From Principia's Board of Trustees

November 18, 2014

Over the past several years, the Board of Trustees has been reviewing Principia’s practices regarding homosexuality in terms of admissions, community standards for living within the Principia community, and employment at Principia. We have prayed about, discussed, and considered this topic, especially within the context of the Purpose and Policies of Principia, as well as the writings of Mary Kimball Morgan, the founder of Principia, the works of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, and the Bible. We have received input from a broad range of alumni, students, faculty, and staff, as well as parents and other friends of Principia, and we thank everyone for their prayers, as well as their thoughtful and heartfelt contributions.

Through our work on this topic, we have gained a heightened awareness of the broad claims of sensuality presented by today’s world, and we see that the greater challenge, regardless of any beliefs of sexual orientation, is to strive for dominion over all claims of sensuality in order to protect and to express the purity of man as the image and likeness of God.

In recent Board reports, we have encouraged all who were interested to prayerfully join the Board in considering the topic of moral and spiritual purity in all relationships, in challenging all forms of sensuality, and in raising thought to a more spiritual understanding of individual identity and relationships.

Principia continues its commitment to help all students rise above the claims of sensuality and understand themselves as the pure reflection of Spirit. That work is reflected in the commitments that Principia students, faculty, and staff are asked to make. By clicking on the hyperlinks below, you can read the current community commitments:

College community commitment
School community commitment

In light of Principia’s primary purpose to serve the Cause of Christian Science, the Board recognizes that sexual orientation does not prevent an individual from healing or making contributions to the growth of Christian Science around the world.

The Board approved the following statement to provide direction to the administration:

Principia demands that all students, faculty, and staff shall strive to rise above sensuality and seek to practice the highest standards of moral and spiritual purity in behavior and relationships. They shall abstain from premarital or extramarital sexual relations. This standard of behavior reflects Principia’s Purpose and Policies.

All students, faculty, and staff shall be perceived, welcomed, loved, and supported as spiritual ideas. They are expected to honor the community standards of moral and spiritual purity in relationships.

In terms of practices at Principia regarding admissions, community standards for living in the Principia community, and employment at Principia, we are directing the administration to establish consistent rules and regulations for students, faculty, and staff, regardless of sexual orientation.

Although not widely acknowledged, Principia’s history reveals that, for many years, homosexuals have been part of our community as students, faculty, and staff. With this direction to the administration, Principia welcomes all students of Christian Science and invites them to uphold our community standards in an atmosphere that establishes the highest standards of moral and spiritual purity in behavior and relationships.

Principia has a responsibility to recognize man as a spiritual idea and to provide an atmosphere conducive to such understanding. It also has a practical responsibility to protect members of the community from all forms of sexual aggression, both heterosexual and homosexual. All community members are entitled to a respectful, caring environment that is supportive of their individual growth. Any aggression, proselytizing, or harassment of a sexual nature is not acceptable at Principia.

To provide further information on what this Board directive to the administration will mean for practices at Principia, we have worked with the administration to prepare a list of relevant questions and answers.

Principia was founded by Mrs. Morgan to provide an unparalleled education for the sons and daughters of Christian Scientists. That work has not changed. We will continue to welcome students of Christian Science into our community; and we will continue to love, encourage, and challenge them to know and to understand their true selfhood.

With much love,

The Board of Trustees


Questions and Answers

Does the Board Statement mean Principia has taken a religious position on the issue of homosexuality?
No, we are not taking a religious position. Principia serves the Cause of Christian Science as an educational institution and not as a church. Principia continually encourages the members of the community to turn to our Pastor, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, for a deeper and more spiritual understanding of all aspects of life, including love, identity, and relationships. The Board Statement echoes this practice, as it demands that all members of the Principia community "shall strive to rise above sensuality and seek to practice the highest standards of moral and spiritual purity in behavior and relationships."  

When does this directive go into effect?
Immediately.
  
Will this directive apply to both the School and College campuses?
Yes, but implementation may differ.

What is Principia doing to address sensuality?
Principia remains dedicated to removing the intrusion and distraction of sensuality within our community. We will continue to focus on spirituality and true self-worth while maintaining our commitment to engage the community on issues such as pornography and sexual relations outside of marriage. We invite your support to lift thought to a higher view of God’s man.

What does this directive mean for admissions going forward?
The admission of students on both campuses will continue to focus on active Christian Scientists who have suitable academic readiness to be successful at the School and College. Students will still be expected to adhere to community commitments that include refraining from premarital and extramarital sexual relations. We will continue to recruit the highest caliber Christian Science students from around the world. Principia does not consider gender, race, age, disability, color, military or veteran status, national origin, sexual orientation, or ethnicity when admitting students.

What does this directive mean for hiring and employment going forward?
Principia's practice of hiring the most effective candidate for each post does not change. Principia will continue to hire active Christian Scientists with the best qualifications for faculty and staff positions. Principia will also continue to expect every employee to adhere to all community commitments, including refraining from premarital and extramarital sexual relations. Principia does not consider gender, race, age, disability, color, military or veteran status, national origin, sexual orientation, or ethnicity when hiring employees.

Will homosexual couples be welcome as students or employees?
Principia recognizes all legally married couples.

How will residential housing in the School dormitories and College houses be handled?
We do not anticipate significant changes to housing assignment protocols or residence life staffing or programming. We will ensure that students are in the most appropriate rooming situation to meet individual needs. We will also continue with our rule that unmarried couples will not room together, in accordance with Principia Policy 22 requiring good social conduct.

