who was removed by the University after she disclosed that she was having a child with her same-sex partner.
Last week, Belmont University's student newspaper ran an article quoting several soccer players who said that their coach was removed because of her sexual orientation. In the days since, scores of students, alumni, and community members have spoken out against the University's decision, even holding a demonstration on Sunday outside of the school. Here at Change.org? More than 2,300 emails have been sent to the University, calling administrators out for fostering a climate of discrimination and homophobia.
Now University faculty are weighing in, saying that leaders of the University need to do something to quell Belmont's growing reputation as a beacon for intolerance. The Faculty Senate at the school passed a resolution late last night, stating that no employee should be fired because of her or his sexual orientation, and that leaders at the school ought to open up a dialogue on campus about LGBT issues.
"The Senate believes that the sexual identity of individuals should not impact that person's standing on campus," the resolution stated. It goes on to call for a campus-wide conversation about the place of LGBT students, staff and faculty at the Christian college.
That dialogue couldn't come soon enough. Weeks before Howe was removed from her job as head soccer coach, university officials denied several gay students the chance to form a campus group. The Dean of Students, Andrew Johnston, even suggested that gay Christians on campus could be disruptive.
"I know a lot of the gay community at Belmont feels marginalized and feels like they don't have a place to meet on campus," said Belmont student Robbie Maris last month. Maris is one of the students trying to organize the student group, Bridge Builders, to serve as a forum where discussion and examination of the Christian faith and LGBT-related issues can take place. But instead, the group continues to get the cold shoulder from Belmont leaders.
Here's hoping the resolution passed by the Faculty Senate last night underscores how important it is for leaders at Belmont University to deal not only with the question of why this gay student group can't meet on campus, but why employees are being shown the exit door solely because of their sexual orientation. We've said it before, and we'll say it again until we're blue in the face: Christianity does not have to equal discrimination. Belmont University has a prime chance here to demonstrate that. Will leaders at the school be willing to take that step?
Meanwhile, Lisa Howe herself issued a statement last night. The gist? That she's darn proud of the work she did at Belmont, and the family she's about to start with the love of her life.
"I was a good student athlete recruiter, had an organized and professionally run program, and was one of Belmont’s best employees,” Howe said. "I am proud of who I am and my family and our future, and I want every person—no matter what race, religion, nationality, or sexuality they represent—to feel the same way. Yes, I would have preferred to not be in the headlines, but if my situation leads to one person beginning to feel acceptance now, or one person becoming more understanding of diversity, and if people can talk openly and honestly about topics they never broached before, then this unfortunate situation will have served a positive purpose.”
Sounds like the words of a very wise woman. One that students and soccer players at Belmont University would be lucky to call coach.
petition text -
Belmont University should not be an epicenter of intolerance
Dear President Fisher, Mr. Pillon, Vice President Lake, and Dean Johnston,
I am deeply dismayed at the events going on at Belmont University over the past month, and the message of intolerance your University continues to send. First came word that the university was denying a request from a group of gay students to form an organization on campus. Dean Johnston, you even went so far as to suggest that gay Christians could be disruptive.
Now comes word that a successful soccer coach, Lisa Howe, has been questionably removed from your school. While statements from you, Mr. Pillon, suggest that Howe resigned, students across the women's soccer team are saying that Howe was put in the position of choosing to resign, or be fired, solely because she wanted to start a family with her same-sex partner.
Both of these actions are offensive, intolerant, and completely contrary to the Christian values of loving your neighbor, showing respect for all, and welcoming all to the table. Being a religiously-affiliated school does not mean having to be a place where intolerance toward gays and lesbians thrives.
But your actions this past month are proving otherwise. The reputation of Belmont University has decreased in my eyes, and I'm saddened that while students at your school seem willing to love everyone and work with everyone without judgment, university officials are all too eager to create a climate of intolerance and discrimination.
I urge you to allow gay students to meet on campus, and to find a way to keep Coach Howe with your program. These aren't radical requests. They come from the heart of someone who does not want to see "Christian" values become synonymous with bigotry.
Thank you for your time.
[Your name here]