After remaining unapologetic for three and half decades, Bob Jones III has apologized for calling for homosexuals to be stoned.
“I take personal ownership of the inflammatory rhetoric. This reckless statement was made in the heat of a political controversy 35 years ago,” said Jones.
His apology came after a group of former students sent a petition with close to 2,000 signatures on it private, conservative Christian school in Greenville, SC.
BJUnity is a group created by former BJU students who want to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people affected by fundamentalist Christianity. The group petitioned the University demanding an apology for the homophobic comments that former University President and current Chancellor, Bob Jones III, made in an interview with the Associated Press at the White House in 1980.
“I'm sure this will be greatly misquoted,” Jones told The Associated Press in Washington in March 1980, “but it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel's day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as Bible commands.”
BJUnity accepted the universities apology saying, “we didn't imagine this day would come.”
Bob Jones graduate and BJUnity board member Bill Ballantyne graduated in 1985. He said at the time he didn't know what it meant to be gay, but he knew he had an attraction to men. He has now found acceptance with BJUnity, whose mission is to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and straight affirming people from Bob Jones University and other conservative Christian schools like it.
“Even up until about four years ago, I felt like I was the only gay person that ever went to Bob Jones,” he said.
Ballantyne is now a Senior Software Engineer for a government contractor in Boiling Springs, SC. Despite Jones' apology Ballantyne says anti-gay comments he has made in the past are difficult to forget.
“It was very hurtful to think that someone would rather see you dead than to just either let you live your life or turn into a better Christian,” he said.
In 2000, Jones went on Larry King Live where he spoke briefly on the universities policy on homosexuality.
Larry King asked the then BJU president if gays could be students.
“No, we would not keep a student in school. We would not keep an adulterer in school. We would not keep a thief in school," Jones replied.
Despite past comments, Ballantyne does think this apology is a step in the right direction and he is optimistic that gay students on campus will feel less alone.
“The rhetoric and the hate they are hearing almost everyday is not the only message. And there are people out there that understand them,” said Ballantyne.
Ballantyne says now that the University has apologized he and other BJUnity members want to make sure gay students on BJU's campus know who BJUnity is and that they are here to help them.