Baylor students, others, weigh in on gay marriage

While views on same-sex “marriage” have appeared in the editorial pages of many secular newspapers in recent weeks, only a few Baptist college papers have dared an opinion. In at least one instance, the perspectives of student journalists and college administrators clashed over whether homosexual couples should be allowed to marry.

Baylor University’s Lariat editorial board expressed support for the City of San Francisco’s lawsuit against the State of California, agreeing by a vote of 5-2 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 stating the view of the five student journalists 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 staff 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.”

The 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?”

The Student Publications Board released a statement March 2 after determining the Lariat editorial violated university policy as defined in the Student Handbook as well as 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 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.

Letters to the Lariat’s March 2 issue offered diverse reactions, including one student questioning “this paranoid fear of opposing views” which he suggests is “another instance of the somewhat stultifying atmosphere of Baylor in which deep questions concerning faith and the secular world are often brushed aside with the ‘correct’ Christian answer.” A letter from Michael McCarty praised the Lariat’s “rare act of journalistic independence” though “brow-beaten into acquiescence.”

Another student disagreed with the editorial while questioning the “license for censorship.”

Baylor alum Keith Janes expressed disappointment toward students who wrote the editorial, adding, “There are plenty of liberal schools for you all to go to, maybe it’s time you left so our Baptist heritage can stand.”

Louis Moore of Hannibal Books in Garland believes the Baylor newspaper’s editorial was “totally inappropriate because of the context of what the school stands for and its Baptist heritage.” Moore, who served as Lariat editor from 1968 to 1969 and later worked as a Houston Chronicle reporter and denominational editor, said the experience prepared him for the realities of working in a professional world as a journalist.

“I understood the freedom of journalists, but I also understood the limitations due to context. I did not have the freedom to run wild and do whatever I felt I needed to say.” Because he was expected to be measured in his editorials, Moore said, “It taught me and others to think beyond just reacting emotionally and running an opinion. The Lariat went way beyond where it needed to be. I was stunned to read about it in the Dallas Morning News.”

Several Baptist colleges offered students the opportunity to take opposing points of view on the subject of same-sex marriage, including Georgetown Coll

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