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FIRST-PERSON: Diversity & hypocrisy

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–What is an eight-letter word for hypocrisy? S-T-A-N-F-O-R-D, as in the university located in Palo Alto, Calif.

According to a recent report in the Daily Nebraskan, a University of Nebraska assistant football coach, who interviewed in January for the then-vacant head coaching position at Stanford, was turned down for the position primarily because he is a Christian.

Ron Brown met with Stanford officials in January shortly after his Cornhuskers played in the Rose Bowl. After one interview it became apparent to the Cardinal search committee that the Stanford student body would not tolerate Brown’s religious views very well.

There was “definitely something that had to be considered,” stated Alan Glenn, Stanford’s assistant athletic director of human resources. “We’re a very diverse community with a very diverse alumni. Anything that would stand out that much is something that has to be looked at…. It was one of many variables that was considered.”

The “anything that would stand out that much” is the fact that Brown is not simply a “back out of the driveway and go to church on Sunday” Christian. He happens to be very vocal about his faith. According to Brown’s biographical information on the U of N’s website, he hosts two statewide Christian radio shows and has authored several books on Christian character. He is also a speaker for the Fellowship of Christian athletes and writes for FCA’s national magazine, Sharing the Victory. Additionally, Brown and former Cornhusker Stan Parker are co-founders and co-directors of a statewide Christian ministry called “Mission Nebraska.” The organization runs several camps for lower-income children throughout Nebraska.

If his Christian “activism,” wasn’t enough to cause concern for the Stanford search committee, his views on what the Bible considers sin was. In November 1999, Brown dared to call homosexuality sinful on his radio talk show. “I don’t believe homosexuality is biblically correct,” Brown has said. “But that doesn’t mean I disdain the people or do anything to disrespect anyone here [at the University of Nebraska].”

Stanford officials have tried to downplay Brown’s Christianity as a factor for not considering him for the head coaching position. In a letter to the Daily Nebraskan, Stanford athletic director Ted Leland wrote that “religion played no role in our decision-making process” [for hiring a new coach]. The message Brown received was quite different. Writing about the incident in the March issue of Sharing the Victory, he commented. “I wasn’t upset with [the] decision to choose another candidate over me. But I was shocked at the reason [his religious views] and that the university was so up-front in telling me the reason.”

Stanford students interviewed by the Daily Nebraskan made it clear that Brown would not be well-received on the diverse campus. Many students gave the administration a thumbs up for refusing to hire Brown because of his religious views.

Concerning the Brown “controversy,” San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Simon wrote, “A survey of stories and quotes from Brown on the Internet finds that he is quite open and enthusiastic about his beliefs….” Simon quotes Brown as saying, “They [some people] want me to separate my coaching from my faith in Christ. I can’t do that. That would be a huge hypocrisy. You have to be who you are.” As a result, Simon concludes, “No one is suggesting Brown be anything less than who he is. But it would seem Stanford is perfectly justified in rejecting Brown for who he is, since that is the criteria he proposes.”

It is too bad Brown isn’t a transsexual Druid. If that were “who he is” he might not even had to interview for the coaching position. That sort of “diversity” would probably be welcomed at Stanford, even celebrated.

It should be noted that Stanford is a private university. As such, they have every right to discriminate in their hiring practices. However, it seems hypocritical for an institution that prides itself in being “diverse” to choose not to employ someone based, at least in part, on the fact his beliefs might be “out of step” with the campus majority. What is viewed by some as hypocrisy is simply deemed as good judgment by others. To many Stanford officials, students and supporters, it is absolutely acceptable to regulate diversity.

According the university’s website: “The words on Stanford’s seal ‘Die Luft der Freiheit weht’ are the university’s motto. The German translation of a Latin text, the phrase means ‘the wind of freedom blows’ and is a quote from Ulrich von Hutten, a 16th-century humanist whose writings were characterized by a questioning, critical spirit.” One has to wonder if Von Hutten would be welcome on the Stanford campus today. Ron Brown’s “questioning and critical spirit” certainly isn’t. Can you say hypocrisy?
Boggs is Baptist Press’ regular Friday columnist. He is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs