate ministries and churches into backing down on their biblical position of marriage and sexuality, and the threat of a lawsuit is, sadly, enough to provoke tremendous fear in the hearts of many administrators, pastors, and camp directors.

So how does an organization handle this issue? What is the “right” answer? Is there a right answer?

The question of whether or not a camp or school should admit these kids depends on the mission of the camp or school: Is it primarily to reach their communities for Christ (evangelize)? Or is it to minister to Christian families (discipleship)? Neither group is required to accept any type of student or camper, simply because private religious organizations may set their admission policies and may discriminate (choose) on the basis of their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

Ministries whose mission is more evangelistic may be more open to the possibility of having campers and students of differing sexual orientations. When they do so, however, they must take into consideration whether their facilities (restrooms, sleeping arrangements, etc.) can accommodate these campers/students without causing a problem for others. They will also need to consider whether they have counselors and staffing that are prepared to handle any issues that may arise as a result.

If, on the other hand, the ministry’s mission is more discipleship-oriented and admitting transgender or homosexual students does not align with this mission, then the ministry may deny admission to these campers or students. But to do so legally, the ministry should require all parents of students/campers to sign a code of conduct policy acknowledging their agreement to abide by the ministry’s behavioral expectations, which should clearly be defined and should include the ministry’s beliefs on sexuality.

The National Center for Life and Liberty works with Christian schools, camps, homeschool co-ops, and churches all over the country to navigate these and many other types of questions every day. This year alone, we have assisted hundreds of ministries in drafting their codes of conduct, bylaws, statements of faith, handbooks, and admissions policies. We would be honored to come alongside and work with your ministry, too! Get information here on how to become a premier partner of the NCLL.