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Sloan, Baylor publications board criticize students’ editorial

WACO, Texas (BP)–Add to the clashes over same-sex “marriage” five student journalists and Baylor University administrators.

After the editorial board of The Baylor Lariat expressed support for San Francisco’s lawsuit against the state of California — that “homosexual couples should be granted the same equal rights to marriage as heterosexual couples” — Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. quickly issued a response that the view of the student journalists who prevailed in a 5-2 editorial board vote does not reflect the views of the administration, faculty, staff, board of regents or student publications board that oversees the Lariat.

Sloan also speculated that The Lariat’s stance runs counter to the majority of Baylor’s 14,000 students and 100,000 alumni.

“Espousing in a Baylor publication a view that is so out of touch with traditional Christian teachings is not only unwelcome, it comes dangerously close to violating University policy,” Sloan said, referring to the prohibition against “advocating understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.”

The student editorial favoring the right of homosexuals to “marry” was based on the concept of equal protection under the law. “Without such recognition, gay couples, even those who have co-habitated long enough to qualify as common law spouses under many state laws, often aren’t granted the same protection when it comes to shared finances, health insurance and other employee benefits, and property or power of attorney rights.”

Students further argued, “Like many heterosexual couples, many gay couples share deep bonds of love, some so strong they’ve persevered years of discrimination for their choice to co-habitate with and date one another. Just as it isn’t fair to discriminate against someone for their skin color, heritage or religious beliefs, it isn’t fair to discriminate against someone for their sexual orientation.” The editorial writers closed with the question: “Shouldn’t gay couples be allowed to enjoy the benefits and happiness of marriage, too?”

Baylor’s student publications board released a statement March 2 after determining that The Lariat editorial violates university policy as defined in the student handbook as well as Baylor’s student publications policy. According to the publications policy, “Since Baylor University was established and is still supported by Texas Baptists to conduct a program of higher education in a Christian context, no editorial stance of Student Publications should attack the basic tenets of Christian theology or of Christian morality.”

The seven-member board consists of six faculty members and one staff member, along with two ex-officio members who are Baylor graduates in professional positions with The Lariat.

The publications board statement concluded, “Clearly, the editorial published on Feb. 27 is inconsistent with this policy. The guidelines have been reviewed with the Lariat staff, so that they will be able to avoid this error in the future.”

Sloan provided an assurance to Baylor constituents, stating, “While we respect the right of students to hold and express divergent viewpoints, we do not support the use of publications such as the Lariat, which is published by the University, to advocate positions that undermine foundational Christian principles” by which Baylor operates.

Several Baptist colleges, meanwhile, have offered students the opportunity to take opposing points of view on the subject of same-sex “marriage,” including Georgetown College in Kentucky. Georgetonian editor Michael J. Puglisi put himself in the Democratic camp in a Feb. 4 editorial, arguing for some type of recognition for gay partners. “While Bush tells us that he is morally opposed to it based on the teachings of Christianity, I say it is a moral issue to deny fully contributing members of society the benefits of society simply because of something as insignificant as sexual preference.” He questioned why, “when I finally meet that special woman,” his own marriage should be “cheapened by the fact that two gay men or women somewhere enjoy the same benefits.”

Puglisi added that the distinction between marriage and a civil union is unimportant, writing, “As long as injustice exists, something must be done about it.” He views current policy as judgment over gays. “Gays will face God in the end just as the rest of us will; let him judge all of us. Sins will be punished, yet I’m not convinced that gays will be dealt with any more harshly because no one is completely sinless.”

Georgetonian arts and entertainment editor Neely McLaughlin argued the following week that a redefinition of marriage could include polygamous relationships as well. In response to Puglisi’s argument that homosexuals are being denied “basic necessities of survival,” McLaughlin wrote, “It hardly seems that what Puglisi identifies as the pragmatic aspects of the issue — hospital visitation rights, insurance and survivor’s benefits — are quite as basic or necessary as such undeniable needs as water, food and shelter.” Instead, she wrote, “The cry for the redefinition of marriage is a cry for societal sanctioning of homosexuality,” adding that the term marriage conveys societal blessing as well as legal implications.

Christianity offers a moral foundation from which to argue same-sex “marriages,” McLaughlin wrote, adding, “The argument that Christians should condone homosexuality because we are not to judge others carries the implication that Christians are to make no moral judgments.” Christians should avoid condemnatory judgment of anyone, she concluded, “Christians are not, however, called to sanction continued sinful behavior but rather to testify to the truth in love.”

Georgetown senior Rebecca Quate followed with a letter to the editor arguing that “religion, whether it is Christianity or Islam or Taoism, should not be a determining factor in any decision that affects so many people of so many different beliefs.”

While admiring those of strong Christian faith, Quate said she is “constantly amazed at how limiting that faith can be.” As a non-Christian, she said the argument is irrelevant to her, adding, “Religious faith should not enter into a discussion such as this as there is a (supposed) separation of church and state. This is clearly a matter of the state and the decision for or against should be based on the constitution and popular opinion.”

Quate wrote of a close friend “whose love for his partner is deeper than some heterosexual, married love will ever be,” adding, “They desperately want to be married and to share that bond.” She questioned, “If it is true that ‘sharing a bed’ or ‘sharing a life’ without the bonds of marriage is good enough for homosexuals, why isn’t it good enough for heterosexuals? Gay men and women are no less human than heterosexuals.”

Student newspapers at Louisiana College and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor plan to address the subject in upcoming issues while Oklahoma Baptist University’s Bison has run several letters to the editor on the subject, generally opposing same-sex “marriage.”

In a recent editorial Houston Baptist University’s Collegian sports editor Joshua Peace wrote, “All laws are designed to promote certain societal norms and discourage others.” The government’s recognition of the union between a man and woman is vital to the good of society, Pease argued, “Because society can only be sustained if our children are raised as good citizens.”

“If the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s weakened marriage (and caused a host of societal problems as children were born into poor, single-parent homes), this new movement will obliterate it as the fundamental core of society.” Peace regards a constitutional amendment as “the only option in protecting our nation’s well-being” in light of some states honoring same-sex “marriages.”

Contributing writer Kimberly Crowder of HBU disagreed, arguing that the federal government should not have the power to make marital decisions. “This proposed amendment is not the answer because it singles out homosexuals and makes them targets as if they are somehow responsible for our country’s ethical turmoil.” She argued for “taking a look at the widespread absence of healthy family structures, sexual abuse, child molestation and the rejection by peers because an individual does into fit standards of what our society considers to be ‘macho’ or ‘girly.’”

By loving and nurturing those who are hurt, a more ethically conscious culture would emerge, she wrote. “I am against the amendment, not because I am pro-homosexual, but because I think it takes away the rights of individuals.” She added, “… even though I may support this particular amendment, next time they may take a personal choice away from me.”

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter