Over the past week, incidents perceived as homophobic have taken place at Christ Church, causing upset, but also strong displays of solidarity in the community.
The events began last Friday, when graduate student Steven DeLay left a sign quoting Corinthians 6:9-10 under the LGBTQ flag flying in the College’s Peckwater Quad (Peck) in celebration of LGBT History Month.The verse reads, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind … shall inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Molly Moore, the JCR LGBTQ+ Welfare Officer, told Cherwell that he has also been “preaching homophobic messages and disturbing students who live in Peck.”
She added, “On Tuesday during the afternoon, [DeLay] approached many individuals and was very threatening towards them. The porters had to remove him, after our Junior Censor came down to have a word, in which the individual in question was very verbally abusive, homophobic, sexist, and ableist.”
The Censors of the College are now involved in an investigation into the matter. Moore said, “I am pursuing a course of action with the Censors in order to ensure the safety of Christ Church students and visitors in future, and it is being dealt with the greatest determination to make Christ Church a healthier, safer place to live.”
Students have made an impassioned and united response to DeLay’s actions with Moore explaining, “On Wednesday, the college community, including governing body, tutors and members of the Cathedral, met with students from the GCR and JCR to take a photo in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.”
Kathryn Walton, a second year Christ Church student, also drew attention to how the community has come together. She told Cherwell that although what DeLay did “was a hate crime, the majority of the student body and senior staff have been amazing in supporting the community, which has made me feel a lot safer in college.
“It’s good to know Christ Church supports its LGBTQ+ community and wants to stand in solidarity with it. Christ Church is no place for homophobia or discrimination and I certainly won’t stand for it! I want to feel safe when I hold hands with my girlfriend and I don’t want to worry about this person bringing violence the situation.”
Re’em Moskovitz, who confronted DeLay on Tuesday, told Cherwell that he initially tried “to explain to [DeLay] that his homophobic message was disturbing and harmful” but that it “was not possible to reason with him.”
Moskovitz said that after “several attempts by college staff, leading to increased verbal aggression and the use of ableist slurs by [DeLay]” the graduate student eventually departed.
He also stated that the turnout for the photo “was amazing, with many members of staff attending. This serves to show everyone that there is solidarity in Christ Church, and for the LGBTQ members of Christ Church that they are not alone.”
But Moskovitz did add that this incident served as “a reminder for why we need the flag,” saying, “When I look at the flag now, I feel less safe knowing that such bigotry exists so close to my home.”
When Cherwell contacted DeLay for his account of the episode, DeLay said, “I think there are many today, particularly among Oxford’s undergraduate population, who are largely unaware of the biblical significance of the rainbow (see Genesis 9; Revelation 4; or Revelation 10).”
He added, “While I understand that many today will disagree with the content of the Scriptures, I feel it is my obligation as a Christian to do what I can to make others aware of it (Mark 16:15), and this seemed as fitting an occasion as any to do so.”
Defending his actions, DeLay said, “I had a right as a member of the House to hold a private conversation with my fellow students.”
Dr Brian Young, the Junior Censor at Christ Church and who asked DeLay to leave the scene, told Cherwell, “Maybe the big achievement is just that we’ve been able to get this all to stop and as a community move on.”
A Christ Church spokesperson said, “Christ Church is fully committed to equality and diversity, as well as the right to freedom of speech. A college officer was asked to intervene in a situation earlier this week that might have escalated. In such instances, the College fully respects the right to free speech, but is no less mindful of the need to respect equality and diversity.”