University of North Carolina chorus expels gay singer

September 3, 2011 • 9:06 am

This seems clearly illegal, but also shows how religion is like an abusive partner.  The World on Campus reports that a Christian a capella chorus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—”Psalm 100″—expelled Will Thomason, an openly gay student, just for being gay.   Weirdly enough, University policy seems to support the group’s right to discriminate in this way:

Psalm 100, whose mission is “to spread the joy of the Lord through song,” operates under a constitution based on Biblical standards, and the group concluded that Thomason’s views on the group’s constitution did not match up with its standards.

The university’s official policy seems to support the group’s ability to expel a member based on religious belief. It says: “Student organizations that select their members on the basis of commitment to a set of beliefs (e.g., religious or political beliefs) may limit membership and participation in the organization to students who…support the organization’s goals and agree with its beliefs.” However, the same policy says a student cannot be excluded from membership based on “sexual orientation.”

Templeton [Blake Templeton, the group’s director] said the university approved Psalm 100’s original constitution, which allows its decisions to be made based on the Bible. And he stressed that it was Thomason’s disagreement with the group’s constitution, not his sexual orientation, that got him kicked out.

As if “disagreement with the group’s constitution” were not the same thing as being gay! That’s a distinction without a difference.

But this is the most disgusting part:

Blake Templeton, general director of the group, said the decision was tough, especially because so many people thought it was done out of hatred.

“That’s so far from the truth,” he said. “I want the power of God’s love to be so, so clear.”

Templeton stressed that the group made its decision out of love for Thomason, not hate.

Right. Just like an abusive spouse:  “I’m going to hurt you, but only because I love you.”

If you want to voice your objections, Winston Crisp, UNC’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, is conducting an investigation, and you can email him at  wbcrisp@email.unc.edu   Here’s a sample email if you are too lazy or busy to write your own, but of course it’s better if you be original.  But sending something is better than sending nothing, and all of it will send a message to the UNC administration:

_______

Dear Chancellor Crisp,

I am writing to protest the expulsion of UNC student Will Thomason from the “Psalm 100” chorus simply because he was gay.  While UNC’s policy appears to support the chorus’s right to expel members based on religious belief (a policy that I disagree with as well), it does NOT support the right to expel members based on sexual orientation.  As I’m sure you’ll agree, that policy is not only illegal, but highly immoral.  What could someone’s sexual orientation possibly have to do with his ability to sing?

Some Christian sects may still hold on to their archaic notions of sexuality, but society has moved on, increasingly recognizing that gays are neither immoral, mentally ill, nor aberrant.  I am sure that UNC agrees with that view as well, and hope that your investigation of the issue will lead to Thomason’s reinstatement in the chorus.

Thanks very much.

37 thoughts on “University of North Carolina chorus expels gay singer

  1. The student paper is getting overrun with letters demanding Psalm 100 to expel all women members, as per the Bible’s teachings.

  2. Wait. I’m confused.

    UNC is a public institution. Either this is an entirely private organization that just happens to be made up of students but is otherwise in no way affiliated with the University, or it constitutes an unambiguous unconstitutional state establishment of religion.

    Even if the organization is private, if it has privileged access to university resources (such as rehearsal or performance space that it either doesn’t have to pay for or gets for a reduced fee), it still falls afoul of the Constitution.

    Can anybody closer to the matter help clarify the organization’s relationship with the university?

    Cheers,

    b&

    1. Absolutely right. These people can expel a gay member from their church, but they can’t expel a gay student from an officially recognized public university organization.

      1. This officially recognized public university organization has a constitutional right to run itself per the Biblical standards of sin. The college recognizes that constitutional right and if you will read through the original articlehttp://www.crosswalk.com/news/christian-group-criticized-for-ousting-gay-member.html you will see that the ousted member is still in good relationship with his former choir members. So, another point is, that hate is not an issue here. Unless of coarse, you are talking about the hate that is often leveled at Christians who dare to hold themselves and their organizations to a Biblical standard.

    1. Its probably hard to say, because those a capella groups tend to be very popular to join, and have pretty limited membership (even though there were something like 6 or 7 a capella groups when I went to UNC). So I could easily imagine that they screened people they thought were gay, or not religious enough, long before they actually joined, and its the sort of thing that might not be easy to notice at first glance.