How does this directive affect public displays of affection?
Every Principian is subject to Principia Policy 22’s requirement for good social conduct. Specific standards will be developed by the administration in order to provide consistent rules and regulations. We expect all public actions to be considerate of others. The expectation of pure, genuine, and respectful displays of affection will apply equally to all community members.

Will Principia approve clubs focused on sexual orientation and identity?
We will continue our practice of denying recognition of groups or clubs that are focused on the issues of sexuality and/or promotion or advocacy of issues focusing on sexuality or sensuality.

How will Principia support students or employees who are feeling uncomfortable with these changes?
Consistent with our current practice, students will be directed to the appropriate Dean of Students; employees will be directed to Human Resources. Compassionate support is available, and dialogue will be encouraged.

Will there be further communications on this topic?
We will expand this list of questions and answers as needed. Additional communications to current students, families, and employees on both campuses will be distributed as circumstances warrant. 

How can we best support Principia students in understanding these issues?
It seems wise to take our direction from Principia founder Mary Kimball Morgan. At a parents’ meeting in 1935, she addressed “Right Relationship: Founded on Principle”:

Parents and teachers who live close to the young people in their care are given much food for thought in the type of questions stirring in the thoughts of youth today. If our relationship with these girls and boys is what it should be, they will talk freely with us of the problems that present themselves and also of their own hopes and interests in life. At least, they will do so if they find in our response to their questioning something of sufficient value to feed them or if they find in us an honest, intelligent, sympathetic readiness to consider with them these fundamental problems of human experience. (Education at The Principia, p. 55)


January 16, 2015: Additional Questions and Answers

This communication is a follow-up to the Board of Trustees’ statement from November 18, 2014.

Many have shared their thoughts, comments, and questions with us since our announcement, and in response, we want to share some additional thoughts by expanding the Questions and Answers that accompanied the November 18 announcement. As is our practice with all communications sent to the Board, please be assured that every piece of correspondence is received and read by all Board members.

As we did for the original set of Questions and Answers, the Board worked with the administration to prepare this additional material.

How will Principia be different as a result of this change?
Even though we have directed this change to our practices, the primary requirement for becoming a member of the Principia community remains the same: a commitment to Christian Science.

Our admissions and hiring practices will continue to start with assessing an individual’s commitment to Christian Science. For prospective students this includes a record of Sunday School attendance, Christian Science references, and most importantly, having a parent or close relative who is an active Christian Scientist. For faculty and staff, we look to these provisions in the Manual of The Mother Church: Mother Church membership, branch church membership and activity, and class instruction. 

In addition, we would like to re-emphasize something we made clear in our November statement. Principia’s standards in support of chastity and moral purity in relationships remain unchanged. Principia is not the right place for anyone interested in pursuing a promiscuous lifestyle, whether heterosexual or homosexual. That was the position before our announcement, and it remains unchanged.

Principia will continue to be a community of active Christian Scientists supporting each other’s spiritual growth without limitation. Within the community, we anticipate a keener awareness of morality in relationships and a deeper understanding of man’s spiritual identity.

Is this change consistent with the position of The Mother Church on this subject?
The most current and relevant guidance from the Christian Science Board of Directors can be found in the February 2014 Christian Science Journal in their answer to the question, “What is The Mother Church’s policy on sexuality and membership?” In light of Principia’s purpose to serve the Cause of Christian Science, the Trustees believe that this change in our practices is in line with this latest communication from The Mother Church.

What kind of outside input did the Board receive before issuing the directive to the administration?
As Dr. Palmer accurately conveyed at a recent meeting with some parents from the School, consideration of our practices pertaining to sexual orientation has been an agenda topic for the Board of Trustees for years. The level of the Board conversation has been more active since 2007, and the topic has been on virtually every Board meeting agenda since that time.

As we said at the beginning of our statement in November, we received a broad range of input from alumni, parents, students, faculty, and staff, as well as friends of Principia. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of related correspondence on this that have been reviewed by Board members over the years, including letters, e-mails, text messages, and blog entries.

Also, following each Board meeting of the past two years, our written Board updates to the community (posted online) have mentioned our continued consideration of this issue, indicating that the subject was being discussed in the context of “moral purity in all relationships” and inviting all to prayerfully support the discussions.

What is the Board’s view of the healings of homosexuality in the Christian Science periodicals?
We acknowledge the testimonies regarding a change in sexual orientation published in the Christian Science periodicals, as well as other testimonies relating to sexuality and sensuality. Demonstration of one’s spiritual identity rests between the individual and God, and Principia strives to provide an atmosphere supportive of this spiritual growth while recognizing the right of each person to be led by God on the path from sense to Soul.

Are the Trustees promoting homosexuality with this change?
We are not interested in promoting homosexuality or heterosexuality or any form of sensuality. In its true essence, this change is about lovingly reaching out to individuals wherever they are, tenderly embracing them and responding to their right desire to be a part of our Principia community, if they will commit to live by Principia's standards that support chastity and moral purity in relationships.

This is also about the relentless assault on the innocence and purity of our youth. The Board is calling for the entire Principia community to deal more consistently and effectively with the claim that matter-based thinking can limit, debase, corrupt, and adulterate our young people. Christian Science gives our students the understanding of their divine right to embrace lives free of the impositions of sensuality and materiality.

The Board has taken a stand for the spiritual purity of each individual in the Principia community and against all forms of sensuality. Our goal is, and always has been, to elevate discussion, to challenge all community members to go higher, and to invite everyone to rededicate themselves to applying their understanding of Christian Science to liberate humanity from the thrall of matter and mortality.