Institutionalizing homophobia in Korean seminaries

Five seminary students at Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary (PUTS) who took a photo while dressed in rainbow colors and quietly held up a rainbow flag on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) last May have been disciplined for their action against homophobia. One student has received a 6-month suspension, 3 students were ordered community service, and 1 was censured.

Students hold up a rainbow flag to stand against homophobia. They are dressed in rainbow colors and standing on the steps of a church chapel.

The students belong to a group called Am Haaretz dedicated to urban poverty issues, and had previously been in the news when they organized a campus lecture by a pastor of an LGBTQ congregation. They were later forced to cancel the event #becausehomophobia.

This is an alarming development in the climate of heightened religious homophobia. Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary (PUTS Jangshindae 장신대) is a moderately conservative school described as the Korean counterpart to Princeton Theological Seminary or McCormick Theological Seminary. PUTS belongs to the denomination Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK), which in September 2017 passed a policy to expel sexual minorities from the denomination and to discipline any clergy, seminary personnel, or students who advocate for sexual minorities. The decision was made without much debate, and questions remain as to how exactly churches and schools are to identify and exclude sexual minorities and their advocates.