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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Belmont University Faculty Stand Up For Fired Lesbian Coach

Article by Michael A. Jones from

Is it acceptable for an employer to fire you because you want to start a family with your same-sex partner? Faculty at Belmont University say no, and they're coming to the defense of a lesbian women's soccer coach, Lisa Howe, who was removed by the University after she disclosed that she was having a child with her same-sex partner.

Last week, Belmont University's student newspaper ran an article quoting several soccer players who said that their coach was removed because of her sexual orientation. In the days since, scores of students, alumni, and community members have spoken out against the University's decision, even holding a demonstration on Sunday outside of the school. Here at More than 2,300 emails have been sent to the University, calling administrators out for fostering a climate of discrimination and homophobia.

Now University faculty are weighing in, saying that leaders of the University need to do something to quell Belmont's growing reputation as a beacon for intolerance. The Faculty Senate at the school passed a resolution late last night, stating that no employee should be fired because of her or his sexual orientation, and that leaders at the school ought to open up a dialogue on campus about LGBT issues.

"The Senate believes that the sexual identity of individuals should not impact that person's standing on campus," the resolution stated. It goes on to call for a campus-wide conversation about the place of LGBT students, staff and faculty at the Christian college.

That dialogue couldn't come soon enough. Weeks before Howe was removed from her job as head soccer coach, university officials denied several gay students the chance to form a campus group. The Dean of Students, Andrew Johnston, even suggested that gay Christians on campus could be disruptive.

"I know a lot of the gay community at Belmont feels marginalized and feels like they don't have a place to meet on campus," said Belmont student Robbie Maris last month. Maris is one of the students trying to organize the student group, Bridge Builders, to serve as a forum where discussion and examination of the Christian faith and LGBT-related issues can take place. But instead, the group continues to get the cold shoulder from Belmont leaders.

Here's hoping the resolution passed by the Faculty Senate last night underscores how important it is for leaders at Belmont University to deal not only with the question of why this gay student group can't meet on campus, but why employees are being shown the exit door solely because of their sexual orientation. We've said it before, and we'll say it again until we're blue in the face: Christianity does not have to equal discrimination. Belmont University has a prime chance here to demonstrate that. Will leaders at the school be willing to take that step?

Meanwhile, Lisa Howe herself issued a statement last night. The gist? That she's darn proud of the work she did at Belmont, and the family she's about to start with the love of her life.

"I was a good student athlete recruiter, had an organized and professionally run program, and was one of Belmont’s best employees,” Howe said. "I am proud of who I am and my family and our future, and I want every person—no matter what race, religion, nationality, or sexuality they represent—to feel the same way. Yes, I would have preferred to not be in the headlines, but if my situation leads to one person beginning to feel acceptance now, or one person becoming more understanding of diversity, and if people can talk openly and honestly about topics they never broached before, then this unfortunate situation will have served a positive purpose.”

Sounds like the words of a very wise woman. One that students and soccer players at Belmont University would be lucky to call coach.

Article by Michael A. Jones from

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