Members of 25 LGBT organizations crafted and signed an open letter last week urging the Big 12 conference to discriminate against BYU as a potential expansion candidate because BYU has a moral code based on its religious values.
The letter, addressed to Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, says “the Big 12 is a conference committed to sportsmanship, fair play and inclusion both on and off the playing field,” before concluding that BYU should be excluded both on and off the Big 12 playing field for championing what it labeled as “anti-LGBT policies and practices.”
No matter that the BYU Honor Code’s policy explicitly states that “one’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue,” or that it is homosexual behavior — not feelings, tendencies, or self-declared identities — that individuals must pledge to refrain from when signing the Honor Code. Today’s strain of McCarthyism doesn’t stray far from the original “Red Scare,” where perception trumps evidence and accusations yelled the loudest are given the most merit.
Of course, in a country where free speech is guaranteed, any organization is free to advocate whatever position they desire, and the groups that put forth this letter are no exception.
Is the attack on BYU narrow minded? Sure.
Intellectually dishonest? Yeah.
Wildly hypocritical? Of course it is. But that’s what BYU is growing accustomed to for sticking by religious rather than secular values.
But I guess discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs is totally cool, especially if the attack is leveled against a group known for turning the other cheek instead of fighting tooth for tooth.
You’d think that groups committed to the principles of acceptance and tolerance would be in the best position to understand that asking others to tolerate them works best when the door swings both ways — and they are willing to tolerate the beliefs and practices of others.
What this letter demonstrates is these groups do understand the principles of freedom and equality so crucial in a pluralistic society — they just aren’t committed to them when it isn’t in their particular interests. And accusing others of bigotry when no hatred exists — simply a different system of religious perspective — is a tool to incite fear rather than engender tolerant discussion.
Some of the comments made by the executive director of Athlete Ally, one of the 25 LGBT groups that signed the letter, point out how the attack on BYU is both intolerant and illogical.
“Membership in the Big 12 is a privilege, not a right,” Athlete Ally executive director Hudson Taylor said last week in an interview with the Daily Herald. “So this is acknowledging that the Big 12 has a choice in which schools are and are not included in the conference.”
So to recap, Hudson’s line of reasoning is as follows:
(A) The Big 12 should only admit schools who are committed to the conference’s values. Therefore, …
(B) The Big 12 should not admit BYU into the Big 12, inasmuch as …
(C) BYU only admits students/faculty who are committed to the university’s values.
But isn’t using (A) as the basis for undermining (C) something of a contradiction? Either you believe in freedom of association or you don’t — you can’t run to find its support on one issue and then turn around and use it as a sledge hammer to bludgeon someone else’s rights on another issue.
What the letter further demonstrates is these organizations aren’t committed to all individuals comprising the LGBT community — just those with whom they agree. Certainly they haven’t put a whole lot of thought into how their proposal would affect the current and future BYU LGBT athletes who are also committed to the standards of the LDS Church and the BYU Honor Code.
The bottom line is we live in a country where freedom of speech and religion are both guaranteed. BYU should be free to have an honor code, the Big 12 should be free to invite teams based on what’s best for its programs.
And in the end, isn’t that the most tolerant solution?