Students discuss religion, sexuality

By By Veronica Pineda

By Veronica Pineda

As part of National Conflict Resolution Day, the College of Social Work held a community dialogue to openly discuss the sometimes difficult reconciliation between religion and sexuality.

People have tried to build a relationship with God and understand their own sexuality for centuries. But the at-times taboo topic has created turmoil and exclusion in families and communities. Delicate subjects ranging from sexual orientation, ostracizing family members because of their sexuality and the differing views within religions on the topic were passionately discussed as tears rolled off some audience members’ cheeks.

“Without recognizing religion and sex, we will all continue to live in fear and not realize it’s just love,” said Emily Jensen, a sophomore in education.

Students Nick Musso, Emily Smoot, Deborah Callister and social work professor David Derezotes, the main organizers of the event, tried to address the issue by inviting diverse groups of people, including members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, to participate in the dialogue. About 90 people from different religious backgrounds attended the event at the Social Work Building on Thursday.

With the guidance of Derezotes, the participants were encouraged to talk about their own thoughts and experiences about reconciling religion and sexuality and to respectfully question the ideas of others in the circle without any noticeable argument or judgment.
“We’re not looking for consensus,” said Musso, a senior in political science. “The only goal is greater understanding.”

The number of people who attended surpassed the organizers’ expectations and gave incentive to continue these dialogues, Derezotes said.

The chairs were set up in a circle along the wall of the building with a smaller circle of chairs in the center. People in the audience who chose to share their views and beliefs entered the smaller circle to talk about experiences that have shaped their understanding on the subject.

“Our idea is to create a safe haven and promote understanding from people of all perspectives and backgrounds,” said Smoot, a senior in international studies.

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Richard Payson

David Derezotes, a professor from the College of Social Work, listens as participants talk about their experiences with sexuality and religion. Derezotes and some of his students organized the discussion.