Danielle Powell1

Powell, left.

Danielle Powell had one month left in her undergraduate college career when Grace University administrators discovered she was in a relationship with another woman. A judiciary board convened to decide whether Powell would be permitted to finish her studies at the institution. The conservative Christian college in Omaha, Neb. suspended Powell in March 2011 for “immoral behavior” for engaging in lesbian acts, but agreed to let her resume her degree if she participated in a restoration program.

The strict regimen moved Powell off-campus and forced her to attend church and seek counseling. She was expelled in 2012 when Grace University – formerly Grace Bible Institute – discovered she was still dating women.

“They were doing a witch hunt,” Powell said, “calling around to see if I was in a same-sex relationship.”

The college’s executive vice president, Michael James, wrote an official expulsion letter to Powell, stating that “it would be impossible for the faculty of Grace University to affirm your Christian character, a requirement for degree conferral.”

James also told the Huffington Post the rule outlawing immoral sexual acts has been in place for more than 70 years and students are aware of the policy. He quoted from the handbook saying, “Any student involved in sexually immoral behavior, including premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual acts, is at minimum placed on University probation and may be subject to a Judiciary Hearing.”

Grace University is a member of the Association of Biblical Higher Education, an organization that accredits Bible-based colleges, and has a strict moral code.

The Association of Biblical Higher Education does not recognize same-sex marriage, stating that it “upholds the sanctity of marriage as God-ordained, a special union between a man and a woman, within which sexual relations are honored and affirmed by God.”

The association deems homosexuality and fornication biblical sins outlawed at their member institutions.

Powell did not consider herself a lesbian when she applied to Grace. She is a devout Christian, as evidenced by her willingness to submit a college application that asks if a student accepts Jesus Christ as the singular Lord and Savior. However, Powell experienced culture-shock when she arrived at Grace.

“I definitely didn’t know what I signed up for,” she said. “The institution itself is still very conservative and predominantly white, a lot of home-schooled pastors’ kids,” she said.

Powell – who was a member of Grace’s volleyball team and a volunteer at an on-campus homeless shelter – was undeterred when she was expelled. She married her partner, Michelle Rogers, and attempted to enroll in another college to finish her degree. However, Grace University officials refuse to transfer the credits she accrued, claiming she owes $6,300 – the amount of an academic scholarship she was awarded while attending.

The university denies withholding Powell’s academic transcripts, but she refutes that claiming she’s only been offered an unofficial copy that can’t be used to transfer credits.

James said the college is following governmental rules. He told the Huffington Post law requires reimbursement of all Title IV funds, including federal financial aid, if a student withdraws after the semester is 60 percent complete. “Suspension or expulsion constitutes withdrawal,” he claims.

Powell and Rogers disagree. The couple has launched a Change petition asking the school to drop the reimbursement claim and release Powell’s transcripts. Rogers writes in the petition:

“We are a young, recently married couple and this lingering debt – which Danielle should not have to pay and Grace University has no right to demand – is holding her back from achieving her dreams and putting us in a perilous financial situation.”

The Change petition has garnered more than 16,000 signatures in less than a week. The couple hopes Grace University forgives Powell’s debt so she can continue her education.

Powell will be the first person in her family to obtain a degree, an accomplishment she hopes comes to fruition soon.

“College was always kind of one of those things I never thought was an option for me because of my financial background,” Powell said. “It’s something I’ve invested too much in to not finish.”

Despite all she’s endured, Powell still considers herself a Christian.

“I chose my faith at a very young age, when I was 7, so it’s always been a very personal thing and definitely a big part of my identity and what I’m passionate about,” she explained

  • http://twitter.com/ithas2besaid Think Critically

    Okay, if this school wants to prohibit whatever they want to prohibit (as silly as I think it is), that’s their right. However, at this point they are just being petty. Retroactively rescinding her scholarship and preventing her from transferring her college credits is just silly. You already expelled her, just let her transfer her credits and move on with her life. Even if it’s within the “rules”, how about some Christian grace? Be kind, right? The girl was one month away from graduation before she was expelled.

    Btw, I saw a really interesting documentary about gay and lesbians on Christian college campuses that was insightful (I believe it is called SoulForce). I really feel for these young people who are from really religious families and communities who struggle to reconcile their sexuality and their faith. But, there is no way in hell that I would go to one of these schools if I was LGBT (although this wasn’t the case with this student and a lot of these kids’ families force them to go to these Christian colleges).

