LMU Student Penalized for Calling God “He”: A Petition to President Snyder to Protect Student Expression of Religious Beliefs

Dear President Snyder,

Recent news reports indicate that an LMU Professor in the Department of Theological Studies has penalized a student because she referred to God using male pronouns. In explanation of her use of male pronouns to refer to God, she cited the Apostle’s Creed, which includes references to God as “the Father almighty” and refers to God with the pronoun “his.” The student added, “This is my belief and at a Catholic university and in a Christian course you should not be able to take any points off for this.”

This professor would presumably also penalize Pope Francis, who in his Encyclical Care for Our Common Home wrote, “we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.” Pope Francis writes about God in this way for a simple reason: in the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth refers many times to God as “Father.” When His disciples asked Jesus how to pray, Jesus taught them to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven….”

It is radically inappropriate that in a university sponsored by the Society of Jesus, referring to God as Jesus did is penalized by a professor of Theological Studies. Deducting points for reverently and faithfully referring to God directly contradicts Loyola Marymount’s mission statement claim that LMU “is institutionally committed to Roman Catholicism,” has a mission of the “service of faith,” and maintains a “Catholic identity.” LMU should be encouraging and celebrating students who have Catholic beliefs, rather than penalizing, marginalizing, and stigmatizing them.

As an LMU alumna and the mother of three LMU alumni, I know from firsthand experience that this sort of situation is by no means rare.  It is long since time for LMU actively and intentionally to support and bolster the Catholic faith of her students.  I respectfully ask that you take steps explicitly to protect students from any professor in any department, particularly Theological Studies, who would penalize students for the faithful expression of their Catholic beliefs.  I invite you seriously to consider the wonderful yet grave and eternal responsibility entrusted by God to LMU as a whole – and to you in particular – to form and guide the souls of the students, His children.


Barbara Berg, LMU Class of 1993 and Parent of three LMU graduates

To support this effort, please sign below and circulate the link to this petition https://renewlmu.com/ by emailing friends and posting on your social media.  LMU’s President can be reached at 310.338.2775

“Catholic Fundamentalist” and other offensive slurs

Calling people, to their faces or behind their backs, terms of disparagement, ridicule, and mockery because of their race, sex, or religious belief is condemned at LMU.  An unfortunate exception to this rule is to speak of someone as a “Catholic fundamentalist.” What does the term mean?  No Catholic is a fundamentalist in the Protestant sense of accepting as fundamental that the Bible and the Bible alone is the sufficient and inerrant guide of faith. No Catholic is a fundamentalist as the term is sometimes used of Muslims to denote someone who advocates violent jihad against non-Muslims.  No Catholic is a fundamentalist as a matter of self-description, and no Catholic takes it as a compliment to be called one.  So what does the term mean? If you agree with Pope Francis rather than the New York Times editorial board about marriage, life, or “gender ideology,” you too may count, in the eyes of some, as a “Catholic fundamentalist.”  The term “Catholic fundamentalist” is used as a way to marginalize, stigmatize, and ostracize people with Catholic religious beliefs about controversial issues.    This hateful slur is a way of shutting down rather than stimulating dialogue.  If LMU is serious about creating an inclusive learning environment, if LMU is to become a place welcoming to all, then “Catholic fundamentalist” will go into the category with other charged epithets which are never said by loving and just people.  LMU’s rhetoric is inclusive.  Is LMU’s practice inclusive?

Prejudiced Remarks from Former LMU President Fr. Robert Lawton, SJ

Imagine if a person of color were appointed to be President of a university, and the former President of the university said of him, “He is an African American but also has great academic abilities in his subject. He also knows a lot outside his field of study.”  Such a remark would be immediately and rightly condemned as negative stereotyping of African-Americans as intellectually inferior. Or imagine if a woman were appointed as president, and the President Emeritus said, “She is a woman, but also has great mathematical abilities. She also is good at science.”  This remark suggests negative stereotyping of women as mathematically and scientifically inferior. Now, here is what LMU’s former President Fr. Robert Lawton SJ, said in the Loyolan about LMU’s new President Timothy Snyder, “He is a devout Catholic but also has great respect for other religious traditions. He also respects non-believers.”  Fr. Lawton’s negative stereotyping of devout Catholics suggests that they are morally inferior, not extending respect to those of other religious traditions and non-believers.  Bigotry against Catholics of a certain kind is common in the academy, but one hopes for better (magis) from a former president of LMU.