      1. True, screening ahead of time will keep out much of what they consider ‘unrepentant sinners’. Expulsion after joining would be more difficult to conceal and apparently students have been expelled in the past (some could be legitimate such as failure to come to practice or, if the group requires a minimum grade point average, failure to maintain that gps) others a bit more dubious for groups receiving university funding.

        UNC requirements for official recognition are at
        http://carolinaunion.unc.edu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&Itemid=91

        A key difference between UNC requirements and the recently decided Supreme Court Case is the UNC does allow viewpoint discrimination for groups; Hasting College did not. Admittedly I don’t know how UNC mesh no religious discrimination with allowing discrimination on religious views.

  3. Naturally, in cases like this one wonders why one would retain beliefs of people who, first of all, want to expel you for being who you are and, second of all, then offer up insipid horseshit like ‘it was done out of love’.

  4. So they would have allowed him to stay as long as he had constantly voiced his self-loathing for being something they despise?

  5. I tend to think these sort of events are self-inflicted. Why would a gay student embrace a religion that holds him in contempt? Why would women?

    It’s a bit like the old story of the indian that carries a frozen snake in his shirt and then is surprised when he gets bitten.

    1. I agree. In fact, while I am very strongly in favor of LGBT rights, I think that it’s not actually a bad thing that religious clubs like this can kick out gay members, as it makes the religion’s actual beliefs more publicly obvious. In my view, these groups should be able to discriminate, and the public should be able to see that discrimination.

    2. I partially agree, but as a practical matter it’s not really relevant. Families are torn apart and lives are ruined by religious LGBT discrimination. In a perfect world, people would be like, “Oh, that’s really stupid. I’m not going to believe that bullshit anymore.” But in our somewhat less perfect word, I’ll settle for, “This particular part of the bullshit I believe in is particularly stupid and hateful, so I’m going to discard that (and try to get others who believe in my chosen stupid bullshit to do the same) while keeping the rest of the bullshit.”

      Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, here. I too am baffled by LGBT people (and women) who want to be a part of these religious groups, but they do want to for reasons incomprehensible to me, and when they are barred it simply creates more hurt and suffering.

  6. From UNC’s webpage:

    “With lux, libertas — light and liberty — as its founding principles, the University has charted a bold course of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.”

    Oh, yea, they’re doing a bang-up job at UNC-CH. We can look forward to seein’ some real leadership types grageeatin’ real soon.

    We’re surrounded!
    ~AB

  7. I’ve lived in the Bible Belt, specifically, NC, since 1998 and have been associated at one level or another with several institutions of higher-learning (public, private; academically distinguished & not; multi-cultural/diverse & not). IMO, there exists a conspiracy of silence regarding the issues discussed in Coyne’s post and by commenters. A bizarre, documentable occurrence is that most of these institutions, even the church-affiliated ones, receive Federal funds. Most do not realize that the US government makes allowances for “faith-based” initiatives. With sophisticated grant-writers it is, in my experience, relatively easy to justify a broad range of programs by framing them in language down-playing the religious (read fundamental-Christian) agendas. It has often occurred to me that rationalizations in favor of the not-so-subtle & religiously-motivated goals & objectives that are very disturbing to many of us, may be justified by a certain brand of libertarianism that may be viewed as legal by broad (Conservative) constructionists.

  8. Addendum: NSF & NIH are among the Federal agencies funding openly or covertly religious colleges&universities/departments, etc. Often, but not always or necessarily, these grants are designated ones for “minorities”, “minority institutions”, “pilot”/”exploratory” funding and the like, yielding initiatives whose legal or other boundaries are fuzzy if not non-existant. It is amazing what liberalism and/or m/paternalism have wrought.

  9. This is a perfect example of how religion makes good people do something bad – even to someone that they appear to actually like.

    “the group made its decision out of love for Thomason, not hate”

    Nothing says ‘I love you’ better than expelling someone for thinking differently to you, amirite?

  10. At best there are perhaps 2 or 3 explicit references in the Bible that condemn homosexual behavior. Yet there are about 113 explicit references (by my count) that require strict adherence to ceremonial cleanliness.

    Below is a link to a tongue-in-cheek call to action to RESTORE TRADITIONAL CLEANLINESS to its rightful status as law of the land. It’s worth a look, and a few chuckles.

