1/27/2011

Religion and the Right to Hate Gays

Yesterday, an announcement came from Belmont University, a college began and funded by the Southern Baptist Convention, that the school has decided to add sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policy.

Belmont Adds Sexual Orientation to Policy

This comes after a month of deliberation and a variety of focus groups asking questions about making the addition, and even longer since Belmont's women's soccer coach, Lisa Howe, mysteriously left the university after telling her athletes that she and her partner were having a child together.

Neither side will confirm or admit that the new policy has anything to do with Howe's supposed dismissal over her sexual orientation. Belmont's president Bob Fisher only said the policy came about as a way to put a "longstanding policy" in writing.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Belmont knows that the campus has a significant LGBTQ population of both students and faculty. I found it quite interesting that within a couple of weeks of the situation with Howe that it seemed like the entire music department at Belmont left. Job postings at Belmont were very numerous and most stemmed from that department. A few were from the athletic department too. The article above even mentions that some stated feeling "welcome" until the incident with Howe. Are they leaving over policy? We may never know but from an employer perspective having a mass exodus of employees is a very bad sign. It sends up red flags to other potential candidates and could make recruitment of both faculty and students extremely difficult. Most people don't want to work for someone that discriminates because one day the chopping block could come down on them. Then there's that whole "guilt by association" thing.

Most employees and students at Belmont have no issue with gay people on campus. Those that I have known that work or worked at Belmont or went to school there were very open-minded. Not all Christians, just like all gay people, are cut from the same cloth. Unlike what the press would have us believe, not all Christians hate gay people. The ones that do just happen to be the loudest and most aggressive in politics and policy. Unfortunately, Christians who aren't haters don't speak out, and too many (including gay people themselves) are willing to give religious people a pass when it comes to being hateful of anyone, but especially of LGBTQ people. We say that churches, Christian-run companies, and religious colleges/schools have a right to think this way. As if hate is a civil right.

Is it? Is hate a right but love isn't?

Interesting when you look at it from that perspective.

Another little related news piece came out about Chick-fil-A, the fast food restaurant that is well-known as Christian-owned, going so far as to close on Sundays on religious principles. The news piece isn't really news for some people. It clarified that CFA has stated they do not like same-sex couples.

While this isn't really news and many people shrug at it as if to say "that's their right," my problem with this isn't necessarily a person, company, or organization's right to not like or accept gay people. The problem is not being CLEAR about it.

In the debacle with Belmont, my comment in many cases was, if you don't want gay people on your staff or in your student body, then say so. Write a policy that says "queers need not apply."

How hard is that?!

The thing is they want it both ways. Belmont wants our intelligence and our talent. CFA wants our money. But they don't really want to know we exist and they definitely don't want us to be open about it.

I really don't care what anyone or any institution thinks, but I do expect openness and clarity about their positions. That way, I know if I want to associate with that person or organization or not, and I know if I should bother apply for a job there or not.

Another situation that arose out the Belmont/Howe issue is Metro Nashville debating whether to extend their non-discrimination policy about sexual orientation to their private contractors. Again, some say that private contractors have a right to hate if they want because they're private. If they're private and they have those beliefs, then they should conduct business with other like-minded businesses. What the Metro Council and Mayor Dean know and understand is that Belmont put a black-eye on Nashville with their actions over Howe, and the city got busy with damage control. They are making a clear statement that the City of Nashville is not a place where discrimination against gay people is acceptable. It's smart business. In a time when industry is leaving our cities and towns and businesses are folding, Nashville is stepping up to clarify their stance in order to retain diversity-minded businesses that will attract the best and brightest from around the world. They're not stupid. You can't be competitive and close-minded at the same time.

There also needs to be an understanding that just like not all Christians are gay-haters, not all gay-people are godless, Satan-worshippers. Some of us may actually want to be associated with other Christians and work in a faith-centered environment or give our hard-earned money to Christian-owned companies.

Simply put, we need to know...what KIND of Christian are you?

Are you the gay-hating kind or the Jesus-ate-with-sinners type?

Now, on a separate but similar note, I just saw an article about Michigan extending benefits to same-sex partners.

My question is, when will Tennessee, as a state, step up and do the same thing? It's kind of pathetic when a Christian-run college adds sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policy before an entire state does. Of course, with a Republican governor in place now, we will be fortunate if that happens. We couldn't even get it with a Democratic governor! But the question remains...what kind _____ (fill-in-the-blank religion, political party, etc) are you?

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