Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Heritage polemicist claims that BYU has a First Amendment right to Big 12 membership

Genevieve Wood at Heritage Foundation has some interesting ideas about religious freedom. She writes: “College Football Becomes Latest Goal Line for LGBT Activists.”
The Big 12 will be making a big mistake if the college sports conference cowers at the latest assault on the First Amendment and freedom of religion by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists.
This is about Brigham Young University becoming a member of the Big 12 conference (which I suspect will happen despite out protestations). This has absolutely nothing to do with the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …” I do not think that the Big 12 is a government organization.

Nor does it have anything to do with religious freedom. Mormons are free to do whatever the hell it is that they do to worship whatever the hell they worship. It seems that every time a religious conservative doesn't like something they claim that their religious freedom is being restrained in some way.

In point of fact I think that we have a very legitimate complaint. As I previously wrote the Princeton Review rates BYU as the sixth worst school for LGBT students in the nation. Its policies requiring discrimination against LGBT students include its Honor Code, which prohibits “homosexual behavior” by students and staff. This “includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”

Why should such a discriminatory university be rewarded with a conference membership that is potentially worth millions of dollars in additional revenues? Wood writes:
…of all the schools thought to be in contention to join the Big 12, Brigham Young University should be a top contender. It most certainly has a larger national following than several other teams said to be in the running, such as Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, or Memphis.

But there is just one problem. Brigham Young, a university run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has an honor code that, shocker of shockers, aligns with its religious beliefs.

One of those Mormon beliefs is that homosexual behavior is incompatible with the church’s religious tenets. That has the LGBT bully community all aflutter and demanding that the Big 12 not allow BYU to enter the conference because, in their view, the university has an “express policy of discriminating against same-sex couples and LGBTQ students.”
That is correct and that should preclude them from conference participation because it is incompatible with the conference. She goes on:
The honor code forbids students and faculty from activities that those outside the Mormon faith may find out of step with today’s secular, mainstream culture.

In addition to not using alcohol and tobacco, adherents also agree not to drink coffee or tea (as is directed in the church’s doctrine and covenants), not to gamble, and not to wear clothing that is form-fitting (that goes for women and men).
That is also correct. What Wood fails to recognize is that these are conditions that are understood and agreed to in advance. A student may not understand his or her sexuality until after they are enrolled. I get that premarital sex is banned but not permitting two gay people to hold hands? or even hug? That is beyond the pale.
And please, for all those who are going to write me about how this is just like the 1950s, when some restaurants and schools banned blacks, check the history first.

Such businesses and institutions were wrong to do so and had no protection under the First Amendment or any other part of the Constitution for their actions. Such actions were based on prejudice, not deeply held religious beliefs.
I do not intend to write the aptly named Ms. Wood. This has absolutely nothing to do with government restraint of free exercise of religion. Moreover, much of the prejudice that blacks experienced was based on deeply held religious beliefs. In the criminal case that became the predicate for Loving v. Virginia, the trial judge said, from the bench:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
Furthermore, discrimination that was not based upon religious belief was excused by religious beliefs. I fail to see the difference. Bob Jones University lost their case at the Supreme Court. There are many similarities. Jones had racially discriminatory practices based upon sincerely held religious beliefs.

Discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity has got to end. As religious doctrine, it is premised upon a falsehood that these things are a choice.  Well they are not a choice. It is time for society to move forward. If BYU does not want to conform that's just fine. However, others may take actions that BYU does not like because of their refusal to accept modern science.

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