  11. I was going to UNC during the early 2000s, when we had a full on plague of a capella groups, and a lot of my friends joined up in their own group, and while supporting them, I saw Psalm 100 sing a couple of times as an opening act. They were a group of people that were so happy about Jesus they almost started crying when they talked about him, and were generally the sort of group that made me cringe to see.
    I’m really not surprised that they’d kick out someone for being gay, but I think they should lose their student organization privileges. And even if that doesn’t happen, I hope the rest of UNC stops going to their concerts, or having them join in with other groups. I thought they were obnoxious before, but now they’re just disgusting.

  12. The federal law in this area is complex. If an a capella group at this public university is receiving direct or specific subsidies from the state of North Carolina or from the federal government, then it is unlawful to that a capella group to discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. 42 U.S.C. 2000d. It’s unfortunately not a violation of the federal civil rights laws for this group to disciminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. The rules, and the potential results, would be different if the university or the a capella group received federal “community development” money or if there were employment discrimination involved.

    To make matters more complicated, last year the U. S. Supreme Court upheld a university’s open-access / all comers policy applied to university student clubs who requested access to university facilities and funds, against a “Christian Legal Society” that wanted to be free to discriminate, in admitting members, on the basis of adherence to a set of religious beliefs, where the effect of that litmus test was to exclude gay students who refused to sign on to that statement of faith.

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-1371.pdf

    Note that 4 Justices (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia) dissented. Big surprise.

    Civil rights law is not one of my concentrated areas of practice, but I suspect that if this Martinez case had involved a civil rights lawsuit by a gay student against the Christian Legal Society and in the absence of a university “open access / all comers” policy, the student would have lost if all he could show was discrimination on the basis of religious belief or sexual orientation.

    1. Thousands and thousands.

      See Barbershop Harmony Society, Contemporary A Capella Society, Sweet Adelines, Harmony International, and on and on and on.

      You don’t have to be gay to like to sing. Or even to make money off of it … Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Ozzie Osborne … the list is endless.

  13. Yes. I sent an email:

    “I refer to the expulsion of Will Thomason from Psalm 100.

    I cannot imagine the well-spring for the kind of thinking that lies behind proscribing a decent, law abiding, young person from membership simply because, by an accident of conception not of his making, from a singing group. How can these ‘pious christians’ so wantonly discard a person as if a leper? What could someone’s sexual orientation possibly have to do with his ability to sing? This is commensurate with an act of depraved indifference, a circumstance itself acknowledged under law as an indictable offense. And no amount of weaselwording by Director Templeton can underscore his indifference displayed on the well-being of Thomason as a fellow human being.

    In this 21st Century, it is an egregious act of intolerance, discrimination, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. It is simply anti-social, an act of no social worth.

    Adherence to archaic scriptural notions of sexuality are anathema to good social order. Increasingly, wider society is dragging christian obscurantism kicking and screaming into the new millennium and as a respected institution of higher learning, surely it is in the best interests of the UNC to have done this sort of nonsense on its campus. Society is acknowledging that gays are neither immoral, mentally ill, nor aberrant. I am sure that UNC agrees with that view as well, and hope that your investigation of the issue will lead to Thomason’s reinstatement in the chorus.

    Thanks very much.”

  14. Okay, I’m prepared to take shit, but, while I don’t think it’s right that they kicked him out, why does he want to be part of a group that feels that way about him? To me, it’s kinda like a black person wanting to join the Klan or a Jew wanting to join the Nazi party.

    1. What does his wanting to sing in a Christian a capella chorus have to do with what some of the other people in the chorus think of him? The former is a fact independent of the latter fact and the latter fact gives members of the chorus no entitlement to a veto over his acting on the former fact.

      1. I didn’t say they were entitled to kick him out. I don’t understand why he would want to be part of their group. They’re bigoted Christian assholes. I myself avoid bigoted Christian assholes as much as possible.

  15. I wrote to them. I included at the end of my letter the following point, which I think may be worthwhile:

    “By the way, when I protested Prop. 8 in California, the most dedicated of my fellow protestors were pastors and rabbis of various Christian and Jewish organizations. These people were impassioned as they shared their strong, unequivocal belief that their religions were all about tolerance and human rights. Most of these religious leaders were, like me, straight. I wonder if your campus chorus would kick THEM out of the group because of their difference of opinion on homosexuality?”

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