  • Mademoiselle

    Any student involved in sexually immoral behavior, including premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual acts, is at minimum placed on University probation and may be subject to a Judiciary Hearing.

    What compels anyone to go forward with enrollment after reading this in the student handbook? At any rate, I think this is another case of petitions being used in place of more effective action. Powell should be consulting an attorney about her transcripts and scholarship reimbursement (assuming that little quote wasn’t also written into her financial aid contract). It’s not like she has unspent money that she needs to return. What’s been paid out has been applied to credits already earned, so what’s the problem?

  • donnadara

    An academic scholarship is not Title IV funds. Someone is lying. Not sure who.

  • Chika

    I am not Christian and I believe in the right for everyone to love who they want.

    However, Grace University is a PRIVATE Christian institution and while I think their actions are deplorable, they have a right to run their organization how they want. I do not understand why, out of aaallll the education institutions available that are supportive towards the LGBT community, why this lady would pick a place that unequivocally does not stand for equality.

  • Apple

    This is why I didn’t go to Baylor , after being in catholic school all my life ,ain’t nobody gone tell me what to do!!

  • Starla

    Lol@ “restoration program”. So Grace University is acting without grace in this situation. Give her the transcript and forget about the scholarship. Why don’t the school just pray on it and leave the matter in the hands of the Lord.?

  • nobettadobetta

    Don’t in enroll in such a school if you feel you cant adhere to the policies. There are plenty of Colleges and Universities that dont give a hoot what your orientation is sexually.

  • Sociology

    If this were a Mormon college, or a Muslim college, no one would be up in arms…

    Sorry chick, you chose to attend a Christian private college and you chose to flout their rules.

  • Mademoiselle

    The rules aren’t really the issue. Withholding transcripts and asking for spent money back sounds immature/petty and possibly illegal on the school’s part, especially when what the woman is trying to do is transfer to another school that will accept her as is.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    I agree with your point about her knowing the rules before she got there. But I disagree that if it was a Mormon or Muslim institution, no one would care. I could totally see someone starting a petition like this if this happened at say, BYU. I think in this wave of the gay rights movement, battles aren’t really being picked and chosen.

    Also, Mormons do consider themselves Christians (Church of _Jesus Christ_ of Latter Day Saints) and I think would appreciate being recognized as such. Not saying you have to see them that way, just letting you know in case you didn’t know already.

  • MommieDearest

    She was definitely wrong for attending this college after knowing what their rules are, and then not abiding by them. As a Christian, I support the college in exercising its right to expell her (assuming they would’ve done the same thing to other students who were caught engaging in other rule-breaking activities).

    However, as a Christian, I am VERY disappointed that the school is holding her future hostage. Seriously, they need to ask themselves “What would Jesus do?” Just forgive the debt amd release her transcripts. Let it go. They are making themselves look very foolish and vindictive.

  • PJ

    I am glad the school is sticking by it’s principals and what the bible clearly states about homosexuality. The rules were there and the student knew what the expectations were. She was put on probation after violating the rule (given grace and the opportunity to repent) and then chose to continue to do as she pleases. A follower of Christ live their lives by what the word of God states. Homosexuality is a sin. The school is based and founded on the word of God. Thank you for taking a stand for God.

  • http://www.lillian-mae.com Lillian Mae

    I hope they went after ALL the sinners on campus, equally! It doesn’t seem as if that was the case!

  • http://gravatar.com/lawrencegonzalez01 lawrencegonzalez01

    Put all other parts of this story aside. She was expel and all scholarships offered by the school has to be repaid. It sucks but it happens. That part of the story has no part in her sexual orientation. Objectively speaking

  • Kenzy

    While I cant knock this school for their handbook and rules as its a private institution (as a christian myself I would never attend such a school where on the application it asks if i accept Jesus 0_o my relationship twixt ma Jesus & I is my business but thats another story) at any rate them rescinding the scholarship so she would owe, so they would then be able to deny her official transcripts just petty. Petty, petty, did I say petty? this is some of the while folks example of those Nice Nasty Christians Iyanla was speaking of when talking to pace sisters. i hate that no matter the circumstances be is a big corporation or small institution these large business ALWAYS get their way through loop holes yet there aint half a loop for us regular citizens, it disgusts me. ill end with this, if i could talk to the person in charge of this university all i would say to them is WWJD?? surely not this

