Once again my alma mater, Baylor University, has stepped into administrative and theological quicksand, this time by refusing to recognize a small group of LGBTQ students as a legitimate campus organization.
As a former regent of the university for nine years, I feel personally obligated to call that decision precisely what it is: institutional sexual discrimination, pure and simple, and it must not be allowed to stand.
These lesbian, gay, bi or transgender students have seen more than enough discrimination in their young lives, and they were seeking from Baylor only a sanctioned, safe place on campus to freely assemble, share their experiences and offer support to each other.
What they got from the administration made clear that Baylor, unsurprisingly, would have none of it. President Linda Livingstone quickly rejected their petition with a reminder of the Baylor code of conduct, that the university is "guided by the Biblical understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity."
Aside from the fact that there is more than one Biblical understanding (even among Baptists!) the sexual conduct policy begs the most obvious question: If, in Baylor's words, human sexuality is a gift from God and the defining sexuality of these LGBTQ students is same-sex attraction, is God not also the author of their sexuality?
What is perfectly clear, to use language blunter than the administration's, is that the LGBTQ students were rebuffed because — let's just face it — Baylor believes they are living in sin.
And there we have it. Welcome to the minefield of biblical cherry-picking in which Scripture can be found to support many offensive viewpoints, including such whoppers from the past as God endorsing human slavery, as if that were ever possible, or that racial segregation was God's idea for peaceful coexistence, or that women should accept biblical admonitions to know their place. Livingstone surely understands she has her job today because that kind of Bible talk has been swept into history's dustbin.
I am not alone in decrying this unfair discrimination. More than 3,000 students, alumni, current and former faculty members, friends of Baylor, ministers, parents and former regents signed a letter in support of the LGBTQ petition which got a quick thanks-but-no-thanks from the administration, as did a subsequent effort by some of the students to meet with the regents.
Baylor owes a safe, respectful environment to every student it admits and whose money it takes for as long as those students are in its care and not breaking any laws.
No doubt some of the LGBTQ students are professing Christians who could easily be the children of Baylor staff, faculty or regents. After all, they chose Baylor for their higher education and should not be treated as morally flawed simply because of who they are.
After all the self-doubt and self-examination in coming to terms with their true identities, these students know exactly who they are, just as they also know exhaustive studies have established that you cannot pray the gay away. Fifteen states have already outlawed sexual conversion therapy (five more have similar legislation pending), and two thirds of the country now supports gay marriage, a right secured by the Supreme Court in 2015.
Same-sex attraction gets scant attention in the Bible, mostly in Old Testament passages chockablock full of harsh judgments for multiple behaviors, and in a couple of New Testament letters. Theologians and Bible scholars have danced on the head of this pin for centuries in support of their own views. Jesus would have been aware of same-sex attraction, but his biblical biographers never recorded a critical word from him on the subject.
Baylor is, or should be, better than its current behavior suggests. The highest purpose of a true university, especially a self-described Christian university, must be the unfettered pursuit of knowledge, including new knowledge capable of correcting views once thought immutable, including those in ancient
This may be the moment when new knowledge has a word for Baylor. Gay America is here to stay, leaving Baylor once again playing catchup to the broader culture. The broader culture is not always right, but in most matters of social decency it has historically pulled Americans toward the better angels of their nature.
It is well beyond casual irony that just as Baylor gives the back of its hand to LGBTQ students, a young, highly intelligent, devoutly Christian, happily married gay man, mayor of an Indiana city the size of Waco, is gaining wide traction as a presidential candidate. The most troubling thing about him is not his sexual identity but how to pronounce his name. Whether or not Pete Buttigieg succeeds, he has already made clear that being openly gay is not a barrier to seeking the nation's highest office.
Baylor can still redeem itself. The LGBTQ issue is far from settled along the banks of the Brazos, and I am convinced that these students or their successors will ultimately prevail because they already have history — and probably even Jesus — on their side.
Hal Wingo, a Baylor University Regent from 1992 to 2001, is a former editor at Life Magazine and People Weekly. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.