UNC will look into Christian a capella group
The University will investigate whether or not the Christian a cappella group Psalm 100 violated UNC’s non-discrimination policy in dismissing senior Will Thomason, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said.
On Sunday, members of Psalm 100 unanimously voted to remove Thomason, who is gay, for his views on homosexuality. He had been a member of the group since his freshman year.
“We are on notice that there is a question as to whether or not a student organization has acted in compliance with the policy or not,” Crisp said. “We take that very seriously and that will be investigated.”
Blake Templeton, general director of the group, said Thomason was not removed for his sexual orientation but for his opinions about homosexuality. He said the views clash with the ideology of the Bible, which the organization’s constitution mandates members must uphold.
Psalm 100 is a student organization that receives student fees and is bound by the University’s non-discrimination policy. Between Feb. 17 and June 30, Psalm 100 received $152.20 in student fees.
The policy states that groups may limit membership to those who share the beliefs of that group but cannot exclude members based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation.
“Our commitment to non-discrimination is bedrock strong but so is our commitment to the First Amendment rights of freedom of association,” Crisp said. “The non-discrimination policy for student organizations tries very hard to balance those issues.”
He said if an organization does not comply with the policy, it must change or face losing University recognition.
“We’re going to take the time that is necessary to thoroughly investigate the issues before we draw any conclusions,” Crisp added.
Zealan Hoover, student body vice president, said he has asked the student solicitor general to prepare a legal brief and the student body treasurer to prepare a list of the funds allocated to the group. The two will report to the executive branch tonight.
“We’ll be discussing how we want to respond,” Hoover said.
Jon Curtis, associate director of student activities and organizations, said the unusual nature of the situation makes crafting a plan of action difficult. He added that he has not received a formal complaint against Psalm 100.
Templeton said he acknowledged that the University has the right to investigate any group on campus.
He said he was worried that the decision has been perceived incorrectly.
“This isn’t a salvation issue, and it’s not Psalm 100 saying whether or not Will Thomason is a Christian and whether or not he’s going to go to heaven,” he said.
“I’ve gotten approached about that and that’s not the case at all.
“The decision was really about honoring the (group’s) constitution that the University approved of,” he said.
Terri Phoenix, director of the UNC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Center, said there was not enough information to know if it was a case of discrimination.
“I feel confident that the University is going to do its due diligence in making sure that the policy was adhered to, and if they find that it was not adhered to they will take the appropriate action,” Phoenix said.
Thomason said he still enjoys a strong friendship with members of the group.
“I’m especially appreciative of the willingness of the larger UNC community to openly engage in the dialogue and I trust there will be continued respect for all parties involved,” he said.
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