  • Formerstudent

    Powell was actually one of my neighbors when I attended Grace; I have since graduated and am successful in my career. I attended for many reasons, and greatly appreciated that this college was unlike any other college I had been to. I didn’t have to worry about pornography being displayed, immorality taking place in and around my dorm rooms, people coming back drunk, loud, abnoxious music, people bashing me because of my belief in the Lord and faith in the Bible… All of us students, including me, were made fully aware of the student handbook before we even made the commitment to become a student there. Personally, academics came absolutely first– I hate drama. Her disrespectful behavior on and around campus actually caught me off-guard, which I avoided as much as I could (the loud, booming music from her dorm room that drove me out of my mind, the ridiculous pictures she would post on her page… etc. etc.). Grace University is an EXCELLENT college. The staff are wonderful, caring, and everything I would ever have hoped for. The academics were challenging and enabled me to excel in my career field… I would not have changed this at all, and I am proud of my degree. Principles from the Bible are clear: God created man and women for the institution of the family. Anything else is unnatural and detrimental. Children need both a mother AND a father. Simply friends/ fellowshipping with the same sex? Sure. Sex with the same sex? Biology doesn’t even support it… God created man and women the way He did for a reason. He told us to not have premarital sex for a reason. When we don’t abide by that, what is the result? Corruption, broken homes, broken hearts… I am happily married and THANKFUL for the boundaries God has placed for us, for a reason. God does not promise prosperity when we obey; we our bound to encounter tribulation. But there is certainly blessings when we abide by the rules laid out in Scripture, and consequences when we do not abide by them. Going to this college was such a gift, and I will continue to support them in their endeavors to develop servant leaders for the home, the church and the world through excellence in biblically-integrated education and through life change in a personal, discipling environment, all for the glory of God. Is the BIBLE discriminating against certain “groups” of people? Romans chapter 1 explains. ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but to blatantly choose a lifestyle of sin is to blatantly ignore the rules and principles that are in place for our own good, thus making a mockery of God in unbelief. “Shall we continue to sin so that grace may abound? By no means!” Is this a true Christian faith? If we truly want to follow Christ, then we obey God and renounce ALL sin– even the sin of homosexuality and sodomy. Jesus Christ died for our sins. I am not perfect, of course, and I have put my faith in Jesus Christ to forgive me and I strive every day to honor him with my life in my words, thoughts, and actions. Being a Christian doesn’t make us perfect, but when we sin, we renounce and repent. Chosing a whole lifestyle based on a sin pattern is, by no means, renouncing and repenting. Powell was not “born” this way– it is a choice. She even said herself, she didn’t chose this lifestyle until AFTER she became a student… That says a lot. Either this was planned in order to force her views on an instutution whereby she already KNEW the rules, or one would have to admit that people are not born this way– it’s a choice.

  • kim

    you must did not read the article, being expelled is grounds to pay back any free monies, but being homosexuals will be up in arms about this they mostly wont stand thier ground

  • Nara

    Ok, we’re not debating homosexuality here. We’re discussing whether or not the school should release her transcript. Leave the morality lesson and the preaching for church on Sunday. Let’s try to be objective here regardless of whether or not you support her being gay. Live and let live. For the life of me I can’t see why other people’s love lives affect others so much

  • listener

    I believe, with any College you’re applying to, you do your research. If after assessing, or even after you reach, the institution doesn’t line up with your values…find where you do fit in. The beauty of options in a privileged first world society.

    I’m sure there are LGBT scholarships for disenfranchised youth. Search them out.

    I also think this thing of “equality” and “tolerance” can be so one sided sometimes. The institution is free to conduct their school how they want. Why not tolerate their stance instead of trying to “fix” it?

    And I think, in the Christian context, a restoration programme is grace- it’s saying we’re not leaving you alone to figure this out on your own. If you’re gonna keep walking with the Lord, this is how we’ll support you.

  • listener

    Why wouldn’t you want to publicly declare your faith in Jesus to a Christian School… o_O

  • Nara, please

    And you’re not preaching somehow when you say Formerstudent should “live and let live”?

    You’re telling Formerstudent how he/she should think about the issue of homosexuality, not merely telling he/she to view this particular matter as an issue regarding an institution’s policies.

  • listener

    I’m gonna objectively say that if expulsion requires a scholarship refund, then they have reasonable grounds to withhold the transcript.

  • Miakoda

    Religion makes people stupid.

  • Purple Rain

    Please add…hypocritical, judgmental, divisive, bigoted and elitist to that statement.

