Prairie State College to sever ties with Matteson church hosting its graduation

Prairie State College leadership announced Tuesday it will no longer plan events at Victory Apostolic Church in Matteson after the Daily Southtown published concerns from students and community members over the church’s opinions of same-sex marriage.

“Prairie State College is committed to finding a new venue that respects and honors the rights of all individuals without any religious affiliation for all future events,” a statement from the president’s office reads.

Victory Apostolic Church does not recognize marriage that is not between a man and a woman, and believes the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin and does not “condone the homosexual lifestyle,” according to its website.

These comments led Rebecca Fassbender, a graduating student from Park Forest and the president of the school’s Pride Club, to file a complaint with Prairie State College’s Department of Equity and Inclusion.

Prairie State College’s 2024 commencement ceremony will still be held at the church on May 18, but Fassbender said she is glad the school decided to sever ties with the church going forward.

“The disappointing thing is it shouldn’t have come to me having to step up into this position,” said Fassbender, 42. “It’s been a heartbreaking way to end this experience. I absolutely love Prairie State.”

Her opposition to Victory Apostolic Church was cited by Prairie State College as a reason for its decision to find a new location for future graduations. Fassbender’s frustrations with the graduation location are “shared by many,” the school said in its statement.

The college’s statement also rejected comments the Rev. Andrew Singleton Jr., the church’s pastor, made to the Daily Southtown expressing concern students would wear certain flags, emblems or stoles aligned with the LGBTQ+ community during the ceremony.

“Prairie State College does not endorse or support the discriminatory views expressed by the venue,” said the statement by college President Michael D. Anthony and his cabinet. “Students are free to dress in a way that reflects their identity, including wearing full LGBTQ+ adornments while adhering to the appropriate regalia attire.”

Victory Apostolic Church has hosted Prairie State College students for graduation for several years including in 2022 and 2023. Singleton told the paper it had a good relationship with the college and charged a decreased fee to host the event. He would not say how much the college is paying for use of the church.

Prairie State College had a red emergency banner at the top of its website on Wednesday which directed visitors to read the school’s comments.

Prairie State College did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, and officials did not return calls last week regarding the graduation. The Victory Apostolic Church declined to comment Wednesday morning.

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Homewood-Flossmoor, an advocacy group, said it was “grateful” the school decided to find a new venue.

“Despite this sudden turn of events, our ask of Prairie State College remains the same: do better — and not only when people are watching,” the group said in a statement posted on its social media pages.