May 242012
University of North Carolina

Chapel Hill officials are investigating whether an on-campus a cappella group violated the school’s non-discrimination policy when it voted unanimously to expel an openly gay member based on his views.

Blake Templeton, a spokesman for the Christian group, Psalm 100, says that it dismissed senior Will Thomason because his views on homosexuality differed from the Bible and not because of his sexual orientation.

“It’s really easy in this situation for the focus to be on this one thing — the homosexuality,” Templeton said. “It wasn’t about that.”

There’s nothing incredibly newsworthy about an on-campus group being exclusive—Greek chapters and honor societies have been doing it for years. And one would assume that to be in a singing group, a student would be evaluated based on his singing ability.

But there are some details of this case that make it significantly more troubling than being picked over on bid day.

For the group is an officially sanctioned group on UNC’s campus. This means they have to work under a charter which protects civil liberties for all students.

The policy gives student groups the right to limit membership to those who share a certain set of ideas as long as no student is excluded on the basis of personal characteristics—including sexual orientation.

“Our commitment to nondiscrimination is bedrock strong but so is our commitment to the First Amendment rights of freedom of association,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp told the Daily Tar Heel. “The nondiscrimination policy for student organizations tries very hard to balance those issues.”

Ousting Thomason, the group argues, isn’t a violation because it was based on his ideas about homosexuality and not his sexual orientation.

But that argument is even more dangerous than just ousting one student. They have pitted themselves against the principle that protects students from sexual-orientation discrimination altogether.

And it seems Thomason wasn’t inhibiting the group in any way. One of the group members discovered in casual, private conversation with Thomason that he “thinks God can use me, a non-heterosexual individual, to glorify His name.” The groups vote followed this conversation.

And the group’s pompous argument that simply because they embrace Christian ideas they are automatically unwelcoming to a member (or advocate) of the LGBT community is highly disturbing. As a student who attends one of the most conservative, evangelical Christian campuses in the country, I can (with some degree of authority) reject this idea outright.

Emily Wood