  • Purple Rain

    And irrational. That’s a big one. Forgot to add…

  • Bart

    Priveleged white male breeder withholds power (of a college degree) from someone not like him based on policy snafu invoking violation of fictional Santa Christ’s will. James’ abuse of power is a sin against humanity. Now googling Grace U immediately reveals that thousands have petitioned against holding the transcript hostage.
    This is LOSE:LOSE:LOSE outcome for all of us. “oh, you graduated from Grace U… Now why have I heard that school name before? Oh yeah, they JUDGE & DISENFRANCHISE hardworking students. I think we can do better with these OTHER resumes…” Having completed most of the coursework, Powell should sue G.U. for the FRAUD of posing as an institution of higher learning by using the word “University” to collect her tuition.

  • Guest23232

    Bart, check again… You have a LOT of misinformation there.

  • noodle

    That comment makes you stupid..

  • noodle

    Or they sanction her, as stated in the school by-laws. Why have rules, but not enforce them. That dose not make any sense…

  • Judith

    You sound like you were experiencing culture shock with Danielle. How could a Christian like LOUD music? Your two examples are lame, differences in taste, not evidence of disrespect. Seems to me from this article that this couple didn’t make this a public issue until after Grace University denied official transcripts because Grace wants to be reimbursed for the financial aid rescinded due to the suspension and expulsion. Grace U’s President David Barnes had his letter posted June 14th (with comments not allowed) on their website to inform their concerned supporters. He says “While we are under no legal obligation to do so, from the very beginning we have been and remain willing to provide transcripts for the student.” Notice that he doesn’t mention or distinguish between official and unofficial transcripts, the latter is provided to the student and is useless for transferring class work to other universities. http://graceuniversity.edu/news/a-message-from-dr-david-barnes/#more-321

    Yes, Grace U followed standard practice of “worldly” universities by relying on legalism – standard policies. By such a “worldly standard policy” Grace U is justified in its actions. That does fit Biblical teachings…from the Old Testament before Christ Jesus. As CHRISTIANS, surely TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK would be more appropriate BY RELEASING OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPTS and bearing the debt, RATHER THAN CONTINUING TO BE PUNITIVE by requiring Danielle to pay Grace first. The expulsion has some punitive effect already, and is appropriate given Grace’s belief system and that Grace is a private institution. Yes, Grace has the all-American right to do all they have done and are still doing/ not doing, to be misguided and miserly with its compassion. I believe that Grace tried to be caring and compassionate, but has fallen short. And I and others in the public have the all-AMERICAN RIGHT TO CALL YOU OUT.

  • Judith

    You sound like you were experiencing culture shock with Danielle. How could a Christian like LOUD music? Your two examples are lame, differences in taste, not evidence of disrespect. Seems to me from this article that this couple didn’t make this a public issue until after Grace University denied official transcripts because Grace wants to be reimbursed for the financial aid rescinded due to the suspension and expulsion. Grace U’s President David Barnes had his letter posted June 14th (with comments not allowed) on their website to inform their concerned supporters. He says “While we are under no legal obligation to do so, from the very beginning we have been and remain willing to provide transcripts for the student.” Notice that he doesn’t mention or distinguish between official and unofficial transcripts, the latter is provided to the student and is useless for transferring class work to other universities. http://graceuniversity.edu/news/a-message-from-dr-david-barnes/#more-321

    Yes, Grace U followed standard practice of “worldly” universities by relying on legalism – standard policies. By such a “worldly standard policy” Grace U is justified in its actions. That does fit Biblical teachings…from the Old Testament before Christ Jesus. AS CHRISTIANS TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK BY RELEASING OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPTS and bearing the debt would be more appropriate than continuing to be punitive by requiring Danielle to pay Grace first. The expulsion has some punitive effect already, and is appropriate given Grace’s belief system and that Grace is a private institution. Yes, Grace has the all-American right [freedom of belief/religion] to do all they have done and are still doing/ not doing, the freedom to be misguided and miserly with its compassion. I believe that Grace tried to be caring and compassionate, but has fallen short. And I and others in the public have the all-AMERICAN RIGHT TO CALL YOU OUT [free speech].

  • Tina

    She should have set up a gofundme page to raise the money instead of wasting time on a change petition.

  • Tina

    The scholarship money was considered spent when the semester was halfway over and she probably did not complete the requirements of the contract she signed to obtain the scholarship. If the scholarship waives the debt for her they might as well remove the contract langauge because they will be setting a precedent.

    She should have transferred to a different school at the earliest point she discovered she could not maintain the standards of the school. In the meantime, she should stop wasting time trying to get the school to change and set up a fundraising page instead. A lot of people with deep pockets would probably be interested in helping her.

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