The success that the gay community has achieved in shedding the “deviant” label has relied upon convincing the heterosexual world that homosexual behavior is perfectly normal. The recent uproar over a social work course titled “Deviant Behavior” at Franciscan University of Steubenville—which lists homosexuality as a form of deviant behavior—demonstrates just how vigilant the gay community remains in confronting anyone who might suggest that homosexual behavior could be anything but normal. It also shows how difficult it is for faithful Catholic institutions to teach students what the Church says about the nature of homosexual acts.
The dispute at the Steubenville, Ohio university emerged when two graduates —both members of the Franciscan Gay Alumni and Allies Facebook group—issued a press release complaining about the course description, which lists homosexuality as a form of deviant behavior. The group has demanded that the university revise its course descriptions “to stop contributing to the culture of hate and ignorance.” According to press reports, the alumni also encouraged other Facebook group members to contact the social work accrediting agency to investigate the matter and to contact the university. In an interview with National Public Radio, Stephen Holloway, the director of the office of accreditation at the Council on Social Work Education, said the course description was a matter of concern. “The fact that homosexuality was identified in the course description as deviant behavior raises a flag,” said Holloway. “Understanding diversity and difference and their dynamics in society [are] critical for social workers to be effective in working with diverse populations.” The Council’s Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice houses a council on sexual orientation and gender identity which works for the “full participation of individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or two-spirit in social work education.” Further, the Council requires that social work education “advance human rights and social and economic justice.”